Taking Over the English Class in University

Posted by on Nov 1, 2003 in Academic Life, Beijing, Education | No Comments

21:51 (UTC+08:00), 01 NOV 2003 | CHN BEIJING
ITEM FIRST POSTED BEFORE 29 DEC 2005

The one thing you might not have noticed with me is — even if I seem to be typing out English the way they do in, say, New York, the accent (especially if amplified by a microphone) is distinctly London-ish.

And that’s exactly what throws people off.

It makes them go nuts.

And I think I did just that a few days ago… just today I downloaded a “secret recording” I made when Ms. Chang, the teacher who usually gives us English lessons, couldn’t come. (The water pipe burst at her home, or so as I was informed…) Therefore, I was left driving to school to take over the class (I’m also teaching assistant for that very class), which was well-attended by a great number of students… only to find out that halfway through the morning, the Chinglish Ms. Chang wasn’t here and that I was taking over for her.

It drove them crazy. (Unless your English was good… I have a sick habit of picking on students who are really lackluster in English… or who are too romantically attracted to their boyfriend / girlfriend so much, it makes them “tune out”.)

I had complete control of the class, with the whiteboard behind me, the microphone (on!) in front, and a copy of New Concept English. But I instantly set out to make this class totally different than “the usual”.

Other Teacher: Talk, talk, talk, little to no interaction.
Me: Picking people out and making them complete exercises on the spot.

Other Teacher: Treat students who are having trouble with English little different than “the pros”.
Me: Give those with a hard time with English a “particularly hard time”, not because I’m mean, but because I’m a big believer in that old saw about “practice makes perfect”.

Other Teacher: Allow sparks to fly between romantically-attracted people and do nothing about them “tuning out”.
Me: Not to appear as a big un-romantic bully, but to make sure the sparks that fly between the eyes are not an excuse for them to think they’re not “really” in class.

Other Teacher: Continue along with a massive Chinglish accent and incredibly-difficult-to-follow speeds.
Me: Adjust your speed (like a good Swiss railway train) and pronounce everything the right way!

Other Teacher: Force people to read along with a rather cold tone of voice.
Me: Genuinely try to smile and guide, not to bark and dictate.

Other Teacher: Ignore what the rest of the class are doing (apart from fights).
Me: As much as you can, take charge and take control.

I didn’t just enjoy “being in control” — that’s something anyone can enjoy. I enjoyed sitting in and teaching simply because it produced results for students. One lesson might not enough, but they will find out the different later on. Slowly does it…   

This is content posted by David Feng on a separate site, first published before 29 December 2005, before he started blogging on his own domain. All spelling, grammar, and punctuation remain the exact same way they were when the post was first published. The original post itself does not contain this text in italics.