I’m pleased to be part of a very unique course here at the University of Westminster — the MA module, China’s Media and the Emerging World Order, will see my involvement as module co-leader, with the respected Prof Hugo de Burgh as module leader. Just yesterday, we had our very first module, where we briefed students in class.
These lessons will be given every Thursday afternoon at the Harrow Campus of the university, and I’ve already pledged to give two lectures in the module, as well as encourage and lead debate on late-breaking China media developments. My bit will be about China’s Babel: New Media, to be given later this month, as well as a March presentation on social media in China.
Interestingly enough, a sizeable proportion of students are actually from Mainland China, but there’s also quite a few from other places. It will be quite an interesting lesson for students interested in seeing how the rest of the world sees China media. ▶
I know you. I was you. Please don’t think of this course as “yet another boring course by a mad professor”; it is much more about helping you.
These words struck a chord with an audience of over 50 in a lecture hall with people from around a dozen different nationalities. Academics from Europe. Students from Asia. It was like going back to school in Switzerland, where from Day One I was surrounded by fellow pupils from nearly all continents.
Except for this time, the teacher was me. I had just become a Visiting Lecturer on top of a mere “Visiting Academic” or “Visiting Scholar”. My involvement was upgraded so that I’d not only contribute to the Study Skills module, but I’d lead it and lecture for up to two hours every Monday starting from later in the month. (However, I remain committed to dedicating 50% – 67% of the lesson to students for scholarly debate.) ▶
Or at least I do. Happy that the Swiss managed to sneak in a goal that led them to victory in the final minute against Ecuador, I donned on a T-shirt with the Swiss flag the next day, to show that I was proud of “my gang”. It couldn’t have come at a more appropriate moment: we were going to be visiting Beijing’s Olympic Green, the National Stadium included!
My role in this: team leader and Foreign Expert. (My non-Chinese passport made me “foreign”.) It’s the latter that is the job of mystery here in China, the stuff that some expats will proudly showcase — until they realise they are all Foreign Experts. ▶
I served as a judge in the recent Beijing Vocational Teachers Final of the 5th Shanghai Foreign Languages Education Press Foreign Languages Teaching Contest, which took place on 24 & 25 May 2014. The two-day event saw 19 contestants in the first day of contest (semi-finals) and 7 in the finals on the second day.
The goals were simple:
- For the semi-finals: Give each contestant 20 minutes to teach a mock class
- For the finals: Allow 10 minutes for each contestant to describe a lesson plan; finish it off with a 5-minute Q&A session.
Like many contests, this one was a “mixed bag”. Some contestants did minimal interaction (although none did the feared “Boring Lecturer Position”); others were very interactive. Contestant 2 from the first day was my early favourite. He did everything I would do when teaching:
- Allow group activities and permit plenty of interaction
- Be encouraging; sprinkle your lessons with a healthy dose of humour
- Use technology right: in large classrooms, pass at least one other microphone to students and allow them to speak in the same volume as you are (if the teacher uses the mic, get students to do the same)
- Warn students of potential pitfalls
Competition was very fierce, though. In the end, Contestant 4 (who was Contestant 3 on Day 1) won my vote by mentioning role-play as part of her lesson proposal. She also shrank all lessons to 45 minutes (other contestants wanted 90 minutes). Her presentation was extremely persuasive: you could tell she was in it for the long run, and it was all helped by the right mix of body language and eye contact. ▶
Yesterday saw me bring the world of China media knowledge to lesser-known parts of the country — outside the Tier 1 cities such as Beijing and ilk. And that, to me, was actually something I did with a lot of pride.
When I graduated, having gotten my PhD in summer 2012, my first priority was not to work up the ladder to an eventual professorship as quickly as possible, but to give back to the other 99%. In the same vein, although people would vie for a teaching position in big cities a la Beijing or Shanghai, the rest of the country is left virtually untouched. To me, teaching at Hebei University, in a part of China just 100 miles away from central Beijing, is probably the best thing I can do now in order to spread the knowledge like peanut butter. As a matter of fact, I actually love doing this, because I can clock up my rail miles in the process (even if they don’t have a rewards programme).
I started teaching a class of seven students from all over the world today — they included students from South Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa, and Latin America, amongst other places. I made sure the class was as lively as possible and shied away from a fixed system of handouts and “100% PowerPoint presentations”. ▶
So, September 2012 is here. I’ve just entered China a few days back on a Z visa, or a working visa. I’m going to both be a kind of generic-alised “English teacher in China” and also a little more. I’m going to head to the Communication University of China as a Lecturer so that I can do a little academic research as a side schtick as well. My topics: new media and social media.
But here’s the thing: a teacher is not the smartest thing in the universe. There’s: (a) sure bound to be extraterrestrial life that knows more than we do (I think); (b) people who are not teachers that know more stuff than teachers do. So I’m cutting it short here — yes, I’ll be a teacher, but I’m not gonna outfox anyone. In fact, I’ll be pretty happy when folks outfox me. That’ll also be the case a few years down the line when the baby is due (or babies are due, rather): I’m perfectly OK with these guys being smarter than I am from Day One. ▶
As Facebook made me aware: Mr David Leck, former English teacher at the Inter-Community School, passed away last Sunday, May 11, 2008.
Mr Leck is an outstanding teacher of English and it was a great pleasure having him teach me English. He along with Ms Trimming made up the classic duo of English teachers throughout middle school and part of high school.
Mr Leck’s comments came at the best possible time. Just a few years later, the beginning of the end of this era in which only “formalized and archaic English” was used, came.
Up above, I am sure that Mr Leck can rest peacefully knowing that through his exceptional teaching and unparalleled humor, he made a world of difference to my English skills. His sense of humor — the never-to-be-missed “old bean” jokes — made all the difference to be in a Mr Leck class. ▶
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, 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.
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”. ▶