Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Second day of classes

Today was my second day teaching here at Xintan College in Qufu, and it's definitely been eye opening. I meet with each class once a week for two hours (well, two fifty minute periods with a 10 minute break in between), and the two sections that I've taught so far have gone really well. After introducing myself I had the students interview each other and then introduce their friends, partly to get to know them a bit better, but mostly to gauge their level of English comprehension. Currently all my students are 3rd years, and I've been very impressed with their level of understanding. I can speak almost completely normally - I think the only thing I've been doing different is speaking a bit more formally.

Anyway, so following all the introductions I explained briefly what I expected of them as a class, what they should expect from me as a teacher, and all that other happy fun stuff which never was of much interest to me either. The last half of class was devoted to a discussion of the movie "Sneakers," which I showed as my first movie on Monday. I of course chose "Sneakers" before I realized -- of my 140 or so students in four sections of Movie Class -- only 15 were male... Which is not to say the girls didn't like it, but let's be honest - it's kind of a guy movie (although I highly recommend it to anyone who has not seen it). I had asked them to write down five things which they either had questions about or didn't understand from the movie, and this was the basis of our discussion. You never really understand just how many nuances and small (yet very, very important) plot twists a movie has until you realize someone didn't understand what it meant when Robert Redford asked about somebody's shoes and the kid replied "expensive."

One very interesting comment/question which arose today in the discussion involved the role of a Russian character in the movie. A young girl asked me, "It seems that in many American movies, Russia, China, and North Korea are portrayed as dangerous. In light of this, do Americans actually feel that these countries are dangerous?" I saved this one for last... mostly because I was attempting to think of some tactful way to ease past this direct conversation so early in the semester (Remember this was the first class with this group)... My ultimate comment was something along the lines of, "Well Russia wasn't actually bad in the movie, because Marty (Robert Redford) went to Gregor (the Russian) for help, and if Americans thought China was dangerous they wouldn't let me come and teach here now would they? ...We'll save North Korea for another day."

All in all I think its been going very well, however I think teaching the same lesson plan four times a week is going to get a bit old... Such is life.

On a completely unrelated note, I love my students' names. Aside from the standard names of Lisa, Joyce, Cleo, Flora, Briony, and Melody, are a few more creative names... I'm particularly fond of Freshman (prefers to go by F.M.), Rain, Ashby, and Forca.

Rachel, another Skidmore teacher, definitely wins the name game with "Zero," "Nothing," and "AppleTree."

It's been a great week all in all. We've found several restaurants which I know will become regular haunts (three to four people tend to eat for between 35 and 40 yuan... divide by seven equals awesome). I'm very quickly embracing the Chinese tradition of the afternoon nap (between 1 and 2:30) and I'm getting paid to watch and talk about movies. Awesome!

This is a picture of a shirt we all saw one of the first few days in Qufu... Thought you all might enjoy the catchy slogan of, "WEEBREEZE intheparty SO YOUGET Champagne"

That's all for now!

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