Thursday, October 30, 2008

You've Got to Read It to Believe It

As is the case at most college campuses both here in China and back in the states, Midterm season has arrived. By U.S. standards, the importance of the midterm exam varies greatly - at Skidmore, at least in the Philosophy department, they really weren't all that important, or didn't exist at all. Usually it served simply as a good half way point for a major paper to be due. Here at Xintan however, midterm exams are a very big deal. The student's grades are heavily influenced by the outcome of the midterm, and thus they become very agitated and nervous whenever the topic manages to rear its ugly head.

On the whole, we as a group of foreign teachers have placed far less emphasis on the importance of the mid-term than the students are used to, largely because most all of us prefer to base grades on class participation and assignments than on tests - unfortunately, no matter how much we re-assure them that the midterms in our classes really aren't that big of a deal, it is really, really difficult to go against 15 years of schooling telling them otherwise.

One of the most important things I've been reminding myself while grading midterms is that, when taking a test, you are almost always nervous and rushing. My students have done very well on the whole, which I am happy about - however some of the answers have been either odd, out of context, or just plain wrong; and sometimes in distinctly hilarious and shocking ways. Karrin and myself were grading papers several nights ago, and were so taken aback by some of the answers we received, that we decided to post a blog segment about them. So much so, that this may even become a re-occurring segment: "You've Got to Read it to Believe it."

I would like to make one disclaimer: these quotes, while hilarious, are not the majority of our students' work, and are largely taken out of context. Many of the writers here are extremely talented, some more so than many American students, so don't think we are simply making fun of our students, claiming they are of low caliber. Some things just tend to get lost in translation...

So, without further adieu, let the quotes begin:

In an essay on the topic of beggars, the following sentence appeared: "...he [the beggar] stretched out his hand with a broken bowel in it."

In an essay where a student wrote a letter to themselves, 10 years in the future (actually a very well written essay): "Go to your parents home twice a month. Buy them one or two pieces of gift, not valuable but right to their taste."

On one of my tests, I asked students to provide several definitions from or about the movies we've watched...

Desegregation: "An act of treating a group of people with sexes, faces, its unfair." (I'm still not exactly sure what they were trying to say)

"That's the whole ball of wax:" "The everything from your ear."

"Cold Feet:" "The Cold War."

"That's the whole ball of wax:" "An imaginary place."

I will leave you all with a passage from the clear winner in the game of "shock the foreign teachers," from one of Karrin's writing classes, in an essay titled: "Be For Death Penalty."

"In addition, he [someone who commits a murder] has no life aims in the rest of life. So why not gust advance his lifetime and end his meaningless life earlier ... Whats more, Death Penalty can also let the criminals pure their devilish spirit and comfort the victims hearts in the heaven."

We've all still got a lot of grading left to do, so we'll keep a running list of quirky, hilarious, and sometimes downright shocking answers. That's all for now!

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