Monday, August 07, 2006


I'm planning on going to China in September to work on my Chinese, and to make a little money in the process I want to teach English. It's supposed to be easy to get a job teaching English in China but since a lot of the jobs can be of a pretty low quality, I decided to take a Teaching English as a Foreign Language certification course. I have a friend who did something similar so I mooched off her research. She had taken a 5-week, $1200 course, which I am too cheap and too busy to bother doing, but she had also found a 20 hour weekend course which she claimed looked legit. I decided to take her word for it and tried it out.
And so, I spent 20 hours over last weekend (11 on Saturday, 9 on Sunday) in class. It was definitely harsh but not as harsh as it sounds. It turned out the program was not into the traditional language teaching (which I have decided to devote my career to bringing down)- it was probably the first time I found people who really agreed with me. Even my linguistically inclined friends tend to think that you need some of the old memorization, paper test and grammar chart stuff that most language teachers still cling to.
Most of the class consisted of doing actvities that could be used in a class. It was almost more like therapy than class, actually. The teacher wanted to break us out of the old way of thinking about language teaching. At one point, she had us write down all the grammar lingo we could think of, to "get it out of our system." That was kindof pretentious, but I enjoyed it anyway. We got to play games, and it was like being little again. There are few things I like more than acting "m little. (Sadly even fewer people seem to agree with me about that.) We played one of those memorization games where everyone said something about themselves, but the second person had to say what the first said, then the third had to say what both the first and second said, and so on. We played another game where we had to run out of the room, memorize as much writing on a piece of paper as possible, then write it down back in the room. We even did a few games with Beatles songs, where we had to arrange pieces of paper with parts of the lyrics written on them after hearing the song once.
The class climaxed with lessons we were supposed to make up ourselves and teach to the whole class. By the time we got around to them- one at the end of Saturday, another at the end of Sunday- we were all worn out, and the lessons featured much quasidelirious silliness. We arranged everything with partners, selecting a topic, a level and age group for our students, a way to introduce what we were teaching, and an activity so they could practice it. It was the most fun part of the course; half of us said we would be children, and we responded that way. I think it was partly because of exhaustion. We threw pens, made ludicrous and grammatically incorrect answers, and generally became more and more unruly. I had to make up for years of being an obedient kid, and I took full advantage of the opportunity. I did very well at the teaching part as well. I guess teaching at Exeter really did make a difference. Anyway it was pretty confidence-building. I got a lot of good ideas from my classmates, as well. That was the best part. When I was at Exeter I knew how I should not teach, and I had a theory about good teaching but felt like I had no idea what exactly to do when I was in class. This course filled in that gap.
As for my classmates, they were all from pretty varied backgrounds, though they all had some sort of international experience. There was only one person intending to go to China, surprisingly enough- a middle-aged man who wanted to go live with his Chinese wife for a few years. There was another woman going to France to join her French husband, and another man going to Japan to join his Japanese wife, and one British woman who was going to Bahrain to live with her American husband. A former naval officer was going to Thailand with his Chinese-American wife, who was also in the class, and a couple college students were considering putting off their careers for teaching in Eastern Europe or Latin America. Another college student actually wanted to put off getting her BA- still 2 years away- so she could teach in Osaka. A few older-middle aged people seemed to be doing it for the heck of it. I seemed to be the exception, in a way- I was the only person for whom teaching English was a means to advancing my career, rather than a career in and of itself, or a break from my intended career.

1 comment:

Jack Patatrak said...

Hi J,

I totally agree with what you said about the death of NY (old post though). But since you're going to China, wait 'til you see Beijing, they destroyed most of the old neighbourhoods. What a shame !
What kinda world are we living in ?

Have a nice time there and good luck.