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谢迈克在中国 » Teaching

谢迈克在中国

Mike Shecket Goes To China!

Bad

June 13th, 2008

Yesterday morning, the Olympic torch passed through Guiyang. I’d heard that its planned swing through Jinyang had been cancelled, but clearly I either misunderstood or was misinformed. In any case, at a time when the torch was about to pass probably no more than half a mile, a mile tops, from the school, the foreign teachers were all roped into an interminable, pointless early morning meeting (only the second one we’ve had to go to all year). Some of us get the sense that this was done intentionally in order to keep us off the streets. One of my colleagues, frustrated, cleared out of the meeting and tried to get outside to see what was going on. The guard would not open the gate to let him get out. Finally, when he started climbing the fence, the guard let him out, but the torch had already gone by.

As for the rest of us, we were stuck with watching live TV coverage in one of the classrooms, where we recognized streets and buildings that are probably a ten-minute walk up the street. We were mad. In fairness, however, none of the several thousand students were allowed to go watch, and neither were their Chinese teachers.

In the end, it still seems like an insult, because the rest of the time, we’re pretty much allowed to come and go as we please.

Good

June 13th, 2008

Pictures and videos from my last teaching day with my “public” classes (click for bigger pictures):

Class 11 sings two popular favorites:

Here they sing the Chinese national anthem (”March of the Volunteers”):

Two of my favorite kiddos

May 21st, 2008

This is Wan Hang (though you don’t get the full impression here because she did a closed-mouth smile in this picture, maybe to hide her braces):

And the guy to the left of me here is Henry (I think maybe he has braces too):

They were both at my birthday party, but you didn’t really get a good view of them…these pictures are from a couple of weeks ago.


It’s just a tad over 48 hours before I celebrate my first birthday outside of the USA.  I’ve had my birthday in Chicago before, and I was in Argentina on Christmas in 2005 (not that I do Christmas), but this is new.  I wouldn’t go out of my way to be far from family and friends on my birthday; it’s just part of the overall deal that allows me to come here and have this experience.  I can’t really think of anything so wonderful about it…it’s not like I get to experience special Chinese customs related to Mike Shecket’s birthday, in particular.

I don’t think birthdays are a big deal in this culture…I was telling the students about the different US presidential candidates in one class, and I showed them their birthdays and asked them to tell me how old the candidates were…they consistently neglected to take into account that none of the candidates’ birthdays had yet rolled around this year, and instead they calculated by just subtracting the birth year from 2008, as if everybody is counted as one year older on New Year’s Day.

Tattoos

April 17th, 2008

For a number of years, I’ve daydreamed about the idea of getting a small tattoo, and thought about what I could put on my body that I would really, really be sure to still like and believe in 50 or 60 years down the line.  One idea I’ve had is to get little flags representing the countries I’ve visited…even if some countries cease to exist, I’d have a record that I visited them when they did exist.

Anyway, the last few days, I’ve come up with a new idea.  A lot of Western folks get tattoos of Chinese characters, not really knowing what the heck they mean, or trusting someone else who doesn’t really know or care what they mean.  Fortunately for me, I’ve actually learned a bit of the language and writing system.

So…my idea is to get a tattoo with a local slang phrase.  I’ve found the correct hanzi for one of them: “太尖啊”, pronounced “tài jiān a”, which literally means “too sharp” in Mandarin, but which in Guiyang dialect means “very clever”.  The “a” part of it is sort of like Canadians’ “eh?”.

Tattoos are not a popular part of Chinese culture…in fact, when I mentioned my idea to some of my students, they told me things like “tattoos give you cancer” and “you know they hurt a lot, right?”  One student, an NBA fan (like most of them, at least the boys) told me that he thinks Allen Iverson has a tattoo “addiction”.


Man, these kids know I’m a pushover.  All they have to do is say I’m handsome and a good teacher and I let them get away with listening to music and playing cards in class.

Year end wrap-up

December 30th, 2007

  • Am I glad I came here? Yes…it’s not like every day is amazing…after a while it just feels like regular old life. But I feel like I was meant to be here. I might not be making a difference versus some other guy who inevitably would have occupied my place, but I think I’m making a change in myself that is going to be reflected in my future pursuits. That is to say…my being here isn’t really changing the world, but it’s changing me, and maybe that will help me change the world later in some other way.
  • What about the teaching? I don’t know if I’m cut out to be a teacher, per se…at least I have some faults in presumably important areas. It’s really hard for me to get “fake mad”. I get mad or I don’t. If there isn’t some kind of discipline system to impartially and dispassionately enforce, then I’m kind of lost. If I have no power to get students in trouble, I’m not capable of deceiving them into thinking that I do. And if they don’t want to learn anything, I can’t bamboozle them into thinking that they do. I’m definitely better with individuals or small groups who are self-motivated and have a clear goal.
  • What about being away from home? The thing is…I feel like I’m really only in China physically a lot of the time. In my apartment, I eat Western food (or at least my personal take on it), read articles in English about the election, watch American movies and shows, listen to Western music…my mind resides on the Internet a lot of the time, just as it has for ten years or more. Physical, tangible things I miss: hugs, food from home, pets to pet, kids to play with. All in all, though, I’ve made myself quite comfortable here, although I’ve done so by passing a lot of my time in this bubble of foreignness.
  • Stay or go? The economy back home is terrible, everything is expensive, and if you get sick or get sued, you could lose everything you’ve worked for. The government goes into debt that I don’t want. My money gets taken and given to rich old people. Everybody hates us (well, not so much here in China though), we’re still doing stupid stuff, and nobody back there is paying attention. Then again, it’s my country, and maybe I need to man up and deal with it and try to help fix things. In China, I live a charmed life in many ways, but it has nothing to do with me as an individual and everything to due with circumstance of birth. I happen to have been born an English speaker, which gets me all sorts of privileges here. My individual talent or character doesn’t make a bit of difference in getting dropped right at the top of the heap, sitting on top of a vast underclass that makes life easy for me. (Needless to say, I hope and expect they won’t be poor for long, but I certainly haven’t done anything to deserve to be in such a position relative to them.) With my present knowledge, skills, and experience, I’m more or less interchangeable with any other foreigner straight off the plane. If I stayed for a few years and picked up the language, or otherwise set myself apart, maybe things would be different. To my family, though, I’m the only me they’ve got. These are things to think about when it comes to deciding going forward where I am most valued and needed.

I’m a hit!

September 5th, 2007

Most of the students really like me.  I’ve gotten applause every time for saying one sentence in Chinese.  Man, I really like it here so far!!!

Here’s my first class…

September 4th, 2007


Discipline-wise, they were probably about the same as the average US suburban high school class…not that great but not that bad. I expected better, but I’ll adapt, and hopefully they’ll settle down if I’m firm with them.

P.S. On the video I said I would meet with them four times a year…I meant to say four times a week.

First day of class for me!

September 4th, 2007

Wish me luck!

Copyright © 2007-8 Michael H. Shecket. All rights reserved.