Monday, April 30, 2012

The Semester So Far

So, it's almost midterms out here, and I've been doing some thinking about how this year has gone so far, and what I want to do the rest of this year.

This semester has been hard, but in a very different way from the first semester I had out here. First semester I had no idea what it was I was supposed to be doing, and didn't know how to budget my time, so I ended up spending a lot of time preparing the wrong things, and even when I was spending my time on the things that mattered, I still wasn't doing it in a way that my students could easily understand. When I think back to what I tried teaching during the first month--the lesson I planned and executed, the homework I gave, the classroom management policies....really just everything I did--I cringe. It was really rough. I was talking with some other first year fellows about this, and the phrase that kept coming up was "Can you believe I tried.....?" followed by laughter. Rough times.

Now, I know I don't have it all figured out, but I've got an idea of what I should be doing with my time, and ways to approach lessons that gives students who are trying a fair shot at understanding the material. Class goes more smoothly, and I'm not too worried about the upcoming midterms. (Well, that's a lie, but it really should be OK) The two things that have been making this semester really hard are homesickness, and worries that I'm not doing enough out here.

In terms of homesickness--I'm going home for the summer (which I'm incredibly excited about!) and missing home is just an avoidable cost of doing this. Going far away from home can have great advantages, but it's not free.

The main thing that's been bothering me is the concern that I'm not actually being that effective. My grades are good, students are decently interested in English, and are grasping the material (and some are doing fantastically--I'll try to upload some work from my students in the future) but I don't know that I'm going to have any impact on my students that will really last. Sure, they might be slightly more interested in English in the future, and they might later look back and think that having a goofy white dude be their teacher was a cool experience, but I don't think I'm being that effective at teaching general life and study skills: perseverance, goal setting, creating intrinsic motivation in students, good note-taking, study habits, and a general understanding of why education and hard work are important.

Right now, I'm not giving my students much of anything that they couldn't get from any other English teacher in the area other than a collection of funny things that their English teacher has said. I'm not discouraged, but that's something I've been trying to change this semester, and really want to focus on after the midterm. Anyways, focusing on trying to figure out ways to teach these skills (many of which I don't actually have.....) while also teaching the present progressive has me stressed out.

Last semester I had a great excuse--I was a new teacher, and I wasn't supposed to know what I was doing. I don't want to rely on that excuse for the first of the two years that I'm here. The basics of teaching are definitely easier than they were last semester, but I feel like expectations are a lot higher too.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

So, I'm a bad blogger

But here's a link to an article about me and a couple other fellows on NFL China. It's all in Chinese, but there are a couple pictures!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

I'm Still Alive!

Short version of this update--vacation was nice, coming back to school was tough, and I'm still alive. 

Last week was Tomb Sweeping, so we got time off. I think it also combined with some local holiday so my district got a little bit more time off than everybody else. We had 7 days off, so I headed to Guangdong to visit TFC fellows over there, and it was a lot of fun.. I went with a friend to Xiamen (a nice big city that's on the coast) ate delicious food, walked along the beach, and had an awesome time before heading back to Guangdong. The situation that TFC fellows are dealing with Guangdong is really different. There's a ton less class time, but insane testing pressures. It's a richer area, and the default job is working in a small factory, whereas here the default job seems to be farming. A lot of the kids work in the factories on the weekends, and a lot of them quit school early to start working full time. It's really different than Yunnan in a lot of ways, and because this is TFC's first year there isn't much support for the fellows there. 

Anyway, vacation was awesome, but coming back to school was rough. I had to cover some other teachers' classes, and switch classes, which ended up with me having a miserable schedule. I hadn't done enough over the break so I spent the entire time scrambling to stay on top of everything. But, I made it to the weekend, and we're having football and a potluck tonight, so I'm pretty excited. Whooo!