Campus Life, China, Cultural Differences, Teaching, University Teaching

The Chinese Student: Behavior #1

I’ve started a number of blog entries only to abandon them halfway through. I suspect the problem is length. I need to write shorter entries. So today I want to briefly tell you about a student behavior that drives me crazy.

In class, mid-lecture, I will hear from somewhere in the class a yawn the size of a cavern, a yawn that sounds like the corners of their mouth are going to split, a truly jaw-breaking yawn. It inevitably occurs when I am mid-sentence, “So, the word vacancy is a noun and the adjective form is—“YAAAAAAAWWWWNNNNN” “Okay, in the middle of paragraph four the author–” “YAAAAAAAWWWN” “..and who can tell me the answer to–” “YAAAAAAAAAWNNN”

I always pause after this occurs, because a mini-wave of rage has rolled over me and I need a minute. And just like an anime movie, it feels like the vein in my forehead starts to throb, and pulse. I would like to turn with eyes of fire and call out the offending student. He/she will humbly rise and apologize to the class for their appalling bad manners. Teacher crosses arms and nods head in satisfaction. Lesson continues minus any more disturbingly loud yawns. Student, abashed, works quietly with head down. If you’ve watched any anime, you’ll be able to imagine the scene just as I do.

However, that’s only an imaginary recasting of this kind of incident. In reality, I pause, chalk in hand, for a moment, collect myself and resume the lesson.

I think any Westerner would agree that it’s not the noise that is so offensive, but what such a yawn represents. Boredom. Disinterest. And no qualms about expressing that to the teacher via a nice loud jaw-splitting yawn. I mean, really, it’s terribly—YAAAAAAAWWWWNNN.

Welcome to China.


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