Campus Life, China, Educational System, Teaching, University Teaching

The Other Chinese Student: The Opposite Extreme

Having reflected on some of the less charming behaviors of Chinese students, I would like to honor my promise to balance it out with telling you the best things about them.

The best thing about the other type of Chinese student—the opposite of the first Chinese student—is that they are motivated and ambitious. Our little BNUZ is just the first stepping stone in their journey. These kids are going places. Seriously.

I cannot tell you the number of students who are actively preparing for the GRE, the TOEFL, and IELTS in order to go abroad for graduate school. Those who are not going abroad are attending extra courses on the weekend, leading school-wide volunteer organizations, participating in Toast Masters, double majoring, and doing overseas volunteer trips. One student went to Serbia over the summer for an academic conference. Another went to Australia for a volunteer organization and will go to Kenya for the winter break. Though I despair over the behavior over the majority of the students, there are those other students who make it all worthwhile.

There are students who I would hope to meet in the future in the States, finishing their MA, their PhD, working, settling down, getting married etc. Others I would hope to hear about their progress by email. There’s that sense of potential about many of them. And it’s these students who make it worth it, especially when I have opportunities to develop more personal relationships outside the classroom. They’re great. Really and truly.

This is one thing that is such a contrast with Georgia. In Georgia I had little hope for even the brightest of my students. The furthest most of them might get was the capital, where they would hopefully finish university and be able to find some sort of job. Others you could just tell were bound to stay in the village for the rest of their life. Not that staying in the village is a bad thing, but I feel that more often than not it’s usually due to lack of other opportunities rather than true desire to stay.

So I’m happy for my Chinese students who are taking advantage of opportunities or making their own opportunities. I’m glad that they are working hard in university, preparing for their future. I’m especially glad that I got the opportunity to be their teacher, because otherwise I’m not sure I would’ve returned to China for a second year! A handful of excellent students can go a long way towards making up for an otherwise indifferent bunch.

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

The Chinese Student: Final Behaviors of Note

Okay, let’s wrap this up. The final three behaviors of note:

#9 – Not taking notes

It’s very strange as a teacher to be explaining important vocabulary, cultural information, and grammar points for up to 90 minutes and not have a single student taking any of it down. My words just disappear into a void. Most discouraging. Especially if I teach the same class multiple times in week.

I should just record myself and play it back to the class while I put my feet up.

#1O – Cheating Creative Cheating

Chinese students are seemingly inveterate cheaters. I prowl the classroom constantly during any quiz and I am forever spotting those little finger movements that indicate looking something up or the head-on-chest syndrome for furtive under the desk cell phone usage. And there is always a slight background buzz of whispered conversations and consultations no matter how much I demand silence. And when I declare the quiz over and papers to be handed in the real cheating begins as students frantically copy from each other. All their efforts to deceive me and get a better grade makes me wonder why they don’t just pay attention and do a little studying. Gee.

Sleep without detection!

Sleep without detection!

#11 – Sleeping

Probably the first Chinese behavior that struck a nerve was the sleeping in class. This drove me nuts last year, but I’ve become more desensitized to it. Such that I almost forgot to mention it. Yes. Chinese students will sleep in class. Full on head-down-sound-asleep in class. Local Chinese teachers have told me that they don’t care if students sleep in class. I sputtered incredulously when I heard this. What? Impossible! A little nodding off is one thing, but full on sleeping is another. In the words of my students, “I cannot accept it.” Yes, I will wake them up with a knock or two on the desk and a cheerful “good morning.” If I have to be there teaching them, they have to at least pretend to be “learning.”

Campus Life, China, Communication, Educational System, Teaching, University Teaching

The Chinese Student: Behaviors 6-8

Having read my last three posts that discussed some lovable and quirky behaviors of my Chinese students, some of you might be questioning my decision to teach at my current position. I mean, surely if it’s that bad, I should just move on, right?

I would like to clarify that I am discussing the rather far end of the Chinese student spectrum. You’ll be glad to know that once I purge myself of all the negative student behaviors I see and experience, I plan to follow with posts discussing the best things about my student, because there are, of course, many good things about my students. So don’t despair! I do not plan to wallow much longer, just long enough to surprise and hopefully amuse you with my stories of teaching in the trenches of China—a country with an educational system quite different from our own.

So! On to more student wackiness.

Behavior #6

The Chinese student is not well versed in the procedure for passing in papers. When the teacher requests students to pass in their papers, most students hold their paper up in the air and wave them for the teacher to personally collect them. The Chinese student is apparently loath to hand their paper off to anyone else. Which is curious because usually they encourage their classmates to look at their papers, especially at quiz time.

God forbid they pass their papers down the row so that the teacher can collect each rows’ assignments at one time. No, the teacher must walk up and down, leaning across several students to get the outstretched piece of paper being held at full extension by the student on the very end of the row. Teacher begins to feel like a spinning top as he/she whirls around and around responding to the cries of “Teacher! Here!” from all corners of the classroom. Though the teacher might try to train students to pass their papers in in an orderly fashion, the success rate remains low.

Behavior #7

For any given assignment, the Chinese student may choice to write their assignment on a number of paper types and sizes. Though many students will turn in assignments on paper of an acceptable size, other students seem to take pride in using the smallest pieces of paper known to mankind or being strangely thrifty by reusing previous assignments.

In China, based on this teacher’s experience with students, there does not seem to be a standard type of paper used for school assignments. In America, 8 ½ x 11 inch lined paper is the standard; I would not think to turn in my homework on anything else. I would not use cutesy little notebook paper the size of a Post-It with bunnies and Chinglish. I would not use paper that looks like it came from a refrigerator To-Do list. I would not use the back of my last homework assignment. I would not rip one piece of old notepaper into four pieces to share with my friends, none of whom came to class prepared. Though I included “acceptable paper choices” into my first class introduction lesson this semester, it does not seem to have stuck.

Am I off base here? Overreacting? Shouldn’t university students give some thought to the presentation of their work and follow any instructions given by the teacher? Sometimes I feel like I teach primary school, not university.

One more related behavior that I believe supports my portrayal of this particular breed of Chinese student—the student who comes to class with no textbook, no paper, and no pen. Behavior #8. And when the teacher asks him/her what on earth they plan to do in class without those essential items, the student rarely has an answer. Sitting in a classroom does not a student make. Period. Full stop.