A little over a month ago, 20-30 English teachers gathered for a professional development (PD) at our school. One of them was up front and going to provide us with training on how to guide our students in improving their writing. Sounded like an interesting topic. My initial thought was how this was going to proceed with a middle school Chinese-English Teacher (CET) leading, multiple teachers grades 1-12 present, and the fact that CETs usually hold their students to perfection instead of realistic (yet high) expectations.
The start of the PD wasn’t too bad since it seemed like it was going to connect very well with much application. Next came three common grammar mistakes based on what she had learned at a world TEFL Convention, but I was suddenly losing interest and application because what she was speaking on focused more on secondary-level teachers’ needs. What came after this was when it went downhill. The CET seemingly introduced “6 Tools to Encourage Originality.” These included metaphors, similes, alliteration…umm… The Foreign Teachers (FTs) immediately became disinterested. The group as a whole started throwing out more jokes than usual to keep the sanity ship from sailing away.
How in the world could a teacher lecture us on these “tools”? I learned these in elementary, and from my experiences 5th grade (what I teach) is probably a little early for these to be used by a majority of my current students.
Remember that ship that was sailing away? Put the anchor down for a couple minutes, and bring your ear close.
Chinese don’t get to change their major. The scores on their high school to college test determines what kind of university they can attend, which is kind of like the US. But they aren’t able to change their major! Never mind that I switched mine five times. Less than half of the CETs in our school ended up not majoring in English. One teacher actually majored in Water Resource and quit after his third year. He has yet to obtain his teaching certificate, which is similar to a state teaching license though the preparation for it is certainly different.
There has been a debate going on in English teaching for years about which teacher is better: native speaking English teachers or teachers of the students’ L1. Please add this to the argument: some of the nationals possibly haven’t been educated in teaching, English, or both. Am I upset? No. This is how education works in China. It’s different. Sometimes, I’ll be honest, too different.
But it’s something I’m working on. Initially, I let pride build an enormous wall in my heart against these teachers. Word to the wise: Don’t do this. It will hurt your relationships with these people, which in turn, hurts you tremendously. Even though some discussions about teaching (or life for that matter) may appear illogical, try to see it from the nationals’ point of view. How is it logical to them? Is this a traditional, cultural, or co-worker’s idea? There are various angles to approach from when trying to decipher what in the world is happening. The deeper question is if we’re actually going to make an effort to see it another way, even if it is far from what we originally thought. Anchor up!!