As the term winds down (we have a few more weeks before exams), students tend to act a bit different than they did in first weeks when they were new to their surroundings. It really isn't any different from last year--I just seem to notice it more.
There's a lack of enthusiasm during class and a lack of effort when it comes to assignments. There's also the common occurrence of students showing up late to class--which is amazing considering they live five minutes away from the classroom. Even with these habits they can't seem to grasp the idea that it could have negative effects on their grades.
I don't believe this is just a problem here in China--I've heard plenty of stories from the US that sound similar. However, I do think there is a problem here as it pertains to English classes for non-majors. Many of these students have experienced an education system that forced English classes upon them for the past 10 years. That same education system also told many of these students that English is "fun" and doesn't require any work. This has led to the phenomenon of the dancing monkey backpacker who comes to China to do nothing more than play games and sing songs with minimal educational value. It also doesn't help when institutions will ensure that every student passes the English class and moves up to the next level despite the fact that a student doesn't do any work for the class. And this leads to a mentality that every student will pass every English class at every level of education.
Unfortunately for the these students, it is possible to fail at this university. You can ask one of my students from last year who is in my class again this year. He asked why he failed. Turns out he neglected to hand in some assignments and did very poorly on his exams. He is putting forth a bit more effort this year.
There are still those who show up 25 minutes late and wonder why I count them as absent, and then laugh when I tell them they will probably fail the course. I have to laugh because it's the same students that don't hand in assignments, don't have books, and don't take notes. I can already count 10 students who will more than likely receive a failing grade (not bad when you consider that I have 300 students).
Fortunately for me, there are some students that take the class seriously and make an effort to do the work well. Surprisingly, this Wednesday's class, which has some of the lower English levels of my classes, has been doing quite well. Even if they can't understand everything or provide the correct answer, at least they try--and I appreciate that more than they probably think.