Friday, October 15, 2010

Same Difference

Most days I wonder if there is any difference between teaching ESL in the U.S. and China.

When I taught at the graduate school in Shenzhen, I was given an attendance policy that was supposed to be strictly enforced, even though it was a lenient policy. There was no official policy for tardiness, but my department agreed that students would be counted absent after 15 minutes, which really pissed off some students. Most students showed up on time, but there were also the habitually tardy.

Now, I've been given a much less lenient attendance policy (two absences per class and four lates equals one absence). I've repeatedly told my classes about this policy. Still, a few of them are habitually late. I also have a few who have already failed the class (it's not even mid-term) because they've missed too many classes. And I'm fairly lenient on the tardiness--I give them a few minutes before I mark them late.

The only significant difference I see between my current and previous students is that the current ones are much more active in class and usually ask questions. In a year and a half at the grad school, I only had a few students who regularly asked questions (mostly clarifications of assignments).

One aspect I miss about the grad school is the communication. We had a small department and held weekly meetings to discuss the classes and any administrative matters. Unlike most meetings in China, these were not boring or useless--my boss only made the meetings as long as they needed to be, which occasionally meant the meeting lasted a few minutes. Now, if I have any problems or concerns, I have schedule a meeting that somehow fits my schedule as well as my supervisor's.

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