October 26, 2018



October 26, 2018

  Said some probably unforgivable things in class today. That the best punishment I had to hand for “you” was to leave you as you are…

  I think I know the source of my frustration and the reason I’m taking all this personally (and acting badly in class). It’s that I’m offering, repeatedly, to be the monitor in these communications. I am, selflessly and with a now bounded joyful heart, setting myself up as an arbiter, and these punks are saying no thanks. I want to be involved and these…. students! are saying eww.

  And I reply with contempt?

  Why yes, I do.

  Argh, it’s so mixed up. On the one hand, it’s the classic teacher faux pas – taking shit out on the students. On the other hand, these fuckers are a great deal more capable than they think they let on, and they are choosing the anti-communicative path.

  So which side do I choose: their actions say they’re adults or however big they act they remain innocent like babes and still need caring instruction?

  Preferably whichever side doesn’t see me being childish about my own personal involvement.

  This idea of how case studies plus a discourse model stimulates communication practice is new to me. I only discovered its astounding efficacy last semester. So my teaching practice is by default lacking. I don’t know the better way to introduce and build up these ideas yet. I don’t know how to make them available without inserting myself into the practice so much.

  Someone pay me money and I’ll find out how to fix it.


October 26, 2018

  Bitching on the school wechat about my discoveries and how the students aren’t taking to them this semester… the other teachers complained. They said, pretty much in real words, don’t bother us with your teaching issues, and tell someone else about your discoveries. The principle complain was how hard it is to read all that text and oh the swiping…

  blah blah blah, one thing I did work out is there’s no middle concept of teacher here. There’s a low concept – “oral english teacher” – who is a teacher assigned to some language class and given no instruction. You know, the basic idea of teaching here. But this school has recently started using a high concept of teacher too – “subject teacher” – who is some superlatively qualified person with publications and entree into research study groups. There is no such teacher here currently, and likely never will be, but the school uses the idea as a kind of totem of magnificence. It’s what we were supposed to be when we were hired as oral English teachers.

  But see, there’s no middle concept, the teacher of the way from low to high. There isn’t a concept of development for staff. These academic dreams the school has of lengthy publications lists authored by the foreign teacher and stamped with the school’s identity, they don’t come from any academic nurturing taking place here. You bring these things fully formed and the school takes possession of them.

  I believe I know where all of this comes from, and in a colloquial nutshell it’s “no zuo, no die”. The students didn’t learn that by themselves, it was created by the teachers. And the teachers didn’t learn it by themselves either, it was created by being a communitarian society rendered inhuman by overly capable authoritarians. The authoritarian model of “teacher speaks, students listen” not only creates an anti-communicative environment, it exists in all places at all times, and not because it came from the classroom.

  Well, either all that or the unfair deal strategy has worked out so well for so long that now everyone wants it. We’re just a developing country, you’d better give us some discounts; we can’t look after human rights because there’s too many of us; we had a cultural revolution so we can’t be expected to be good to each other until we recover, oh we’re not recovered yet just give us some more technology…. and so on.

  Anyway, the death of agency, that’s where it comes from, the endless use of the unfair deal on each other. And now on me. It’d be a massive case of Free Rider syndrome if it weren’t backed by neverending threat to the psyche.

  It’s fairly self-sustaining, this model.

  Anyway, not only do I know some of why I was so successful at creating week after week of student led discussion last semester, but I know probably nothing of why it’s tanking this semester, and if I were going to look into it with a view to building a suitable theory and a sustainable model, well shit son, do it on your own.

  Motherfuckers want academic achievement and here I am with a seeds of plenty and yet somehow I’m the one who should be quiet.

  It’s very draining.


October 23, 2018

Letting go/Giving in

October 23, 2018

  In theory three classes of language students were writing their individual case study discussions today. It would have been a large part of their final scores. But whatever it was last semester’s juniors (now seniors) were doing last semester, these new juniors aren’t. I’ve gotten so tired of starting every class with some dissertation on what they’re supposed to be doing and why it’s good… but no, they’re not doing it. They’re quite resolute in their position that English isn’t for communication.

  They can’t pass if they keep this up. Literally 95% failure rate. And for quite a while I haven’t been able to let it go. I know from my experience last semester that there’s a secret to sounding human in English and they have the same foundation as the other humans but they just won’t. So what do I do? Insist, and therefore spend the next ten weeks angry each class, and the last weeks also fighting the administration when they call me in to question my teaching ability…

  Or do I say, no, you stay as you are? These idiots are a fraction too smug and I’d dearly like to fail them. But you know, I got called out today by the other forigners for abusing the wechat communication channel, using it a little too much to opine and lecture. Which is right, I had been. I’d been fishing for staff involvement. But were Chinese staff ever going to get involved? It occurred to me, even the damn dean, they all have that same “no zuo, no die” that the students have. And it’s pretty high stakes for them. They live in an autocratic state and are under routine political inspection…

  It’s still cowardly, how much they all leave me to do all this by myself.

  So I’m not doing it anymore. This job is remarkably hollow right now, which is fairly shockingly different from around this time last semester when it was surprising and invigorating (even as it had intimations of this hollowness with the dummies who now take all my time for their nothing…)

  That bullshit about “If you help even just one…”? It’s not true.


October 7, 2018

Teaching Capabilities Statement #3 (400-600 words)

October 7, 2018

Explain what you think teaching involves

  I don’t know if every teacher does the same thing. I know they will focus differently when they’re doing whatever it is they do. But if they do all have something in common, I think it might be that they’re sharing something they’re good at or something they like and they’re finding ways to let other people access those things too. (61 words)

  A teacher also will tell you how you’re doing. They measure your efforts and tell you about the standard you’re living up to. And then they send you on your way. It can seem once again like they were being the guardian of the subject. But they were supposed to have given you enough perspective that by the end you could see for yourself how well you did, and that by the time you’d been sent on your way, you’d become more capable. (83 words)

Outline the personal and academic qualities you possess that will enable you to become an effective teacher

  Well, I’ve always liked to learn. And I’ve always found public learning to be more functional than private learning. By that I mean there’s a lot of thinking I like to do by myself but that that thinking isn’t complete until it’s shared. It gains valuable scope when others take part. So I like to facilitate activities that build and test ideas. I like to find ways to communicate. I enjoy finding out how functional an idea is. I like finding out that the functionality has deep roots. I like sharing that depth. In that kind of task I think I’ll be a good teacher because I’ll always want to find out (and share) why what we were doing in the classroom has substance. And because I won’t be finding that out by myself. The students will be there guiding the process as well. (144 words)

Describe your attitude to learning and provide an example of something you have learned that was meaningful

  Learning never ends. It probably should be distinguished from studying because study does end. But study, it seems to me, is an essential part of learning. Grasping some amount of what others have gone through before and gaining some control over the content they have described is a large part of learning, and that comes from study. But learning what you’ve studied doesn’t happen until you begin to grasp how that content functions. And often you can’t do that until you start to use the ideas or the skills you’ve seen described. You’ve learned something when you can start to use it. And you might get tired eventually but finding out how something is used never really ends because there’s always some way to be better. I recognize that this kind of claim is perhaps over dramatic, but it’s one way to give voice to always being curious about novelty. (150 words)

  I think the largest thing I learned, a thing that gave me a lot more peace than I had as a young man, was that there is a way to describe how I focus on what I focus on. To express this in the terms I used above I can start out by saying what I studied. I studied the teaching of English as a Foreign Language. As a hobby I studied a little about psychology as well. And as the years went by and I grew less incapable in the ESL classrooms, I was able to do extra things like shift what was studied in the classroom, move more to topics that interested me, incorporate the needs of the ESL students as well, and formulate a plan for what I should do next. I learned, through practice and study, that I should make a change in what it was I did for work. I learned that I did want to teach, but that teaching what I was teaching was wrong in some way and should be addressed. (178 words)

  So I took a rifle and I found a bell tower….

  Eh, not really.

  But you know what I mean.


September 23, 2018

Teaching Capabilities Statement #2

September 23, 2018

Your understanding of the role of a teacher

  For starters, I’m hard pressed to say there is one role. As matter of psychology and personal preference, different amateur teachers are going to emphasize different aspects of what there is to know and do in a classroom. Me, I emphasize contingent logic and relatively abstract exploration. My role is heavily personalized inasmuch as I choose what I’m going to try making the students talk about and what I’m going to grade.

  But if I had to generalize, I think teachers shift a little learning into the lives of younger people. It doesn’t have to be a lot. But it should be substantial. For preference, it won’t be inert. It’ll be available as a living thing, which I guess means the teacher was supposed to find ways to have the learning become the student’s own.

  Imma also put in a plug for the teacher not being the student’s parent. I can correct their behavior, or try to, if they’re messing up my classroom, but beyond that they’re on their own. Imma need a bigger salary if you want me to spend so much time with your child that I do have to take that larger role in their life.

Why you want to be a teacher

  By nature I think about things for a while and then tell other people about them. I have that academic side to me that does less and thinks more. But I have this other side that wants to take charge. So I end up functioning as a guide.

  So, teacher, dictator, guerilla, or visionary CEO. I checked the want ads and there were more jobs for teacher.

The personal qualities and communication skills that you possess

  Conscientious. Clear-headed. Academically minded. Works best according to a plan (and when I’m allowed to alter that plan as time goes by).

  Not very obviously a primary school teacher, but secondary maybe, and tertiary for sure.

  I’m very interested to know what other people know within my area. I’m not very good at receiving new information per se inasmuch as it usually prompts less conversation and more need for renewed thought. But when someone’s trying to gain the basic ideas in the area, I’m there with ideas to try.

  There’s an aspect of leadership that plays out in my classrooms. Getting everyone onto the same page and having them move forward with the idea – I like that. But let’s not be too weird. It’s not cult leadership. I rather like those times when something is unknown to all of us but we’ve come far enough along the same path that we can work it out together. That’s the joy of teaching for me, when I don’t have to be the only one doing the thinking anymore. The rising tide can lift all the boats.


September 16, 2018

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