Friday, August 31, 2012

Wrong Side of the Desk

A student, leading Mafia as the storyteller, in English. :')
After teaching for two years, going back as a student is weird. I miss my students, I miss my classrooms, I miss drafting semester plans with little school oversight and coming up with goals and assessments and practice games and mindbending questions. I miss my Hunan students' pride when they finally got how to write solid thesis statements, and my own pride when most of them delivered solid persuasive speeches. I miss my Harbin mechanical engineers and the warmth and supportive spirit that pervaded their classroom, even when some back-row prankster slipped a Japanese porn star's name into our "famous person" impromptu speech topic bank... my sweetest male student got it and spent most of his minute laughing, after choking out a few pithy sentences that got the class giggling hysterically. I miss our two weeks of English-language Mafia games during finals season. I miss our several actually interesting discussions, about obesity, about the environment, about ways to limit chopstick and water-bottle waste on campus.

To be totally fair, teaching also kind of sucked, when class sizes and student ability ranges were huge, when I wasn't allowed to fail anyone so students had little extrinsic motivation to try, when I had to leave the house at 6:30am and finally got home eleven hours later, when helicopter parents went off on my students and me during class... but all of that fades pretty quickly. Selective memory. The kids were ridiculous sometimes too, and there were tears and rants and repetitive complaints on my part.

But I miss it anyway, and sometimes I fool myself that teaching would be better in the public school system in America. Oh, I know it won't. China hardly has a monopoly on bureaucracy and pointlessness. But either way, I'm sure my first day back on the right (wrong?) side of the teacher's desk will be a little disorienting.

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