What the teacher learned

The exam results from my four classes are over.  I taught twelve hours a week and just finished the grades this week.   I try to stress that life is learning, and it is never over til it’s over.  We keep learning.  Movies were a big part of the language and culture lesins that I gave.  Famous expressions and movies showing different issues were discussed in the class.  We had four movies over the 18 weeks of classes.  These were: Moneyball, The Duchess, How to Train your Dragon, and Blues Brothers. The movies, ranked in popularty as follows:  How to Train your Dragon, The Duchess, Blues Brothers, and Moneyball.

I loved each of he the movies for different reasons and showed the students the issues behind the movies.  One of the big problems in an English Class with 18 to 20 year olds is that they haven’t had much life experience and they really don’t have much to talk about.  The movies allow us to raise issues of interest in solicit their opinions.

How to Train Your Dragon
This movie was about a weak boy who was the son of a strong village chief. He was nonconformist, teased, and his father was ashamed of him.  What a great theme.  How many sons have this problem, not measuring up to the community’s and father’s expectations?  Well the boy ended up a hero and won his father’s respect, only losing part off a leg in the process . . .

The Duchess
This was #2, but really might have been the favorite if it had been a cartoon like the dragon movie.  The 17 year old girl married a Duke, for money and power.  She hoped that he would love her, but no.  He only loved his dogs.  He talked tenderly to his dogs and treated his wife like property (like shit). The girls in the class hated him.  The “Duke” rhymed with “Duck” and half of the class referred to the Duke of Devonshire as “The Duck”.  I laughed so hard when they first mispronounced “Duke” that the classes called him “The Duck” from then on.  Well it was a true story, and the Duchess of Devonshire, Georgiana, was lovely and really quite wonderful. The movie was based on a true story. Georgiana was very politically active, unusual for the 1780’s in England and was really quite popular.  She couldn’t giver her husband a son for a long time and had an unhappy marriage. It was said in the movie that “The Duke was the only one in England that didn’t love Georgianna. It was a good movie to discuss the progress of women’s rights in the world.  Although we were talking about 17th century England, the same issues are valid around the world, today.

“The Blues Brothers” was a musical and was filled with slang, a lot of black slang.  Staring Dan Ackroyd and John Bleushi, this was a classic, with many car chases and funny situations.  It also made “bad boys” out to be like heroes, which as a following in the USA.  The boys that didn’t like English seemed to like this movie the best.

Finally, “Moneyball” was about baseball, and China knows nothing about baseball.  It taught about the great American passtime, but also it was a movie about business. Technology was changing baseball, a traditional  business, and people had to change to survive.  A good boss had to fire people who didn’t get along with the new system.  It was also about family, when Billy Bean gave up a big pay raise to stay near his daughter who lived with his exwife. I’m sure some people in class came from some broken homes and this movie taught a lot about the world, business, and what’s important in life.

Well it was a fun semester, and I”ve signed a new contract for another year here.  Hopefully, I”ll have the same students to followup next year teaching 19 to 21 year olds. So I think it is possible to teach English and “Life” at the same time.  It kinda makes the classes more relevant.


高考 “Gaokao” National University Entrance Examination

The National University Entrance Examination is in the books for another year.  I was watching “Crossover” on the English News (CCTV) Channel.  It seems that a boy left his test to help a girl that needed to go to a hospital.  He scored 290 on the exam and is precluded from going to a good university.  So the discussion is whether an exception should be made to allow a person of this integrity to go to a good university.


The consensus is that it was not his responsibility to help this girl.  There were teachers  and parents, and a lot of other people that could have helped the girl.  He should have minded his own business and taken the test.  So it is clear that he won’t go to a top university, even though he may otherwise be qualified.  Nobody on the program suggested that he be allowed to take the test again.

China relies upon one test, on one day, to establish what quality of university a student can  attend.  That is a problem in China, and everybody knows it. There just isn’t an alternate solution on the horizon.

By the way, I actually enjoy watching the news over here, but my foreign friends are horrified at the lack of scandals. I find it somewhat refreshing.


May 14 I posted a story about US the Justice Department getting records of journalists. That was before the whole Snowden affair.  Over here in China, many expats consider Snowden to be something of a hero.  I note that George Bush came to Obama’s defense by saying that he was responsible for the program, and that Snowden hurt the security of the US.  Bush wouldn’t label him a traitor though.

It is a hard subject for everybody.  Don’t we want young people to have ideals? When we tried the Nazis, they said that they were just following orders.  That wasn’t good enough to get them off the hook.  Your conscience is supposed to come into play somewhere along the line.  If Snowden believed that the US was breaking the law, what was he supposed to do? He was a subcontractor of a contractor. So perhaps the public doesn’t want to know the truth . . .

It is really hard to decide this one without knowing more, but it is a little troubling that the controversy is over Snowden, more than the charges he makes. It is clear that most Chinese are happy with him, but China didn’t want to help him.  China has too many relations with the US to risk that kind of a confrontation, that is what I am told.  Maybe there is a concern that young people in China might take Snowden to be a hero and emulate him over here.  Who knows what they were thinking.  Well maybe it is best to leave this one alone.

Let’s hope that this gets talked about within and between the countries.  Maybe we can avoid the kind of cyber-war that everybody is preparing for.