Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Is it ok to say if a Chinese man says it??

Ummmm (sheepishly)  hi!  (Waving).  Can we skip right over the part where I'm a bad blogger, and chalk a two month's absence (oops) up to a combination of vacation where there was no internet, extreme overwork, and technical difficulties??  We can?  Ok thanks.  Moving right along then.

In the summers, I cut back at my day job for a few weeks to immerse myself back into my college days - but from the opposite side of the podium.  These days, instead of the nerd in the front seat taking frantic notes, I'm the nerd with the wooden pointer, talking so fast that no one can take notes.  I teach Introductory Oceanography, which was my all time favorite class in college.  I have 100 students, and because it's a summer course, about 60 of them are on exchange from various Asian countries. China seems to be the biggest contributor, this year. This makes for some awesome exchanges.  Like this one, at the end of today's 2 1/2 hours of lecture (yes I'm hoarse now, thanks for asking):

Asian man gets to the front of the line of students, queued up to add the class or ask about the grading policy or recap a lecture point.

Me: [smiling encouragingly] Hi.
AM: Hello Professor.  I just want to say to you thank you.
Me: Thank you? [Have I changed his world in one lecture?  Good going, fast work.]
AM: Yes.  Thank you for the ... exciting lecture. In China where I come from, the teachers, they not...interested in what they teach.  They not... make interesting for us.  This is new thing, I like it.  So I say thank you.
Me: Oh. Thank you... well...I'm glad you enjoyed it. [What the heck do you say to that?  "I'm sorry your entire country's educational system is dull?" or "What, really?  Interesting lectures are a NEW thing?" "In a country of a BILLION people, you haven't found a single lecturer interested in their subject? They all teach like robots? This is the way it is done?"  The mind boggles.]

So, AM, you are welcome for the exciting lecture.  I'll try to keep up my game.



I also ask each student to turn in a sheet with their name, major, and the answers to a couple of questions, to get an idea of how much background knowledge they're coming in with.  It's usually a pretty mixed bag, but the answers I most enjoy are to the question "Can you name three tidepool  organisms?"

This answer is adorable:
"Not right now, but will do more research about it!"  She gets an A, doesn't she?

And from those who've never heard of a tidepool but are game to give it a go, this answer is representative:
"tuna, dolphin, sharks."    Well, at least they hit three marine animals.

This one didn't quite get that far:
"frog, swan."  Umm, no.  He needs my class very very badly.

This English-speaking, American, engineering major explains that he has derived that "tidal" comes from tidal waves, therefore I must be asking about underwater creatures, and gives me "sharks, kelp, salmon."  Good logic, well explained. What are they teaching in high school these days???????

Next the students who, misunderstanding the point, resorted to their laptops or smart phones for answers during the mid-class break:
"cowfish, actinaria [sic], starfish."
or
"brachiopoda [sic], alga [sic], shells."  Nice. Research on the fly.  I like it.  You have no idea what you are talking about, and no idea how obvious that is.

And finally, those who charged ahead boldly with their lack of answers.  An exchange student who listed her major  as  "Money and Banking" did not, like many of her compatriots, apologize for her lack of knowledge or leave it quietly blank as if they didn't notice the question, she just wrote "no idea."  That's ok. Short of a Castaway -style marooning, she likely won't need to know.

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