Archive for December 17, 2008

Positive Feedback: Why I LOVE teaching my Kazakh students!!!

Back in the late 1980s I taught for two years in Harbin, Heilongjiang, in the very northeastern part of the People’s Republic of China. After returning from a nice break in Hong Kong getting R&R and buying necessities that couldn’t be found on store shelves back then, I questioned my sanity and why I was subjecting myself to such punishment in China.  Not easy to teach the masses who were so accustomed to a teacher-centered approach rather than our more familiar student-centered way of teaching.  With so many students, one could not afford to be student-centered but we, as Americans, somehow coped. 


After enduring the difficult train travel and acclimating to the cold, Minnesota-like temperatures in Harbin, and once I got in front of my eager, industrious students, I knew why I loved teaching again. A renewed sense of calling always came when I looked at the inscrutable faces of my Chinese students who had happy smiles for me, glad that I had returned as their highly esteemed teacher. When I taught Speaking and Listening at H.I.T. (Harbin Institute of Technology) I had in one class about 60 students in one big classroom.  In a land of 1 billion people, 60 people is a drop in the bucket.  How did I ever manage to work with all these students? I think one semester I had about 250 students to teach. How did I grade them all?


I’m happy to have a maximum of 18 in each of my classes at my current university and we have very nice classrooms in the New Building.  That is, when the computer works at 8:30 a.m. every morning, otherwise I would go into my Plan B or Plan C mode to cope with the Internet not working.  My Listening and Notetaking II class gave me informative feedback about problems they encountered with my class but mostly positive feedback that I’ll consider for next semester.


For me, very difficult to understand everything, sometimes even main points.  And the record was very fast.  I think my first problem is lack of vocabulary.


It is very clear to understand, but sometimes using the slangs or unusual words is very hard to know.


The speed of speech! When it’s too fast, you can’t even get the idea of the dialog.  Or 17 minutes lecture, everything was clear, but boring!


The most difficult part is to catch ending of some words (as we say the British “eat” the endings).  American’s accent is easier to understand (;-) And as I have been to America, I got used to understanding American English.


I think American English is easier because people from America use simple words but sometimes they use many slang and phrasal verbs that is hard.


Actually this class with Mrs. K. differs from other ELN 1201 classes, we have listened to not only taped voice, but we had live persons, hearing their stories.  I wish that all of ELN courses could be like ours!


I would want to have more guest lecturers (;-) I liked and enjoyed it. Communicating to natives is always good.


The following student was in my listening class but also in my reading and writing class.  She wrote:  “Have a wonderful Christmas! and thank you very much for this semester! I enjoyed it very much, it was a lot of fun and new interesting material!”


Another reading and writing student who just returned from a quick trip to New York wrote the following: I’m so happy to receive the message from you. I had very fruitful time in NY… Additionally, I visited my friend studying in Columbia University, she earning her Master Degree, And I helped her with full filling APA style of her project work, you can be proud of your student =), because I even helped in USA with my knowledge of ERW. It was very little contribution, but in any case I’m thankful for you, my dear teacher!


At the beginning of your course, I was hating all that APA and etc stuff, but finally, now I can write properly and academically, and all of that because of you!  Thank you very much, and I’m very sad that semester has already finished.


I believe that you will have more creative and ambitious students, who need for your help, help in life skills. 


Also, I think that your work in searching info about USSR is very-very important, because no one is interested so deep in our culture and history before. Moreover, you know, that I found very interesting book in Russian language written by Kazakh authors about the USSR system, traditions, Labor camps and about all that related information in very interesting, like dialog, informal style. I hope it can help in your research.   


Finally, thank you for this course!!! It was really great, interesting, understandable. And especially thank you for your teaching!!! Thank you! =)

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