Tuesday, May 04, 2010

guest speaking

The plan for today was for me to sleep until noon- something I have never done in my life, but the last few days have been busy and full. Last night as I was watching TV with @, Jonathan and I talked about that Wednesday I have nothing on my schedule (just an airport pickup) so I could sleep till noon. And I told @ that I was sleeping till noon and that he should too. He may have taken me up on it because it past 7:30 and he hasn't stirred from his upstairs nest.

A few weeks ago, a lady I dance with asked if I would be available to be a guest speaker at a conversation club at another university here in town. She had asked Jonathan and another American colleague and neither of them really had time in their schedule but Jonathan suggested that I might do it. My thought was a visit a time or two with a conversation club would be fun for me, so I agreed that she could give my phone number to her friend at the other university. A few weeks went past and finally the university contact sms'd and we set up a time for us to meet. I thought it would be sometime to talk about the club and to set a time. I sat down to meet with the dean, the head of the department and 2 other english teachers. We visited for awhile and they had lots of questions about obtaining information from the US Embassy to get an American Guest Instructor- a subject I really know nothing about and was quick to share with them. The first meeting did not establish a schedule so much as it established a week that I could be available for the club. I was understanding that the club coordinator wanted to make sure she chose a time that would work for the students so that they would be able to attend. But still I was clear that once maybe twice would be all would be all I could meet with the club.

A week or so went by and my contact called me again (Ms. N). In her sms she said that it would be better to meet to set up a schedule because it was too much to sms about. I understood that, sms-ing for lots of information can become wearisome. So I went in and we began talking about the schedule. She got out her laptop and showed me a week's listing of classes. CLASSES! How is that anything like a CLUB? And I reeled and said "These are classes. We had talked about a conversation club. Not classes. That's different." We had also talked about the fact that I was available in the afternoon because Jonathan teaches in the mornings and we have a son at home. But these were largely morning classes. So I looked at the schedule and told her I could do those classes when Jonathan was available for being home, Tuesday and Thursday afternoon. And Ms. N whined. So I looked at the morning classes on Monday and remembered that our friend Marilyn and @ were wanting to have a movie time together and thought that might cover me for the Monday morning sessions. I wanted to be helpful even if I knew I was being a bit walked on. So I agreed to the Monday morning sessions too. Then she came at me with another schedule from the other faculties (departments) at the University that wanted a native speaker. So I looked at the schedule: a Chinese class and a Japanase Literature class. I said a very FIRM: NO. And I laughed at the idea of why anyone would ask an english speaker to guest lecture in a chinese or japanese lit class. When Ms. N whined, I explained to her that isn't what I do. We were in the english teachers office, and sensing Ms. N was loosing, 3 english teachers rushed to her aid, to bulster her illogical desire to have an english speaker come talk to the chinese and japanese lit classes. The chinese class wasn't actually a "language class", its an IT class. Still I argued "a subject I know nothing about". We did this for a while and I finally wore out. Thinking I can entertain myself with a Chinese and Japanese Lit class. And they are in the afternoon, so I'm available.

So the Monday morning arrived. I was there on time and the instructor for the course was too. He was ready and waiting and he was also the dean I had met with some weeks ago. So he initiated me into the theory he has embraced. Something about Natural Language Acquisition through Listening. I tried to be agreeable although the theory seems full of holes. I really don't know alot about theories of Second Language Acquistion and decided to look past the holes to the teacher who really desires to teach well- a trait that is hard to come by in the University teaching professions. After hearing the theory, we went to class- Speaking 4. I did an introduction of myself and how I got to living here and then left it to questions. And the students did a lovely job peppering with question for the next hour. They asked a lot about language and culture learning so I was able to have them help me with some of my language and culture questions. It was nice to let them think about their language and flesh out some of the complexities of their language in english. And they did a nice job. I went on to Speaking 2, the students were younger (freshman) and it showed. Less of a stirring conversation/ Q&A period but still good enough. Monday and Tuesday morning were lovely.

Tuesday afternoon brought Chinese IT and it went as expected. The class was 25 boys and 1 girl. I've never felt so bad for a girl in my life. The coordinator, Ms. N, had suggested that their english will be lower so perhaps this short You-Tube video and a little discussion would be a better fit. Yeah, it wasn't. They were at a low rumble of laughing through the whole thing and when prompted towards discussion they raised the tember of the of their lauging and talking to one another. After 10 minutes of really nothing about the video, I switched tacks. The introduction/ Q & A idea seemed like it may work way better. And it did. I had about 6 students engaged in questions and conversations during the remainder of the time and these students were troopers because they had to put up with alot of jeering and laughter. I was able to quell it some, I have a stellar scolding teacher look.

The best outcome of the hour was my conviction that I wouldn't be coming for the Japanese Lit class. No way! and no amount of whiny or gang whining was going to change that. So I was fully prepared for telling Ms. N "never again" but fortunately I found her apologetic and embarrassed. She was ready to cancel my Thursday speaking classes too. I told her I was happy to come for the speaking classes but they needed to do a better job preparing the students before I came back for the other faculties. Come to find out, these were freshman too. I encouraged them that this might be a better plan for older students.

All in all, its been an ok week. And I've enjoyed the students and interacting with them. And I've learned alot and I like that too.
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