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Published: January 2nd 2009
Belarus- Also studied Tai Chi with me at 7:00 in the morning!
Actually teaching is not that much fun. You have to study a lot yourself to be sure you know the content REALLY well and then you have to prepare lesson plans and figure out how to explain the content in such a way as to engage students with the material so it is as interesting as possible. You have to hope you are creative enough to give homework that will give the students practice in what you are trying to teach and of course you have to check the homework to find out where you failed to make something clear. Then you have to reteach those things where you weren't very clear in the first place, add new material and keep going this way for months on end. It can be a dreadful grind if you are in the wrong school, teaching something you aren't very much interested in and working with unmotivated or misbehaving students.
So, imagine yourself in just the right school, with subject matter that the students want and need to learn and that you have classes of very intelligent, highly motivated, polite and interesting students. That has been my good fortune two times in my retired
Ukraine - Can you believe I got to see all these smiling faces every day? Conversation with her was delightful too.
life. First, at Xi Bei Gong Ye Da Xue in Xi'an China (NPU) where I had a most interesting group of young People's Liberation Army professors from one of their military colleges (that is a very interesting tale) and this fall at the International Baptist Theological Seminary in Prague, Czech Republic.
This second time I had, not a homogeneous group of males coming from a very mono-culture but instead 2 co-ed classes of students from extremely different cultural backgrounds. There were students from Russia, Israel, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Romania, Belgium, Kazhakstan and Belarus. This time instead of working alone I had a co-teacher from Northern Ireland. So here we were a very interesting mix of 10 different nationalities and cultures (I'm from the USA.) all working and studying together. The students were working hard to improve their English language skills- oral, aural, reading and writing in preparation for theological studies in the spring semester. All the lectures and writing would need to be done in English so everyone was highly motivated to learn as much as possible as quickly as possible.
It didn't make the preparation time any easier. It didn't make the reading of essays go any faster.
Kazhastan - Exceptionally good choir director. Smart too!
But it did make the teaching a pure pleasure. Classes were hard and students asked lots of questions. English is rather incomprehensible with all the exceptions to the rules. I often had to admit " I have NO idea why!" to questions about why we use some phrases. It was great that most of the students already knew the few English rules that actually work for those parts of English which are regular and behave themselves, so we had plenty of time to concentrate on all those 'weird' parts of English that would baffle even native speakers if they ever had reason to question why they say things in the way they do.
I have to admit I fell in love with the students. Not merely as a group but individually. Each one was so interesting and had such good stories to tell me. Even the one almost total introvert was fascinating when he did open his mouth and talk. But the first way I started to learn to love them was through the content of their essays. Many were on topics which allowed them to tell me stories of their lives, their foods, their cultures. We had what
Ukraine- my grammar check. As far as I could tell he knew every English grammar rule.
seemed to be plenty of time after class at meals and in their dorm before and after Bible study to chat. Sadly, I realized as the days came near for me to leave that I hadn't spent even half as much time talking to each student as I wished to. They were just so fascinating to me and now I it was time to return home where I won't have any more 'face time' with them. During this semester break I have had several good e-mail letters, some wonderful Skype talks and feel we will continue our conversations if they have any time with the heavy loads they will bear in the spring semester.
I would like to share with you the faces of the best group of students any teacher could ever have. Teaching isn't so dreadful after all!
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