Tuesday, December 02, 2008

7 am Jams

I went to a Chinese funeral several months ago and now a Chinese funeral is happening right outside my second floor window.

The family mourners are dressed in white hats, sacks, and shoes.

It is a colorful occasion. People bring paper mache animals, towers, houses, cars, DVD players, TV's, clothes, shoes and big round paper floral arrangements that remind me of the flowers they give horses at horse races. They must burn enough goods so that the one in heaven will have a nice comfortable afterlife.

It isn't the gifts that make this particular funeral memorable.

No it is the music. There is a live band of traditional Chinese instruments right outside of my window including a singer with a microphone. Plus every instrument is hooked up to an amp.

At least this morning, the music started out relatively peaceful, a pretty funeral song with lots of somber horns. Umm... but just now the cymbals and the blasting toy like horn just started.

I wonder if this is going to last ALL day.
Today is my day off.

Teaching in China

In Chengdu during summer training, experienced volunteers and staff would tell us scenarios to prepare us to teach Chinese students. I got the impression that students were shy, would not volunteer answers, would not raise their hands, would not understand our American teaching methods of student centered learning rather than the Chinese way of teacher centered lectures.

What did I find?

Well students will not ask questions when I am standing in front of them on the stage at the blackboard. They will ask if I am walking around the classroom.

Students will not volunteer information individually unless I call on them directly and then most of them will answer in low voices. They will answer as a chorus, shouting out their answers when I ask a question. It is impossible to understand the 20 voices all answering the same question in a sporadic manner.

Students love to draw posters! We drew characters from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, from TS Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock", and made posters about slavery while studying Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Students have done wonderfully presenting poems to the class explaining the literary terms and the difficult meanings of poetry written in difficult language.

They love role plays and acting!

They had a blast making a board game about Oliver Twist, having a Pride and Prejudice cocktail party where they had to find a suitable fictional husband or wife, learning how to do dance moves from the Jazz age of The Great Gastby, learning poetry by singing the ballads of "Auld Lang Syne", and writing their own stories about why they are in the snowy woods of Robert Frost.

After the Chengdu training, I would have thought teaching Chinese students would be like pulling teeth; however, they are so creative. It is what makes 10 hours of being with them per week bearable. I would have gone crazy if I had to lecture for 10 hours a week.