Thursday, 9 December 2010

BEDiD 9: My Reading Teacher

This is a strange time of year in Nanjing. Everyone is getting ready for exams, the majority are gearing up for going home for Christmas where those of us who are going to be left over are frantically trying to figure out who else is staying and what the hell we are going to do in a city where there is only one Christmas tree.

The teachers start to get all funny too. This is a much shorter semester than usual for them, they would usually be teaching until new years if they were teaching Chinese students, and some of them misjudging the amounts of classes they had to do, adding or taking away a class or two just before the exams.

Those that decide to cut the classes short fill up the spare time with whatever they can think of, films, class discussions, in class karaoke sessions or, like my reading teacher the other day, long anecdotes about their lives.

Our class had an hour long of what felt like an outpour, as if she had wanted to tell people about her life for such a long time. She told us about her studies, how she got into her job, but one of the most shocking things she told us was that, even though she is a Chinese language teacher, she hates reading.

She said it had never been something fun for her, it was always something she had felt she had had to do so as to get to the next level, the Gaokao exam at the end of high school, her bachelors exams, then her masters. And she said she didn't like it, that the job she was doing wasn't the one she really wanted, even though she did describe it as, "还可以," which essentially means 'not bad'.

She went on to say she thought we must be really hard working and love to study because western students are here by choice, not because they have been pushed into it. She said we were very lucky, and we are.

I teach a kid who is 10 years of age and never has an evening off. He does karate, piano, English and extra maths classes every night of the week. Is this because he wants to and is interested in it? No, he does it because that is what he and his parents feel he should have to do to get a foot up int he world.

It puts into perspective some figures that put Shanghai schools as the best in the world, with Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea hot on their tails.

Yes, these kids are excelling in reading, writing and science, but how many of them are having their learning experiences ruined by society demanding so much of them. Without the freedom that so many of us take for granted in the West to have your own interests and follow your own ambitions, how many of them will end up like my reading teacher?

There is a very important vote in parliament today. It will pass. It is wrong. There will be riots.


Allayna said...

I feel so grateful after reading this. We had three snow days, and I did absolutely nothign but watch movies, then frown at my own worthlessness. But, maybe that makes you who you are.
It brings up the idea though, are we more productive if we are forced to do things? I'm sure the youth in the West would be much smarter and more cultured if we were forced to do things, and if we had been all our lives would it really be a problem? If it was just something we had to do? Why do we somehow believe that we're above have to work and suffer, just because of our freedoms? It's interesting.
Oh, and you called it. I expect your blog tomorrow will be about the fees?

Heartze said...

I feel bad for the kid... but maybe it's good? Recently I heard Shanghai has the best test scores for children in the world, second comes in Finland, and then South Korea. The United States doesn't even come in the top ten. So maybe it is good to push kids to study hard, though probably not as hard as China seems to push.