Thursday, November 11, 2010

Chinese students in English class

I've had a few Chinese students in my classes over the years here in Korea, and from my experience, they are either far better than most of the Korean students or far worse.  By far worse, I mean don't know their numbers, colors, and day of the week and don't know what sounds the letters make.  What makes it tricky at my uni is that I teach mostly required classes.  The students have to pass 2 semesters of English to get their degree.  Anyway, how do I deal with these students who really can't read?  I get them to come to my office for some private tutoring once or twice a week for an hour or so and teach them how to read.  This improves the situation considerably and they can at least try to participate in class.  And I give them special, extremely simple tests on the stuff I've worked with them in my office about.  If they do okay, I give them a "D" in the class and they're on their way to bigger and better things.  If they are unwilling to work with me, I'll give them an "F."

Anyway, here is a story from A Geek in Korea about a particularly bad Chinese Student.  My main question would be whether this class is a mandatory one.  If yes, well, then, I can't believe that the Geek didn't show a lot more compassion.  The student hasn't made it his "goal...to fail a class so completely."  He is simply unable to perform to the same abilities as the other students, which is probably no fault of his own.  Maybe this is his first English class ever?

If this class is an optional class and the student signed up for it voluntarily, this changes the situation a bit.  But, the Geek mentioned that the student doesn't really speak Korean either.  So, the uni has to register him in something, and this class was probably one of the only ones even remotely possible.  So, again, a little compassion perhaps?  Have some private sessions with him in your office?  Work with him on his presentation, so he can do it in class without making a total fool of himself in front of his classmates. 

Anyway, poor guy.   And I don't mean the teacher.  I mean the student.  I just hope the teacher isn't as cruel in class to the student as he is in writing about him.

5 comments:

Sarah said...

I felt the same way as you when I read his post.
At our university as well the Chinese students are either excellent or terrible and the English classes I teach are compulsory to graduate. However, visa students (non-Koreans) are graded outside the curve. They're not included in our curve percentages so we can give them the grade they deserve regardless of the curve.
When I have students who have little to no English language abilities (Korean or non-Korean alike), if they attend class, have a book and try-ish in class I try to encourage them in class, give them lots of "It's OK, just try" and I give them a C at the end of the term even if they don't "deserve" it.
I think that if someone has made it as far as university and still has minimal English skills my failing them and thus forcing them to take my class again really isn't going to help them. So, I encourage during class time and give them a mercy pass.

ageekinkorea said...

I'm baffled at this post. I am being unreasonable in this situation? Really? I think you don't really understand the situation and you assume the worst about me.

This student is not able to perform ANY of the required tasks for class. It's not my responsibility to know what he is doing there. I think all foreign enrolled students end up in an English class. He said he wasn't there by choice when I asked him why a student that can't speak English is in my class.

It's not on ME to chase down a student that skips class, doesn't do assignments, and fails to participate in any way. He has shown the unwillingness to do any work in improving.

If I had a student that couldn't say a word of English when class started, and they made the effort, and they were in my office, and they tried to do homework, I would not fail them. Don't think for a SECOND that this is the case here. He has not done the work, and he does NOT deserve a passing grade.

The situation would be ENTIRELY different if he asked me for help and I turned him down. This person REJECTED help I offered him, skips class, and does not do well on the things he has to try in class.

There are other students that DO as for extra help, and I am willing to spend time with them. It's not on me to grab a student and FORCE him to come to my office for tutoring.

I have an email/ask me after class policy. He does NOT take advantage of it. I answer DOZENS of emails every week, and answer ANY question for help my students have. I'll get back to a student at any time of the day if it is urgent.

If this guy would show up and ask for help, talk to me about tutoring, or send an email, he would get help. If he isn't responsible for his grade (WHICH HE KNOWS) I can't be bothered. I'm not teaching children.

Jason said...

I'm not sure how I feel about this post...

A Geek in Korea says,

"ten weeks into the semester before this student spoke in class"

"The only thing he does is show up half the time. Other than that he’s never done homework, or participated in any significant way."

"He skipped his first two chances to present materials to his group, and today he finally prepared a hobby for his project. It turns out he just copied the article about billiards from the Internet and planned on reading it to his group members."

I think there has to be some accountability on the part of the student for not SHOWING UP TO CLASS, and NOT ASKING THE TEACHER FOR HELP.

I think it could be argued that a good teacher would spot this student, approach him, and offer help....but without knowing about the teacher's workload, and personal life conditions, I again go back to the student taking responsibility for their own learning--especially if they've signed up for a class they are weak in, or are forced to take it.

I know, however, in Asia there's a general culture of teacher as parent/puppet master and he might have been hoping/unconsciously assuming the teacher would help him somehow, and magically know he needed help....and in that context the teacher should know the background culture and history of the language learner and not so quickly write him off as lazy or unmotivated and irresponsible...

It's a complicated situation. I'm also sure that there are nuances of information about what the student does and doesn't do, and his general demeanour that we cannot know as we're not the teacher in the classroom.

My heart goes out to the poor kid on a human level, but I also have seen too many kids who have crap attitudes, and yet blame the teacher when they get a low score....

On an unrelated note--I'm in China now, and YES, the students on the whole are much better than the students in Korea. More specifically, I've got top 1% high school graduates at my university, and compared with the same situation I had in Korea the Chinese top 1% are better....

J

Jason said...

I'm not sure how I feel about this post...

A Geek in Korea says,

"ten weeks into the semester before this student spoke in class"

"The only thing he does is show up half the time. Other than that he’s never done homework, or participated in any significant way."

"He skipped his first two chances to present materials to his group, and today he finally prepared a hobby for his project. It turns out he just copied the article about billiards from the Internet and planned on reading it to his group members."

I think there has to be some accountability on the part of the student for not SHOWING UP TO CLASS, and NOT ASKING THE TEACHER FOR HELP.

I think it could be argued that a good teacher would spot this student, approach him, and offer help....but without knowing about the teacher's workload, and personal life conditions, I again go back to the student taking responsibility for their own learning--especially if they've signed up for a class they are weak in, or are forced to take it.

I know, however, in Asia there's a general culture of teacher as parent/puppet master and he might have been hoping/unconsciously assuming the teacher would help him somehow, and magically know he needed help....and in that context the teacher should know the background culture and history of the language learner and not so quickly write him off as lazy or unmotivated and irresponsible...

It's a complicated situation. I'm also sure that there are nuances of information about what the student does and doesn't do, and his general demeanour that we cannot know as we're not the teacher in the classroom.

My heart goes out to the poor kid on a human level, but I also have seen too many kids who have crap attitudes, and yet blame the teacher when they get a low score....

On an unrelated note--I'm in China now, and YES, the students on the whole are much better than the students in Korea. More specifically, I've got top 1% high school graduates at my university, and compared with the same situation I had in Korea the Chinese top 1% are better....

J

John from Daejeon said...

Sarah, I sure hope none of your "it's OK C" students end up piloting the airplanes I will ever fly in as English is extremely crucial. Not being able to adequately communicate in the language of the sky not only played a part in the worst airplane disaster of all-time (Tenerife disaster), but it also played a big part in Korean Air Flight 801's crash (well, English and the Korean inability to overrule one's elders even when they are obviously wrong because it would cause a loss of face—the pilot would not heed his younger co-pilot’s warnings). I just hope your "mercy" doesn't come back and hurt someone down the line.

Like the Geek said, these are not "children."