This semester I’ve taught English speaking to every single sophomore class. I’ve never taught an entire grade the same subject at the same time before and I kinda like it. Usually each class hangs out mostly with themselves, as they live together, have class together and pretty much do everything together. Most students tend not to mingle with other students in the same grade just because they don’t have many chances to get to know each other.
But these sophomores are more active and open then past students. They know each other, and I often see students from the different classes hanging out. So it’s nice getting to know them all and I can easily talk to, and feel comfortable with, all of them equally.
Which brings me to their final exam. I’m having each student teach 20 minutes of class. It’s a perfect exam for speaking class as it really forces them to speak a lot. It also gives them an opportunity to talk about things they are interested and, well, it gives me a chance to take a break. I find a seat and sit down, just like any other student (albeit one that is taking notes on their class and grading them).
They have to email me their detailed lesson plan a few days before so I can approve it, but pretty much anything goes. To be honest, I’ve sat through quite a few boring classes, with students just reading a prepared speech, and mile long powerpoint presentations.
But I’ve been pushing them to do more creative styles of teaching and I think most have realized that if they are bored, it is their own doing. So lately my classes have been incredibly fun.
In one class the student teacher pretended that her classmates were little kids, and treated them as such, teaching them english kids songs and presenting them with awards for participation. Since the Chinese students were learning English songs, she decided that I should learn a chinese song, so she had some of her classmates teach me the song then I had to sing it. (I got a special “best kid in class” certificate which I love.)
In fact, the students seem to revel in making me do funny things. In one class we played a game in which the loser had to choose a punishment. The punishments were written by the classmates, each student writing one punishment. The first few were funny, run around the room like a monkey, yell “I am wonder woman and I am going back home,” out the window. Then, the only boy in class lost and chose a punishment. He immediately looked shocked when he read it.
It said: Kiss Becky.
The entire class erupted with cheers and everyone took out their cell phones. Of course I have no problem with a student kissing me, on the cheek of course, but he was so embarrassed it was adorable. Public displays of affection are pretty rare and touching your teacher?! Even rarer. After building up his courage, to the squeals and laughter of his classmates he finally leaned in and planted one on the cheek.
Then I lost the game (the student in charge totally rigged it so I’d lose) and I pulled out a punishment. It read: Kiss Becky. They made me choose another. Ask Becky on a date.
“Is there any here that don’t have to do with me?” I asked. (I finally chose one that said I had to kiss the wall for 5 seconds.) In the past few weeks I’ve also had to play charades, run around the room with a balloon held between me and another girls back, had to draw a sanitary pad on the board for a game of pictionary, taken an EQ quiz, a sexual maturity quiz, a success quiz and a personality quiz.
But it’s not all just fun and games, the students have talked about some really interesting topics. I learned quite a bit when one group focused on the internet and talked about hot people and websites in China I was unfamiliar with. One group tackled discrimination with each student taking a different aspect, such as race, sex etc. One gay student talked about sexual orientation and the positive aspects of the LGBT community. Another group chose Children’s Day as their topic, one girl talked about children in war and how to help kids out of those dangerous situations.
One group decided on “tastes” as their theme, with each student choosing salty, sweet, bitter, spicy and expounding on their theme in their own way. The girl that had sour decided to talk about friendship, and did an activity where each student wrote a small speech apologizing to someone they cared about deeply but may have mistreated. The girl in charge started crying when she read hers, to her roommates, and then half the class cried for the next 20 minutes as they recalled the memories of their friends.
I’ve really enjoyed this final exam. The students don’t get a lot of opportunities of being in charge and creating their own class, so I know that it is valuable for them. What they don’t know, is that it is valuable for me. I have learned a lot, about Chinese culture, about their college life and about them. They rise out of their class of 25 and for a few brief minutes, act as individuals. I know as a teacher I have a lot to teach them and they return the favor tenfold.