Classes

I don’t really want to drone on about classes because it’s something that’s still causing me some anxiety. What I will discuss is some recent observations I’ve noticed that my students engage in during class.

During the class break on Tuesday, one particular student took the time to clip her nails. I’ve seen this behavior in other public settings; I know intercultural communication and cultural studies informs us not to pass judgment so I’ll just leave it at that.

I always have a handful of students who utilize class time to catch up on sleep. Many of them stay up passed mandatory lights out, when the campus shuts off power at 111:30 p.m., in hopes of forcing students to pass out. Instead, they use class time, so sometimes when I’m in a particularly foul mood, I wake them up in a manner that causes them to lose face. On other occasions, I let them sleep, secretly lowering their participation mark. How passive aggressive of me! I’d also probably fall asleep if I had to listen to my voice droning on for two hours.

Lastly, students always stay silent. I had some success last semester rousing students into at least pretending to care, and contribute in class. It also helped that I knew those students well. My current students, at least the undergrads, I am equally familiar with. I’d chalk it up to their unfamiliarity with the class’s content and subject matter or just their lack of interest. Most of them informed me in their self-assessment essays how much they despise writing. I’ve managed to go on a tangent. Students staying silent is not unfamiliar to me because it’s specifically related to culture. Students have internalized teaching from both 老子 (Lao Tzu) and 孔子 (Confucius) that tells them the ideal pupil does not speak out of turn or in general, it’s better to stay silent rather than give an inaccurate, lazy, or otherwise ill-suited answer. People, even in the workplace, do not want to be seen as a fraud for having spoken out of turn or would rather not risk being exposed for their mistakes, and thus be perceived as unintelligent through constant mindless chatter. It’s also a frivolous waste of energy. Students, and to some extent Jason, have implied that they don’t understand how I sometimes have so much energy to devote to the spoken word.

I have to say that I’ve gotten used to the “silent” treatment I’m given. If no one volunteers, I coerce a student or guilt them into participating. On other occasions, I just make do with allowing students to answer as a collective mass. When I pick on students, I essentially make them lose face. However, I sometimes feel as a foreigner, I am not contractually bound by the same code of ethics, at least in terms of the Chinese style of losing/saving face. American culture has it’s own version of face, but, at least I think, it’s a lot less complicated.

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