Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Back Seat Driver/Professor

Last weekend I studied a lot for the Monday midterm exam in the language class I am taking, but at the beginning of class on Monday, the other students asked the instructor if we could have the test another day instead. The instructor said OK. I would never agree to that if I were the instructor, though of course I didn't say anything. I have moved homework assignments and due dates around (with advance notice to the students), but a last-minute reschedule of a test? Never! I try not to be a 'back seat driver/professor' in this class, especially since I have no idea what it is like to teach a language class -- but sometimes it is hard.. like this week.

I am trying to decide whether to sign up for the intermediate level of the course for next year. I think I will. It has been very hard making the time to take a class that meets 5 days/week, especially since I travel a lot and the course involves a lot of homework and writing assignments, but it has been a great experience overall. I am slowly slowly making progress with this difficult language. Also, learning a new language makes me use different brain muscles than I use in my research, and I like that. I do not, however, like studying for (or taking) tests, especially when the experience becomes more protracted than expected.

5 comments:

Am I a woman scientist? said...

I can sympathize. I am taking a 5 day/week intensive language course here (to learn the native language), and I have to catch myself from getting too irritated over the teaching style. It must be incredibly difficult to teach a language to 30 people, only four of which are native English speakers (and a few speak no English at all).

However I am really done getting worksheets which use gender stereotypes to teach vocabulary.

Exhibit A: A worksheet teaching the construction of "always/never" clauses, with a wife yelling at a husband saying, "You never say I'm beautiful, you never bring me flowers, you never do the dishes..."

Is this really the image this "egalitarian society" wants to use to help foreigners learn the language and integrate into society?

TW Andrews said...

A worksheet teaching the construction of "always/never" clauses, with a wife yelling at a husband saying, "You never say I'm beautiful, you never bring me flowers, you never do the dishes..."

As someone whose taught both a foreign language to English speakers and English to non-native speakers, I'm going to defend the use of stereotypes.

In a lot of cases, it's important that the meaning of the phrase be secondary to it's construction, and stereotypes are almost by definition a case where meaning is understandable with little thought or explaination.

Obviously there are better and worse stereotypes that can be used. I was always a big fan of stereotypes about good / bad students (i.e. the good student studies a lot, but doesn't have much fun, the bad student goes on lots of dates but fails tests), primarily because people could relate to these, even if they knew the truth wasn't that simple.

But in a class full of adults, those might not be appropriate. It really comes down to a question of what the course is trying to teach, language or culture.

Female Science Professor said...

There are some amazing things in the exercise book for the language class I am taking, such as questions like: "At what age did you start smoking?" "With whom do you like to smoke?". These are impossible for me to answer, but so are questions like "What do you want to do when you graduate from college?" and "Does your father help you with your homework?". I just answer them in random ways to show that I know the vocabulary and grammar.

Anonymous said...

There are some amazing things in the exercise book for the language class I am taking, such as questions like: "At what age did you start smoking?" "With whom do you like to smoke?"

Ha ha, don't tell me you are learning Dutch :) The next chapter might have questions like "How many times do you go to the Red Light District" ? I know it would be difficult because of different script, but learning Hindi or Chinese amazes people with their inherent culture.

Anonymous said...

tw andrews writes:

"In a lot of cases, it's important that the meaning of the phrase be secondary to it's construction"

You taught English? Really?