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Live with distractions

Popularity 2Viewed 999 times 2015-5-24 16:56 |Personal category:education|System category:News| Chinese, education

Life is full of distractions as well as temptations. We’d better learn to live with these instead of shying away from them.


The first job I got after returning back to China was working as a part-time IELTS teacher in an ordinary university. Honestly, it was a great platform for a person who had been out of teaching for almost two years. It was challenging as well as rewarding. But, soon I was shocked by how different Chinese and Australian education is. It’s not even that exaggerating to say they are poles apart.


The college I worked in was a newly-established one in that university. It is called Bangor College which is a collaborative college between the Chinese university and Bangor University in Britain.


On a Monday morning, I realized something was quite different as soon as I entered the classroom. There was a big piece of plastic sitting on the desk in front of the classroom. On that plastic are some small pockets with smart phones inside. At the beginning, I thought it was voluntary. But soon I knew it was the new policy issued by that university because the class presidents asked all the students to either power off or hand in their cellphones. I just waited there, smiling. However, deep down in my heart, I reckoned it was efforts to no avail as even if they could not play with their phones, there would definitely be alternatives for them to entertain themselves.


If it had ended there, it wouldn’t be worthwhile for me to share with you this story. Things later got so dramatic that it was like watching an eight o’clock soap opera. In the middle of the class, when I was wandering about the classroom to help students with their practice of speaking, a secretary holding seemingly very high position in that college stormed into the classroom and asked a student to hand in his mobile phone. Even after the guy explained that he was using it to check some English words and that he was actually from a different college (The student came to get permission from me to audit the class before the class started and I was very happy and even encouraged him to come in future). The secretary appeared to be very unhappy with the student arguing with her in front of so many other students and decided not to cut the student some slack because she suddenly raised her voice and asked the student to come out with her.


But, they didn’t go far. Then, they continued their argument some where close to the entrance of the classroom. The noise from that stole all the attention from the students who were on the edge of their seats. Apparently, the guy was very annoyed by the secretary’s decision of not returning his phone back to him. What was really draw-dropping was that she shouted at the student “I won’t return you your phone but I will give it to the head of your college. Whatever complaint you have, you should go to talk with him. And you should never ever come to audit any lesson in this college.”

I told myself “How can she make such a big fuss over this? It’s really ridiculous.” Of course, being a part-time teacher, I didn’t dare to say this out loud, at least not in front of her.


When I thought this should be it and was going to move on with my lesson. But it seemed that the secretary was determined to show us the climax of the soap opera because she walked back into the classroom and screamed “Now, those students who still have the phones with them, hand in them. I won’t repeat this. Do not think that I don’t know exactly who still have their phones. All the surveillance cameras in the classrooms are on. Nothing can be done without being noticed.” The classroom was deadly quiet. Nobody said a thing. Then, she just walked to the two girls sitting in front of the guy- the leading actor of the whole drama and asked them to hand in their phones. Apparently, these two unlucky girls were ratted out by the guy who had already left the building.


Then came another conflict. None of them wanted to give in. The girls argued that the phones were their personal belongings so the secretary had no right to confiscate them. Like most of Chinese school officials, the secretary valued her prestige in front of students dearly. So she just commanded them to give her their phones. Worse still, she even required them to call their parents to come to have a talk with her (OMG, they are university students!!!). I was totally stunned when the drama escalated to this far.


But she just couldn’t let this trivial thing go because she seemed to be so persistent about planting the idea into the student’s head that they should study as hard as if they were still preparing for Gaokao. Here is what she said “I know you guys feel disappointed now as university life isn’t really as easy as some of your teachers promised it would be. And I know you feel tired and stressed with tight schedule and mandatory self-studying class at night. But just treat this as the last year of your senior high school and pass the IELTS test because if you failed the test, you would be required to resit this first year of university. Nobody wants that considering the money and time it costs you. Your parents who have been working so hard deserve better than that.” (The students in this college have to meet the IELTS score set by Bangor University after their first year studying in this college. Otherwise, they would be asked to restudy the first year or to transfer to a different college.) To me who had been brainwashed by my teachers all the time throughout primary school and secondary school in a similar way, I was immune to that sort of lecture and I was actually sick of teachers using family as the stimulus to motivate students to study hard as it subconsciously tells students that they should dedicate themselves to study at least for their parents who have sacrificed so much for them. Furthermore, this kind of lecture renders insurmountable guiltiness and stress in students whenever they fail to perform what is expected from them.


I fully understand her determination of enforcing this new policy, but is it really necessary? To me, it’s like the university simply hired some staff to baby-sit the grown-up students so as to make sure they spend their time on things they are supposed to do. Even though that school official, before she left, had apologized to me twice for interrupting, I wasn’t in the mood to continue the class. So I decided to share with my students what it’s like to study abroad. The core word is “freedom” in my Australian university. We were free to ask questions, to access internet via phone, tablet or laptop, to eat snacks, and to walk in and out of classroom. This is how foreign education empowers the students to be proactive and to shoulder the responsibility of their behavior. You can sit in the classroom and pay no attention to the lecture as long as you are able to finish the assignments. However, Chinese education seems to value more how students perform in the classroom, not so much of their ability to finish the big assignments independently, because as far as I’m concerned, a large number of Chinese university students claim they have wasted four years preparing themselves for the superficially important and actually meaningless final exams. I am not here to argue which education system is superior. But it would be better if Chinese education system could draw some merits from its counterpart.


Some of you probably have read the news that a well-known primary school in China designed its classrooms sort of like prisons where teachers’ offices are set behind the classroom with a wall in between. Of course, there is a big glass window in the wall. Teachers only need to raise their heads to monitor the students’ behavior. Honestly, this even spares teachers’ efforts of checking the surveillance camera. But, if I were a student in that school, I would probably be so frightened that I might keep wetting my pants.


Life is only gonna get more and more complicated with the advancement of economy as well as technology. In other words, we are doomed to embrace more distractions and temptations in life. The best solution to this is definitely not completely avoiding them but to handle them in a proactive way and learn to live with them. Sometimes, parents and teachers should just let the children go, allowing them to explore the world themselves. They may have falls and bruises. But this is how they grow isn’t it? Caging in the students is only going to make them vulnerable and dependent.




(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)




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  • The Purpose of Reading 2018-4-12 13:45

    we have the same feeling about. reading,reading. really tells us a lot especially when welearn foreign can help us to understand other. country's culture and customs.therefore,when we talk. in foreign languages.we. needn't worry about. making too. much also can enrich our life.let's enjoy reding

  • Why don't We Stand Out and Fight? 2018-4-4 14:14

    It is actually emotionally and mentally healthy to have nursing homes for old people in residential areas, and makes it easy for families to visit their elderly relations regularly.
    Death happens to everyone and it is stupid to hide it away. Death is not bad luck - it will happen to you and me.
    In some European countries there are homes for the elderly next to kindergartens, and everyone benefits from interacting with each other on a daily basis.
    The elderly benefit from interacting with children and keeps them mentally alert, whereas the young learn about death as a normal part of life.

    For a country that supposedly 'respects' their elders, China has a very superstitious attitude to death and dying.
    where i am from, the elderly are allowed and supported by family and state) to be independent and in their own homes.
    Where medical treatment is needed, residential homes allow the elderly appropriate facilities in towns and cities while their families can visit easily and local residents can interact with them.
    In addition, local communities benefit from being able to interact with these residents and the residents can still be part of a local community, not hidden away as something to be ashamed of or 'taboo'.

    Shame on China for such medieval superstitious attitudes regarding death.
    Does China 'respect' the elderly so much that they should be hidden away from people's lives?

    Do you want to be isolated and hidden away when you are old and your family don't want to or can't visit you?

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