On Learning to Teach

On Learning to Teach

I started strong this week by locking myself inside my own office. My Monday began as usual: I rolled out of bed, made coffee and caught the inter-campus shuttle to Xianlin Campus, where I teach. I arrived about 45 minutes later and walked through a light rain to my building. I had just arrived in my fifth floor office and put my bag down when a gust of wind slammed the office door shut. I tried and failed to pull the door open. I grabbed my keys and tried to undo the bolt. That failed. I tried again and then called one of my roommates, trying to disguise my panic at being locked in a room alone. How would I explain what happened when I was released, possibly days later? Finally, a specific twist and pull movement released the door and I was freed from my office prison.

On Tuesday, there was another lock-based incident, this time at my Suiyuan office. Nanjing Normal has two campuses and we are lucky enough to have offices on both. This Tuesday morning, I tried to go work at the Suiyuan office and found myself unable to open the door. In a reversal from Monday, on Tuesday I was locked out of my own office. Instead, I worked in a nearby room, where I was very productive and finalized some class plans.

I have an incredible amount of freedom to create a curriculum, which is a blessing and a challenge. A blessing because I can cater the class to my students’ interests, which often center upon practicing their pronunciation and gaining confidence when speaking. It is a challenge because I have never created curriculum before and there are so many possibilities. I am absolutely still learning, gauging how long activities will take is especially challenging, but I am really enjoying working with the students and looking forward to the rest of the semester. I love teaching Greek Mythology, though it is a challenge not to teach everything from the heavily feminist classicist’s perspective. I’ll have be subtle as I continue to further my feminist agenda. I do slip in Classical Greek words whenever possible. So far, we have learned mythos, barbaros, and hubris and I am beginning to sound like the father from My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

I am very grateful to previous Wellesley fellows for their course material and advice. Today (Wednesday) I discovered a treasure trove of unit ideas and previous final exams in our office (once I opened the door). It is so helpful to see previous lessons, ideas that worked in the past to use as a guide for my own planning. The binders also contained some fun pronunciation exercises. For example, “Wring out the towel as you pronounce the vowels in, ‘How now, brown cow?’” I aim to include a moment of nonsense or fun in each class, whether that be tongue-twisters or puns, and these will provide fun practice for my students. Although I have to say, with its tones, Chinese has English clobbered in the tongue twister division. One famous Chinese version is just a bunch of “shir” sounds, pronounced in different tones and very quickly. Needless to say, I’ll spend the rest of the year practicing that one!

About the photo above: One of my roommates and I went exploring the area near Fuzimiao Temple, which is south of our home in the Gulou district. Fuzimiao is much more touristy, the streets are wider and the architecture is more traditional. It is very pretty, especially on a sunny day! There are more photos in the “Photos” tab on the top right.

2 thoughts on “On Learning to Teach

  1. I love this Cate! So cool that you have the courage to take on an adventure like this. I’m thoroughly impressed. Keep up the blogging – I’ll be reading! Love you!

    P.S. You’re hilarious.

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