Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Rare Day

I wake up Wednesday morning to find a dusting of snow on the ground -- a rare occurrence for Shanghai. But the sun is shining, the sky is blue, the air is fresh. All the omens are right. It's going to be a rare day.

On other days, I'm a teacher in the psychology department. But on Wednesdays, I'm a student in the Chinese language program.

“You're going to be both a teacher and a student,” said the secretary as she helped me register. “That's very rare in China.”

So Wednesday morning I find myself on the other side of the podium. I'm sitting three rows back. I'm no more willing to raise my hand or volunteer an answer than any of my classmates. I look up at the teacher. I'm smiling and nodding. I understand maybe one word in three.

So this is what it's like for my students here, trying to learn psychology in a language they barely understand. And I also wonder if it's any different back in the States, where I talk academe-speak to students just out of high school.

Now I know why they're so quiet, so reluctant to respond. I remember now what it's like to be a student.

“It's rare in America, too,” I told the secretary.

But maybe teachers should sit on the other side of the podium once in a while. The new perspective could help them be more compassionate teachers.

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