LEADING WITH A DISCLAIMER
The sheer length of time since my last update should guarantee at least one or two interesting anecdotes. Sadly, it doesn’t. But I’ve promised to update my faithful readers (or reader, maybe) and attempt to pull something together.
Teaching is bittersweet at the moment. I have one class that I’m really enjoying. Around Easter we watched the film The Ultimate Gift. It’s a cute, Hallmark-quality film about a spoiled young man who is offered the opportunity to receive a series of “gifts” that lead up to an unknown “ultimate” gift. The series of gifts included learning such important lessons as the values of work, money, family, friends, learning, gratitude, dreams, one day, and a couple others. I had planned to show the video, discuss what I consider to be the ultimate gift by doing a cultural talk on Easter, and then move on. However, in light of my students’ overwhelming appreciation for the film, I decided to give them an assignment that would require a bit of work on their part. I asked them to choose one of the “gifts” they feel they personally need to learn and challenge themselves for one month to learn it. For example, if they need to learn the value of money, they might choose to live on a limited amount of money for the whole month or to use their money to help others who are in financial straits. Each week they have to write a journal entry detailing the progress of their challenge, and at the end of the month, they will be presenting the lessons they learned from their challenge. While a large majority is taking the easiest approach possible to this project, the few who are taking it seriously are blowing my mind with the challenges they’ve given themselves and the work they’re putting into meeting the challenges. Here are some highlights:
1) Percy – No doubt the least liked boy in class because of the frank and rather rude comments he makes quite often (which he calls “honesty”), Percy chose the gift of friendship and has challenged himself by first cleaning up his personal appearance (Previously he never thought it important to impress his classmates so he grew his hair long and attempted a disturbingly stringy mustache. This, coupled with his infrequent showers, more than put off his classmates. Since the challenge, he has shaved, cut his hair and cleaned up his appearance.) He is also putting forth more of an effort to be friendly, helpful, and less judgmental of his classmates.
2) Felisha – Felisha is a quiet girl who has chosen to challenge herself to pass her P.E. class. As simple as it sounds, this challenge is huge for her. Not only was she not blessed with any athletic prowess, but the P.E. course they have this semester includes running hurdles, laps, and doing various jumping events. Felisha has challenged herself to run more (even though she hates it) and practice each activity more often and more devotedly. She’s already made huge progress. Before the challenge she couldn’t run one lap around the track; now she can run four!
3) Zita – Zita is a very closed off girl. She seldom talks in class, and I’ve only seen her smile once or twice. She’s the only girl who hasn’t taken the opportunity to come to my apartment for a visit (surprising only because everyone else jumps at the chance). Anyway, she has chosen to challenge herself to learn the gift of family. She has a very poor relationship with her father as a result of some negative experiences in childhood. This month she has challenged herself to confront her father and to begin to rebuild their relationship.
I’m excited to listen to their presentations coming up. My other classes are less than exciting. My non-English major classes last only seven weeks, two of which fall on holidays so we don’t meet. It’s hard to get anything done in five weeks. Plus, this semester my students hardly understand any English so having a productive class is like pulling teeth.
By now most of you have probably heard of the earthquake that hit central China Monday afternoon. We did indeed feel it in Shiyan. Jessica and I were in her apartment killing time before heading to class when things in her living room began to sway. It was a different feeling than the last earthquake we felt a month ago. This one lasted much longer but seemed to be more fluid in its movement than the last one, which seemed to be rather abrasive. I’ve been reading the news, and this earthquake was quite destructive. I haven’t heard the extent of the damage, but many lives have been affected.