Blog News

1. Comments are still disabled though I am thinking of enabling them again.

2. There are now several extra pages - Poetry Index, Travel, Education, Childish Things - accessible at the top of the page. They index entires before October 2013.

3. I will, in the next few weeks, be adding new pages with other indexes.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Gratified and apologetic

This week three separate people have emailed me to ask what's happened
to the blog lately. This is most gratifying as I hadn't realised that
as many as three people read it regularly enough to notice that my
posting rate has fallen so badly. Sorry about that. There isn't any
special reason for it, I just haven't got around to posting anything.

I will in my next post get back to talking about my holiday in
Yangshuo. For this one let me tell you about an incident this week
which illustrates perfectly one of the major differences in teaching
in China and England.
Earlier this week I had a class in which a number of students arrived
late. As they were only a few minutes late and the lesson is only
forty-five minutes long, rather than spend a lot of time addressing it
I gave them a brief warning and sent them to their seats. One of them,
a girl of about twelve always has an attitude problem in class and she
was also eating when she came in. A few minutes later she started
fighting with one of the boys. I sent them to separate corners of the
room to separate them. When I let her sit again she immediately
started a conversation in Chinese with the girl next to her. I told
her very clearly to stop talking and her response was to echo the
warning in a mocking tone.
So far this could all be a student in in any school in the UK and,
indeed, it isn't the student's behaviour that has caused me to
comment. It's what happened next.
As she was clearly taking no notice of me at the end of the lesson I
took her to the office to be spoken to by her Chinese English teacher.
This teacher shouted at her quite sternly and then telephoned her
class teacher who came to the office and shouted at her some
more...and gave her a series of extremely hard open handed slaps
across the face. Hard enough to leave the face a stinging shade of
red. Hard enough that they rocked her on her feet.
I was stunned. If any teacher in the west did that they would lose
their job immediately. They would probably arrested for assault and be
put on a child protection register. This isn't meant as a criticism of
the teachers involved. This kind of punishment is perfectly normal.
Commonplace, even. There were five other teachers present and not one
of them reacted at all. It's such a normal thing that it's not even
worthy of comment for them. It sits very uncomfortably with us though.
The girl had been a pain in the arse in class and had needed to be
spoken to but I hadn't expected her to receive a physical beating for
it. If I had realised that she would, then I probably wouldn't have
taken her to the office at all. It's made me rethink my policy of
threatening them with their class teachers as a threat I'm not
prepared to carry out is no threat at all.

Last week I had witnessed something else in the office that was also
pertinent. The junior students had been given a dictation test in
their Chinese English class and most of them had done very badly. I
saw some of the papers and they were very poor indeed. However, for
us, a failure of so many students wouldn't be looked at as a failure
of learning it would be looked at as a failure of teaching. The
response here though was to call ALL of the failed students into the
office and give each one a few sharp raps across the palm of the hand
with a heavy ruler. Dozens of them were lined up and punished in this
I sort of understand, without in the least condoning, why you might
use physical punishment for discipline issues, but for failing a test?
It really is a different educational world.