Saturday, November 24, 2018
Thursday, November 22, 2018
Every parent teacher meeting at any of my son Tony's schools has been attended solely by my wife Jenny till this November 2018. I have usually been working when they have these things and would try to find a way of weaseling out of these things if I was somehow available.
This time, I was able to attend a meeting because of a confluence of circumstances. One, Jenny was sick. Two, I didn't have any classes to teach at my school. Three, we decided it would save Jenny the hassle of having to drive to school because I could go to school via the subway, attend the meeting and then take Tony with me.
The meeting wasn't quite what I imagined a Parent Teacher meeting to be. I had expected to have individual meetings with the teachers about Tony. Instead, I had to sit in a classroom for three hours watching a class demonstration and then enduring two hours of speeches from the teachers.
The class demo featured the teacher giving the students some fairly complicated arithmetic problems to solve like 1.25 X 4.8 and then soliciting answers. I amused myself by trying to do the problems in my head and listening to see if I could understand the answers which were in Chinese. As this was happening Tony sat near me.
When the math demo ended, the pupils left and their parents had to stay. A teacher talked for a hour. I could only make out little snatches here and there of what she was saying. I instead tried to read what few Chinese characters I could recognize on what was on the accompanying PPT. From that and using some Chinese apps on my Iphone, I read of good study methods and I guessed that the teacher was telling the parents how to get their children to study better.
Jenny told me that this meeting was to end at 15:00. When the teacher finished at ten minutes past, I thought the thing was done with. Instead, another teacher entered the class to speak. Annoyed, I messaged Jenny and she told me to "stop bitching" because she had to sit through many of these things.
There was then another speaker and the meeting ended at 16:00. As the third speaker spoke, I abandoned all pretense of paying attention and I looked at some books I had loaded on my Iphone including a volume of the poems of Francis Thompson.
To make the experience more annoying was my being stared at by all these kids because I was a laowai/foreigner. Walking into the classroom I tried to focus on Tony and ignore them. Later about 15:40 because I was sitting by a window, I had to try to ignore all these kids standing right up against the window so they could stare at me. Finally, it dawned on me to close the curtains.
What was interesting to me about the experience was the passivity of all the other parents attending this meeting. They were all silent. No one said a word to question what the teacher was saying or to ask for clarifications. One teacher spoke at a low volume and no one told her to raise her voice. Some of the parents had the look in their eyes of boredom. Some parents were tapping on their phones engaged in WeChat conversations. There was no muttering from anyone of what complete b.s. this meeting was. The parents endured like they were sheep.
[Later, asking my students at my school about this, I was told that the parents were told that they could ask questions afterwards. And that the good students and the bad students in the class were mentioned during the speeches.]
Monday, November 12, 2018
Sunday, November 11, 2018
I pose this question after having had a class with a student who told me about a business trip he recently made to Germany.
His most interesting anecdote concerned what he witnessed when he attended a speech made by a German executive. The executive brought out a little Donald Trump doll and proceeded to denounce the US president. He then asked the Chinese in the audience to work with the Germans in order to combat Trump.
I knew of the German hatred for Trump, but this desire to coddle up with companies from the People's Republic in order to battle the USA nauseated me.
Didn't America win the cold war? Didn't West Germany absorb East Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall? It was my recollection of that time that the answers to these questions was yes. Perhaps it was all a dream....