Go to college and you shall be set free
Students seem very innocent- especially when it comes to the opposite sex and the notion of love (Think 19 years old going on 11). In all my classes, the male students (by choice) sit in one section of the classroom and the female students all sit among each other in another section. Recently when showing the movie “Into the Wild”, there room was abuzz during a scene when the main male character went on a walk with a new love interest. Mind you, they were not even holding hands in scene! I think it was just the underlying sexual tension between the characters that put my students at unease. Still, they are intrigued about meeting the opposite sex. During lunch today, one of my students was checking a text message from a high school class mate. Her roommate exuberantly kept repeating to me, “He’s her boyfriend!” with my student vehemently denying her roommate’s claim. Perceptions of love also seem to be very naïve and innocent. The word love may be used very loosely and for a simple, innocent crush. During an oral exercise in class today, I asked my students a series of questions about interviewing people. One of the questions had to do with what they would ask a loved one if they had the opportunity. Even though I explained what was meant by “loved one” many of them misunderstood “loved one” and its connotation. After they were broken down into groups and were discussing the questions, several of them told me that it was just too personal of a question to answer. They thought that the question was asking what they would ask of a boyfriend or a girlfriend and only after I explained (again) that “loved one” could mean a family member, a good friend or anyone they care about, were they willing to answer the questions. During the same class session, when students were asked who they would interview if they could, I asked one of my students who is a huge fan of the book “Wuthering Heights”, whether he would want to interview Emily Bronte. “Yes!” He exclaimed. “She’s my lover!!!” This obviously got some snickers from the other students and I didn’t go into explaining that Emily Bronte is indeed not his lover. But who am I? Maybe he seriously believes she is his soul mate, that she speaks to his heart, and that they are really star crossed lovers through some strange time-warp dimension.
Now a word about names. Thankfully for me, many of me students have English names which helps a little to avoid the embarrassment of mispronouncing a Chinese names (usually only embarrassing for me and the student whose name I mispronounce. Also I must admit that eight weeks into the semester, I am still having trouble identifying many of my students). The thing I like about English names is that students can pick an entire new name for themselves and can in fact have a separate identity if they want. Except for the fact that many of my students don’t know each other by their English names. So, for example, when I’m taking attendance and ask for the absent “Maryanne” and try to ascertain from the other students whether she is in fact in class and not saying anything (also common). I’ll repeat her English name 3 times only to get blank looks until I say, “Umm. Sorry. I mean is Zhan Xiu Chen here?” which is then usually followed by a laugh at my total butchering of her name and then the entire class’s recitation of the correct pronunciation of her name. “Um. Got it. Sooo, she’s not here, right??” Also quite confusing is that Chinese custom mandates that the family name (last name) be written and said first before a person’s given name (first name). This is to show respect to a person’s family and ancestors. For the first two weeks I probably called my students (who didn’t have English names) by their last names. I’m sure no offense was taken but I did have to spend some time explaining to my students that it is the reverse order with names in the US and many other countries of the world which may cause them or their foreign counterparts confusion if they ever end up working or interacting in a Western business or social setting.
|Students engrossed and involved in group discussions.|