EDWISE  - EDITOR AND EDUCATION CONSULTANT
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Eye of the Optimist -seeking enlightenment

For a teacher, it is always gratifying to have well motivated students excited about learning. I find that there are always a few in every class. They express appreciation for the teacher and the lessons. They try hard. They ask questions and want to learn more. Their eagerness feeds the motivation of the teacher, who may feel better about going to class and do extra preparation because of those eager students. If I did not find such students in my classes, I would feel less positive about the job of teaching.

This term, I am fortunate to have a whole class of keen students in a new English as a foreign language course. The subject of this particular class is news. Students read and discuss news under my guidance. Many participants of this class have told me how glad they are to be learning more about what is going on in the world through news. I especially remember one day when they were playing a board game featuring questions about current events; they responded quite well, so well that many of them wanted to play the game again. 

This particular English news class is entirely made up of international students, most of whom hail from China.  My experience with this class has not only lead me to reflect more on student motivation, but has prompted me to compare and contrast Chinese learners of English with their Korean counterparts. I am beginning to see differences in the motivation as well as learning styles and way of thinking between the two types. 

By comparison, Koreans are more narrow minded as they are more bound by tradition, their ethno-national identity, and family goals. They are thus less socially concerned. I do not mean to say that Korean students are on the whole less empathetic or sensitive. Certainly, there are a lot of hard-nosed and single minded Chinese solely concerned with money and property. That is evident. However, I am talking about young adult Chinese who visit another country to engage in university studies, including language studies. Regarding that kind of student, I would say they are more open-minded and socially concerned, while less hidebound and rigid thinking. By comparison, Korean students tend to look inward and focus on their individual or family goals. Also, tradition leads them to expect that parents  and the state serve them; many carry a sense of self-entitlement, I would say. They have apparently bought into the US-Anglo-american ideals of material wealth and beauty, and slogans of commercialism and capitalist style prosperity and status. Furthermore, they are usually stuck on sentimentalist catch-phrases, preferring to conform to the flock. They lack the habit of investigation, especially concerning the how and why conditions are as they are. They want to know every facet of instruction for a task, then follow mechanically, and with the most efficiency and least labour. They want to the know the requirements of classroom work in detail, for example, and prefer to the walk the line rather than explore. They want everything modeled or set forth for memorization and mimicking. They tend to take the work of the educators and the availability of the opportunities for granted. The Chinese, on the other hand, are more apt to want to explore, and they abhor squandering materials, education, and opportunities.

I have a friend who recently left Korea after many years of teaching Koreans here. He has started working in China and told me that China is "very different." I have always understood it would be quite different. I am waiting to hear how he compares Korean students in South Korea to Chinese students in China.

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