Friday, May 25, 2007

End of the Semester

Well, today was the end of the academic semester. We had final exams this week and now I have some papers to grade and final marks to deliver.

I would have to say I have mixed feelings about the end of the term. One the one hand, I really enjoyed teaching the International Relations class. It was a rewarding experience and I felt like I revisited some of the basic concepts in a satisfying way. My students were all very pleased with the course and they hope that I keep teaching at the university so that they can take a class with me again. Now I know that some of that affection is due to the fact that I’m a native speaker and English students vastly prefer native speakers to non-native teachers. But some part of that is that they really appreciated the opportunity to experience a new genre and improve their English skills as well.

I also enjoyed one of my English classes. It wasn’t the easiest thing to teach as I don’t consider myself an expert in that capacity, but I know that I gave a good effort and that I improved as a teacher over the course of the semester. It helps to have a good group with a fairly decent level of English. It was nice to see the improvement in some of my students. With all things, there were some that worked hard, some who did the minimum, and some who did less than nothing. I was satisfied with the ones who worked hard as I could see their improvement and I felt good about that. The ones that were lazy or didn’t show up, et. al, I cared not about.

On the other hand, however, was my class of professors. This was a very trying class with the least motivated, lazy, and indignantly ignorant group of students I have encountered. It was flabbergasting to read the answers to the exam question “How many hours a week do you study English?” (there was a gimme section on the exam which the reason everyone passed). Several students who had previously told me they don’t study at all put down between 6-10 hours per week. I laughed out loud when grading that section.

But really, the most frustrating thing about the examination of my professors was the fact that only 5 of 14 accurately answered the following question on the oral part of the exam: If you were to take up a new exercise activity or routine, what would it be and why? The word they didn’t understand was “exercise” which is downright galling since we spent about 25% of the class on an exercise unit of the book. To not know the word is either to accept a fundamental level of stupidity or laziness (or both).

In fact, I felt that the exam was really very easy and my “students” class backed that up. I taught the same level to both classes – the exact same material, lesson plans, pace, etc – yet only the students group actually improved and did well. Fundamentally, I thought that many of my professors had placed too high to be successful and suggested to several earlier in the semester that they go down to a lower level. Apparently, pride is not just in the name of love.

At any rate, I really hope I never see that group again. To think that there are about 10 English students entering the “intermediate” level who fail to correctly conjugate the “to be” verb more than 60% of the time.

More than just the relative differences between my groups, however, I’m also a bit troubled by the uncertainty for the next semester. Assuming I can change jobs before then, I can continue to teach IR classes (two Intros and Humanitarian Affairs) but that’s in serious doubt. In my current job, it will be impossible to continue teaching. They don’t want me to and I understand their position.

So, I’m looking for a new job anyway, but that is a dodgy game at best. I am hopeful that I can work something out between now and then as it would be a shame to lose out on this opportunity.


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