Caitlin Moss (Fellow ’10, Georgetown University) is working to build her students’ sense of investment in their educations. One of her strategies was to survey her students and ask them about their own goals–for school, for their careers, and for their lives. Some of the answers weren’t quite what she expected…
In the first few weeks of class, I have started to implement my investment plans, which are basically an ongoing reinforcement to my kids (yes, I have started referring to them that way…) that studying is critical to opening up doors in the future. To me, being truly invested means that rather than being disinterested because they feel English is a subject that they’re forced to take (even though that’s partially true), my students will want to study English and be willing to study hard because they understand the importance of doing so for their own good.
Caitlin Moss with Margie, one of her students
I’ve also been trying to get to know my students better; with 52 of them, that’s not always easy. So part of my solution to that problem was to have them fill out a pretty extensive survey, and to make them reflect on their personal goals for the year and for life (and yes, all of this was done in Chinese, to make sure they understood.)
My students are certainly not dumb. I was really surprised and impressed with some of their self-insight and ability to reflect. I am looking forward to getting to know them more and more in the future, and even though they can be little monsters in class sometimes, I can already feel myself getting quite attached to them. Some of their answers really inspired me to work as hard as I can to support them this year.
Here are some of their interesting responses, synthesized and translated. Who WOULDN’T be inspired by these kids?!
Q: In your opinion, what does the ideal teacher look like? What characteristics does he/she have? What teaching methods does he/she use?
A: My ideal teacher looks just like Miss Moss. Except that I don’t know you well enough yet to know what your characteristics are.
A: My ideal teacher can teach me lots of new things, doesn’t get mad easily, and finds many different ways to communicate with students.
A: My ideal teacher is strict in class but tells us lots of stories.
A: My ideal teacher is just like you, different from all the other teachers.
Q: What are your goals for the future? What do you want to be when you grow up?
A: Go to college.
A: Go to Qinghua (Tsinghua) University.
A: Get a PhD.
A: public attorney.
A: math teacher.
A: nurse, then a doctor.
A: sports coach.
A: gym teacher.
A: cab driver.
A: migrant worker.
Q: What challenges might you face in trying to achieve these goals? How will you overcome them?
A: There are some things that I don’t do very well at (in school), my family doesn’t have enough money to keep sending me to school, and my parents don’t want me to be a doctor. I will study hard, take out loans, and convince my parents to let me follow my dreams.
A: Well studying might be a challenge. But if I have questions I will definitely go ask the teacher.
A: Some challenges I might face are not having enough money and not being able to find work. I will face them by asking Miss Moss for help.
Q: When you don’t feel like studying, how can Miss Moss motivate you?
A: By simply talking and interacting with Miss Moss, it will make us more mature and willing to study.
A: Tell me to believe in myself, not to give up, to keep working hard, and to always be honest and responsible.
A: Remind me that if I don’t study hard now, I won’t have any more chances to keep studying later.
A: Say: “For the sake of your own dreams, don’t you dare quit!”
A: There’s not really much Miss Moss can do about it.
A: Remind me that I’ll be able to play badminton and other games in my free time after I finish my homework.
A: Remind me that I’m studying for my own sake, and not just to meet my parents’ expectations.
A: Say: “You should believe in yourself. Don’t give up! Believe that if you continue, you can realize your dreams and overcome challenges.”
A: Remind me that if I work hard, I’ll have time to go play badminton.
A: Say: “You’d better go study! You don’t want to disappoint your parents, and especially don’t want to disappoint your dear Miss Moss. ADD OIL! You can do it!”
A: Compare my grades to other students who are doing well and tell me to study harder!
Q: If you could go anywhere in China or in the world, and bring anyone you wanted, where would you go and who would you bring?
A: I want to bring my mom to Xinjiang.
A: I want to go to France with my friends, since when you leave the house, you have to rely on your friends for support.
A: I want to go to Shanghai with friends because it would be a lot of fun.
A: I want to bring my parents to America, so they can live comfortably.
A: I want to go to Beijing, and I’d bring my parents with me. (times 3)
A: I want to go to Kunming because the weather’s nice there, and I would bring my parents.
A: I would like to go to America and bring my parents with me. (times 4)
A: I want to go to Africa and I’d bring my little brother. He’s very curious about how Africans live.
A: I want to go see where you live.
p.s. Another part of my investment strategy is to have lunch with my three most improved students on Friday. I started this last week, and one of my students, Marcia, has such a great attitude. During our lunch conversation, she asked me lots of questions about America, and asked me if there is anything she can do to improve her performance in English class. I’ve gotta be the best teacher I can be to support Marcia’s dream of becoming a doctor, and for all my other kids too!
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