Authentic Teaching Self

This may not be a full list of what I value as a teacher, but I want to use this as a starter, and I will add more when new ideas come to my mind.

Pay attention to top students and students who are falling behind. 

I am not saying the students in the middle should be neglected, but more attention should be paid to students on the extremes than they normally received. Accessibility should be provided to every students.

I was a straight-A student from the first day schooling, and benefiting from that, I was appraised by teachers and got positive emotions towards learning. But I did not feel that I got what I want from the teachers. My Inorganic Chemistry professor told me if I want to learn the advanced knowledge that most students cannot understand, I need to learn by myself. She was not going to cover that in class. I wish she can briefly introduce the knowledge beyond the syllabus, and offer the willingness to discuss it in her office hours rather than telling me that it will not be tested therefore you do not need to learn it. We have to admit that some students, overall they may fit in the class, but on some aspects, they are way better than others. Teachers are there to inspire their talent, rather than let the gifts diminish.

The other experience is from an African student of mine last semester and she fell behind in writing lab report. English is her second language, but she is working hard. As teacher, we can tell her to seek assistant from the writing center, or we can be more patient on advising and help her build self-confidence. She was excellent and very lucky to receive the scholarship and study in the US. We as educators should provide the biggest possibility for her to succeed. Her success will not only be her personal accomplishment, but will also benefit her family, her children, and her country.

I would like to recommend an ancient official textbook that I am reading now, called Great Learning. This book is a precious legacy from our ancestors, and concisely talks about the wise principles in education. The classical Chinese are so beautiful that its soul will be damaged from any translation.



No one less

Most young Chinese at my age seen the movie No One Less in some kind of encouragement activity arranged by schools when we were in primary school. The movie talks about a story about a young teacher looking for her poor dropped student and getting him back to school around 1990s in Chinese countryside. We were asked to watch this movie together in the auditorium because the teachers wanted us to be aware that some kids were too poor to go to school and we should cherish our opportunities to receive education.

No one can deny that economic ability is one step stone to the access of education. We talked about open access, connected learning, but how about the kids that are too poor to get accessibility or too poor to be connected? From 2008, the Chinese government pay for all the tuition and books for all school-age kid from the first grade to the 9th grade. The free education for primary and secondary school attract back millions of poor students back to school.  College students can take loans without interest, and brilliant young scholars can get the scholarships to study abroad. Financial assist does improve education accessibility.

But, let us look at the high college drop rate in developed US. In the blog titled “Setting Students’ Minds on Fire” By Mark C. Carnes, President Obama stated in 2010, “more than a third of America’s college students fail to earn degrees“. Do the students drop because they cannot afford the tuition? Yes, the expense to go to college in the US is unexpected high but this is not the only or primary reason, since students are eligible to work part-times, take loans, win scholarships and all sources of financial aid. Why they still drop before they get degrees?

Think about the football tickets when Virginia Tech played with Ohio State at the Lane Stadium. From my view on Facebook, they are no less than $200 for a non-student ticket. Big football fans will still get it by borrowing money from family or friends or raising money from strangers, even if as nearly-bankrupted college students they do not have $200 in their pocket or bank account. Why did not my advisor who earns $100,000 per year buy only one ticket? Because she did not like football games at all! She would rather spend $20,000 on her vocation to Florida and swim with Manatees instead of $200 on a football ticket. It is a matter of whether you consider it worth or not when you can afford but you do not buy it.

The students with full access to all sorts of financial aid but still quit college share the same reason. They do not think it is worthy to receive college education. It is understandable. We all know there are plenty of problems in higher education, it is hard and pressure-burn to carry a huge student loan, or maybe simply they cannot see a direct input and output from college, and they still do not figure out their life puzzle. Educators are trying to improve the quality of higher education; government are putting more education budget to help out students financially; public media are promoting the short and long term salary increase with a college degree. What else we can do to help those kids who are in chaos?

No push, no rush. Maybe we can let them enjoy their gap year or gap years as volunteers, experience how it feels with full time work even as waiters or labor workers, or play video games even doing nothing. When they realized they lack the skills to make a better and meaningful life, they will come back to school and learn and strengthen themselves. The society or community should provide the opportunity for them to come back. When they come back, they will be more motived since they know what are they interested in and what they should learn. Not only the schools admitting older students, government providing financial aid to them and their family, but they need emotional or spiritual encouragement and more. For example, Virginia Tech Graduate School arranges over 30 casual picnic, and provide free weekly drop-in child care for VT students with children who need a break or have to study or attend a lecture or want to catch up on work.

I wish everyone who drops or quits but wants to go back to college can have the access to receive higher education. I consider this as an important part of accessibility to education.


the true motivetion


The video from Dan Pink left me with into thinking.

The result of the study by MIT and the one in India is consistent with my own experience on test to some extent. I always did not get a good results on me test as I expected or my teachers expected. I am not nervous, or in a huge tension during the test. My heart beat normal, and my body temperature was normal. I feel like I was doing a homework at my cozy room during the test. Why I always did not perform well? Because I cannot concentrate very well. I was thinking about the reward if I had a high score rather than focus on solving the test problems. Bigger reward equals to bigger un-success if you fail. Of course the test is weighed much more in my final grade than a simple homework. I was intimated to fail on the test, so I got distracted during the test which led to poor performance compare to what I did in my homework or in class. The risk of failure constrains my mind and my ability to work out the problem.

Motivation is related to self-consciouness. If it is only money driven, it is easier to cross the ethical border compared with responsibility associated. Think about the Chinese milk scandal on Melamine in 2008. After consuming the formula milk powder with more melamine than national standard, six infants died from kidney damage with an estimated 54,000 babies being treated in the hospitals as reported by the Chinese government. Melamine can function as an addictive to increase the nitrogen content in milk, which was used to estimate the protein content by the milk industry at that time. The milk powder producer Sanlu Group was bankrupted after this breakout. The public think they deserved it, since this profit-driven company bought the milk added with extra melamine and they lack of supervision and management on the source of the raw milk. If they were a little more responsible on their product, if they did not lower the price of buying raw milk and indirectly to force the farmers to add melamine in milk diluted with water, if their motivation was more on to provide a health supplement to babies, like all parents will feed the most nutritious food to their baby, this disaster would not happen. This is a very sad lesson in Chinese food industry, and arose the public concern on food safety to an exceptional high point.

Hope my post can initiate your deeper thoughts on how true motivation drives us to the good outputs.


Reflects on Ken Robinson’s video: How to escape education’s death valley

We watched the TED video How to escape education’s death valley by Ken Robinson this Wednesday. When he came to the point of no students should be left behind and human beings are inherent of creative, it reminds me of my exchange experience in University of Helsinki, Finland during my junior year.

The professor in Food Micro lab surprised me at the first class. He asked which language we would prefer when he was teaching, and our options are English, Finnish (the native language in Finland), and Swedish. As all the students were finish people except me as a Chinese student, we agreed to use English in class, but Finnish students can choose all three languages to write the lab report. All students were required to use English in slides and presentations. If the professor lacks the ability to use English, my accessibility to this class would be very limited. His professional English gave me the chance to enrol in this class and explore the world of Food Microbiology. More surprisingly, he always said some simple Chinese greeting sentences before or after class, which made me less homesick and feel more about being supported. It is not easy to study abroad, especially with less native people around (there are about 5000 Chinese in total in Finland). But every time the Finnish people speak Chinese, I felt warm and their friendliness, and respect to my culture.

Many of you may heard of the story of Tower of Babel.  Language should not be a barrie between students and learning. Both students and instructors should put efforts to minimize it. From my personal perspective, uploading the slides or notes is very helpful instead of only talking and writing on the blackboard. It can be very difficult to read hand writing.

Another professor left me a deep impression was the professor in Academic Writing. Most of the students in that class were greaduate student, and the assignments was to write a research proposal and peer reviewing in class. As a junior, I did not know much about research proposal and I did not see why I need to write a research proposal. But I knew that I need to develop my skills to written English, and know more about the language used in academic. So I talked with my professor, and he suggested I can write a personal statement and curriculum vitae for my graduate school application as I would apply soon. I was very happy with that, because the getting into graduate school was more important to me at that point. I will probably never need to write a proposal if I failed to get into graduate school and got a job after college. The composing of personal statement and curriculum vitae also drilled my skills to write professionally. The customized assignment and flexibility benefited me more than the standardized tasks.

I really valued my education experience in Finland, and it was my first time abroad but not bad, even not close to at any point. The value and need of individual student was recognized and respected.