Teaching Respect Through Teacher Empowerment

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Education is much different today than it was thirty years ago. Much of this difference is welcomed progress. Technology and easier access to information has enhanced the learning process. New teaching methodologies have challenged and enhanced existing ideas.

It hasn’t all been good though. Teachers have lost power; students now have control.

Let me give an example of what I mean. Thirty years ago, if a student complained to their mom or dad that their teacher was bad in any way, the student would be told to respect and listen to the teacher. Now, the parent will blame the teacher and complain to the principal. Even worse, the principal will confront the teacher and possibly take punitive actions. Hence, the teacher has lost all power and respect.

Dear parents: I want to let you in on a little secret. Your wonderful little child will tell you anything to get out of trouble, surprise! Failed the math test? No, no, not my child’s fault; let’s blame the teacher. Cheated on an exam? No, not my little girl, she wouldn’t do that. If you really want to help your child, whenever they shift the blame to the teacher or anybody else, tell them what your parents would have told you. Tell them to listen to the teacher. Tell them to look in the mirror to find the problem (and solution). Teach them respect.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not some authoritarian dictator; I’m more of a freedom loving libertarian if you need a label. However, the situation in schools, all over the world, has gotten out of control. Students own the teachers now.

If the teacher wants to be strict and punish their child, great. It is for the child’s own good. But, what about my little Tommy’s feelings? Well, if you want to raise a sissy, give little Tommy a cookie and tell him how great he is. Then when he gets older, he can be the follower, not the leader, in society.

Let’s look at it a different way. 5,000 years ago, if I wanted to eat, I had to hunt or farm in order to get food. If I didn’t, I didn’t get food; hence, I would die. OK, let’s go today. If I have a job, if I want to get paid $1, I need to do work to get that $1. If I don’t do the work, the boss doesn’t have to give me the $1. If I own my own business, if I want to get paid $1, I need to add value to the customer. If I don’t, the customer doesn’t have to give me the $1. Now, if I’m in school, if I don’t turn in the assignment, I don’t get the grade. The teacher doesn’t have to give me the grade.

School is much more than just learning math, science, history, and all the other subjects. Students need to learn how to work with people. They need to learn how to be responsible. Maybe most importantly, they need to learn how to give respect.

Women in China

Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin depicts life during the Qing Dynasty. Of its 40 main characters (and 400 extras), one can get a glimpse of life during dynastic China, including cuisine, religion, music, and the status of its citizens.

It was a time when women had their feet broken into little squares so they remained subordinate to the men of society, a time when the rich men of China had numerous wives. During that time, if a woman lost her husband, she could not get remarried. Has much changed for women in China over the years?

Obviously, yes, there have been many changes. In fact, when the Communist Party took over control in 1949, women were given equal rights with men. Nonetheless, China remains a male dominated society. The woman is expected to take care of the family while the man brings home the money. Females have societal pressure to get married and have a child (preferably a boy) by the time they are thirty and not much later. Therefore, they often rush to get married and often marry somebody they don’t actually love.

It’s true, women don’t bind their feet anymore, and men do not have numerous wives. However, women still don’t have the status of their male counterparts. At the same time, the rich men of China often have a mistress. Sometimes these well-off men even have children with their mistresses; hence, they need to support two families, often without their wives ever finding out. If a women gets a divorce, it is often hard for them to find another husband as divorce is stigmatized. This, of course, goes for men and women.

As in all societies around the world, rights for women in China has a long way to go, but it is getting better.

As long as the pendulum doesn’t swing too far (i.e. feminism in the West), then a more equitable society will find its way to this great country.

A Simple Observation on Language

In my home country, people expect everybody to speak the native tongue (i.e. English).

“Why put signs up in Spanish? This is America!”

Understood. People take it to another (unnecessary) level, but point taken. I too agree people should learn to speak the language of the country they live in. Even if just visiting a foreign land for a few days, one should certainly pick up a couple of phrases—if for nothing else—to show a little respect.

How about in China? Do you people scream, “speak Chinese! This is China!”? No. Quite the opposite. In fact, for foreign guests, it is generally expected that they cannot speak a syllable of Chinese. Even the foreigners living in China for many years are not “supposed” to speak Chinese. “This is our language.”

These two patriotic countries view foreigners speaking the native language differently.

I’ve been living in China for ten years now; I am fluent in Chinese. When I speak with local residents who cannot speak English, they generally appreciate that I have taken the interest and time to learn their language; this is true. However, some of the more educated citizens who can speak English often seem annoyed when I converse in Chinese.

“Speak English!”

“Why? This is China. The national language is Chinese. In the U.S. I speak English, in China a speak Chinese.”

But, this is just a simple observation.

 

 

Buddhism – Chinese Style

Buddhism

Throughout the centuries, China has seen its share of religions. Ancient Chinese religions, ancestral worship, Taoism (more properly know as Daoism),  Confucianism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Communism, and Atheism have all held a strong presence in the Middle Kingdom (i.e. in China). Through customs, beliefs, and practices, each of these religions have influenced each other in one way or another. More specifically, Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism share many traits, and they have set the foundation for Chinese culture as we know it today.

Let’s look at Buddhism.

It is often believed that Buddhism came to China from India around the 1st century C.E during the Han Dynasty; however, some claim it came much earlier and was eliminated by the all powerful Emperor Qin. Another detail of disagreement is how it came to China. Some historians argue it arrived over the Silk Road; others argue it came overseas. No matter how and when Buddhism came to China, it has played an important role in Chinese history. Since its beginnings, emperors have either embraced it, or they have banned it. Emperor Wuzong of the Tang Dynasty and Emperor Mao (a.k.a. Chairman Mao) of the P.R.C. Dynasty were two leaders who wanted to do away with this foreign religion. During the Cultural Revolution, which started in the 1960s, Buddhist symbols and temples were destroyed. Movements like these were to encourage the new religion in town – Communism.

Nonetheless, Buddhism has survived in China. Many temples have been restored and it is legal to be a Buddhist today (of course, as long as worshippers pray in state-sanctioned institutions). Buddhist temples throughout China are visited by the faithful who get on their knees to worship a bodhisattva of their choice. They pray for peace for their family and friends. These havens of Buddhist thought are peaceful. One can only breath freely upon entering the walls of a Buddhist temple.

Chinese Vocabulary:

 

Ancestral worship – Zǔxiān chóngbài 祖先崇拜

Taoism – Dàojiào 道教

Confucianism – Rújiào 儒教

Buddhism – Fójiào 佛教

Christianity – Jīdūjiào 基督教

Islam – Yīsīlán jiào 伊斯兰教

Atheism – Wúshénlùn 无神论

Cultural Revolution – Wénhuà dàgémìng 文化大革命

Temple – Sìmiào 寺庙

Pray to a bodhisattva – Bài púsà 拜菩萨

Learning English Using VR

Other than gaming, VR (and AR) will be a useful medium for learning a second language. Technology has already revolutionized the way students learn English. How? Just do a quick search online for online teachers. Just a few years ago, students in non-English speaking countries were piling into English training centers to improve their English. Classes in these centers are taught by foreign expats who are often overpaid for the quality of work they provide. Now, students can find English speakers online. This is not only more convenient, but it is cheaper and in many cases more useful.

This article is not about online schools though; it’s about VR. Imagine the possibilities. Speaking to a teacher in VR using an avatar or sitting in a virtual classroom. In some form or other, it is coming. In the meantime, educational VR is starting to take route. Google has created Expeditions for virtual tours of foreign lands. There are also VR apps that help students learn vocabulary by selecting objects. Inside of slicing open a frog in science class, why not do it in VR?

VR has a lot of improvements to make in the education industry, but it will get better and better. It is engaging and can motivate students to learn. It can be immersive as well. Take the new VR experience “Little Molly VR” for example. Students are transporting into a little village of dogs. Their job is to find lost gold; they walk around and get clues from the local dogs. In order to be successful, they have to understand the English. The kids don’t even know they are learning while they play.

The future of VR is exciting. Like all new technologies, if used properly, it can enhance students’ learning experiences.

What about AR?

I just connected with a fellow blogger on WordPress and he mentioned augmented reality (AR). I must admit, I don’t know much about it. So, I did a little research and … wow!

I though the possibilities of virtual reality (VR) were endless, but AR is incredible. It is just like the movie Minority Report. You know, where Tom Cruise can just click at buttons in the air and maps or pictures show up.

In a few of my blogs, I discussed the possibilities of VR, but I now want to consider AR. How will it be used?

If you don’t believe how incredible this technology is, check out this video:

Technology in the Classroom

As a teacher, I see the wonderful technological tools that can be implemented in the classroom. Tools that can make the class more engaging and interesting for the students. However, is it possible for teachers to use it too much?

Let’s first look at what teachers have at their hands in the 21st century. To start, the computer. When I was in school, teachers didn’t have computers and projectors at their disposal. Now they do. On these computers they have access to software such as Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and of course the Internet. Then, on the Internet, the supplementary materials are endless. Teachers can find online games, pictures, videos, articles, … you name it.

Other than the desktop computers, teachers and students have cameras, video cameras, iPads, calculators, smart phones, and now, virtual reality.

All these tools can either enhance the learning experience or hinder it. Let’s look at the usage of smart phones outside the classroom. They can help an individual learn anything. You can use it as a calculator, dictionary, thesaurus, encyclopedia, language translator, book, or audio book. Or you can waste your time on Facebook. Sorry Mark, but you know what I mean.

The same can be said in the classroom. If a teacher uses all this great technology for movies or useless games to take up time, it hinders the learning process. At the same time, if a teacher just shows PPT after PPT, yes, the students will learn a little, but not much.

The key to making a lesson engaging is variety. Introduce the topic with a lecture, move to a group discussion, then a book exercise, then a debate, then a short video or virtual reality tour. A teacher should be creative and plan variety of activities to keep the students involved and interested. Use technology appropriately and sparingly.