Thursday, June 03, 2010

Is teaching a competitive sport?

Weifancheng or Wendy (pictured above) is an English teacher here at NCUT. She was in my class last summer and also participated in the English pedagogy seminar at ETSU. Recently, she was selected to participate in China's National English Teaching Competition.

She described the process to me, and I relate it as accurately as I can. NCUT selected her and one other teacher to take part in the national competition. There were five levels or rounds. The judges were college professors. For round 1, the local level, she was videotaped teaching her class. She passed to round 2 where she submitted lessons plans, and curricular material. I believe she was also interviewed by a panel of judges. She passed to the provincial level, or round 3. Here, she was assigned to a group of students she did not know previously, given material to teach, and was videotaped on short lesson. She was evaluated on poise, rapport, knowledge, efficient presentation, diction, and professional appearance. She came in fifteenth, out of all the English teachers in Beijing which was impressive, but not high enough to qualify for the national

So is teaching as a competitive sport? Are you kidding? It's an art, an idiosyncratic process, which cannot be scored like basketball or even synchronized swimming. At its core, teaching is about passion for one's subject and clearing away confusion that prevents a person from learning it. It's an intuitive human process, not a series of skills.

American educators have a lot to learn from the Chinese. But I hope to heaven that competitive teaching is not a practice we copy.

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