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Apathetic Young Adults

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Joined: 22 Mar 2010
Posts: 1
Location: China

PostPosted: Sun Mar 28, 2010 8:21 am    Post subject: Apathetic Young Adults Reply with quote

I teach college students in China. Although they are "young adults," I do not sense even a 10% rate of sincere interest or concern among perhaps 1,000 students. They seem very apathetic and reluctant despite what I do. A game may work for a few minutes with a few at a time. Some ignore me, others may say "no," when I ask them to contribute. Some may sleep during class or just stare at the floor. I whistle and wave my hands in the air to get attention. I have tried tossing a ball around class . . . they usually just let it hit them. I ask them leading questions, inquire about their lives and preferences, share mine, try to relate, etc. My lively body language and speech, fast talk, slow talk, etc . . . nothing really changes their response or attitude. I suppose I can just keep talking and talking in my Oral classes . . . but Debate literally cannot happen without participation.

They are obviously just "there" out of convention . . . not out of a desire to study and learn . . . and attendance is enforced. Of course, if the majority do not learn (or pass), it will probably be my fault somehow in the minds of the administration . . . not the students' failure for lacking care, concern, or desire to participate and learn.

I am focusing on the problem here, not the fan-mail.

Any suggestions for disinterested, apathetic young adult students who seem to have some deep-seeded aversions to the entire classroom experience?
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Sally Olsen

Joined: 08 Apr 2004
Posts: 1322
Location: Canada,France, Brazil, Japan, Mongolia, Greenland, Canada, Mongolia, Ethiopia next

PostPosted: Sun Mar 28, 2010 1:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

We have talked a little bit about this on other forums and I'll try to find the links. I would imagine it might be a more deep seated resentment as well that they are required to learn English. One professor I had suggested that the Chinese just take a lottery to determine which program they were going to get into or take people by height because it seems as arbitrary. They are usually required to have English to get into another program even if they will never use English again.

I think we said to go back to the old drill and kill ideas for awhile. Chant, repeat endlessly, have prescribed dialogues, teach what is on the test exclusively over and over and over and once they have that, add one small thing at a time that varies from the established routine.

Teach to the 10% who usually sit in the front row. Follow them around to see when they do come alive, participate in other school activities so you get to know them, see if you can participate in the community so you get to know them when they out of the school situation.

Show pictures of local sites and talk about them, their history and their significance to practice for when you go back - they might be tempted to add to your knowledge but at least it will be practice for you.

Show movies you have never seen and give them a bit of the dialogue to practice.

Continue to do your entertainer act as good practice for future situations. I used to make animal balloons, paint faces, use invisible letters to reveal words and concepts (you write on white posters with white candles and then paint over it with blue paint as you want to reveal the ideas or words.)

I treated them as if they were contributing and just gave the answers when they didn't respond, pretending they were contributing but just didn't know the information yet.

Invite the bosses and administration in to the class as well as local politicians or anyone they admire and talk to those people in English so they see that their higher ups do speak English.

Wear them down with your enthusiasm and good intentions.
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Joined: 01 Nov 2011
Posts: 27

PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2012 6:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think you should stop trying to entertain them and drop the fun and games act. The ball, for instance, was a nice try but the students aren't going to play along, so forget about it. That's the sense I'm getting from your post: the students aren't playing along. So, stop playing. Become more traditional, strict, authoritarian if need be. It may be too late if they've seen your soft side first, but if nothing else has worked, why not try laying down the law and putting the fear of god into them a bit? Talk to the school administration, invoke all the power at your disposal. Talk to their other professors and get them on your side. Show the students that failure in your class will have far-reaching repercussions outside your class. These are college students. Let them fail if they deserve to fail, and do what you can with the kids that actually want to be there.
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