Empowering Language Learning Students in China.

This time last year I was working for a school in southern China which is famous for its integration of the arts and classical Chinese studies into the general curriculum. It is often considered to be a model school for the future of education in China. The school gets a lot right: due to some great teachers and a lovely campus, the students have access to many wonderful opportunities, especially when compared with what the public school nearby has to offer.

However, there are certain key areas where the students are lacking valuable skills that are actively not being taught in the school. Yes, the school knows these gaps exist, the administration has been informed of this often, yet they refuse to see it as their problem. These issues must be addressed if these students are to gain any true value from their lessons.

With the inclusion of so many extra activities during school hours, the lesson times are vastly reduced: just 35 minutes of class per subject, each day. Yes, you read that correctly. The core subjects of Math, Chinese, Phys. Ed, and calligraphy class receive less than an hour per day for both instruction and for students to perform classwork. Science - depending on the student's age - is relegated to merely two or three classes per week!

If given only 24 hours to teach a language, which 5 skills or strategies would you focus on teaching? Click through to read my answers, and to add your own.

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Re-imagining the Wheel of Education

I love the quote from the picture. It neatly encapsulates both agency and one's ability to act on what they will; to be free. But it is the caveat of discipline that really ties it all together.

Similar to the ideas of Smooth and Striated spaces - as conceptualised by Deleuze and Guattari - the themes of chaos and control accompany the terms freedom and discipline: freedom and chaos go hand-in-hand in the classroom. "Free time" to some students means it is time to terrorise and disrupt, while others will use this time for sleeping, eating, or picking their nose. Yet other students will use this time to prepare themselves for their next class, drink water, socialise and play quietly, or even spend it in study. This last group of students are those who are exercising self-control, or self-discipline.

To illustrate this point to others, I often cite artists who restrict themselves to a limited palette to achieve a greater focus or vision. Compare the portrait of Washington by Gilbert Stuart, who limited himself to mainly using shades from black to white, with any Jackson Pollock, and you will see what I mean*.

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Why EmptyJacket?

A judoka once commented that competing with Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo, was like "fighting against an empty jacket" - his substance was tangible, but pinning him down was an impossible task.

My hope with this blog is to provide substance and value, but I too do not wish to be pinned down. It's not just an education blog, nor just a philosophy blog, neither a simple martial arts blog. But at the same time, it is all of these things and likely more.

Let me know how I can be of service, ask me difficult questions, I'll give you difficult answers that we can work on together. Lastly, if you find value here, please share it with others.


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