on being irrelevant (getting schooled in model school)

Irrelevant

adjective

  1. not connected with or relevant to something.

“an irrelevant comment”

synonyms: beside the point, immaterial, not pertinent, not germane, off the subject, neither here nor there, unconnected, unrelated, tangential

I was supposed to teach my students a course on persuasion, on convincing others to take your side of the argument. Instead, they basically taught me what it means to be irrelevant (to the point where I wrote IRRELEVANT on the board in all caps), in the sense that my questions and examples were so far removed from their day to day life that it was laughable at how little I know about my Chinese students and their lives

Example 1: your friend Nancy scored poorly in all her classes for the past year, so after 9th grade she has dropped out and become a cashier at Dicos (a local fast food chain) PERSUADE her to come back to class!

Lance: no way! Why would you drop out? This would never happen, her parents wont allow it. Impossible. She would just buxi (self study, extra study, etc) more after school and on weekends until her grades were respectable!

Example 2: your father has found a higher paying job in Harbin and will have to relocate from Chengdu to take the opportunity. How will you PERSUADE him to stay in Chengdu?

Lisa: what? We have no control over this, if he has a new job we will just leave with him. Our parents wouldn’t ask for our opinion if this happened! Why would they want our input?

Example 3: your favorite course in high school, art class, has been cancelled due to budget purposes. CONVINCE your principle that this is an important class to you and it is worth keeping in the curriculum

Jason: but art class was already canceled! None of us have had an art class since middle school, its not in our curriculum for high school.

Me: ok, fine. pick a subject you love

Jason: chemistry

Me: ok, chemistry was cancelled. What will you tell your principle to keep chemistry in high school?

Jason: he would never cancel chemistry! It is a subject on the Gao Kao exam (SAT Equivalent, college entrance exam) so this conversation would never happen

Example 4: All of a sudden, American high schools have decided to shorten their summer breaks from 3 months to 2 weeks. Defend your right to have a 3 month summer break, so you wont end up with just two short weeks of summer!

Linus: actually, summer is the best time to study and prepare for the Gao Kao! If you had a three month break you will never get into college!! How can you get into Peking U or Tsinghua U (the Harvard and stanfords of china) if you only study during the school year? At my high school 57 students went to Peking and Tsinghua U this year, because we worked hard! Even a two week break is almost too long.

So there you have it. model school has come to an end, and I’ve learned that my students are hilarious, creative, innovative, and sharp little monsters. If there were ever stereotypes about Chinese students being dull or monotonous, I can assure you this upcoming generation of Chinese kids is full of energy, enthusiasm, cunning wit, and have the guts to take on whatever comes their way in life!!

IMG_0346
Yolanda, far left, gave me a Ferragamo fragrance on the last day of model school. it was a woman’s perfume, but i appreciate the gesture!

 

Disclaimer: All opinions shared in this blog are the author’s own, and do not represent the views of any outside organization, including but not limited to the United States Government and the Peace Corps.

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