Friday, November 02, 2012

Five Things I've Learned from Teaching in China, Part 1

[This post is the first of a five-part series on what I have learned from teaching in China.]

I am writing from my room in the Shaoyuan Guest House on the campus of Peking University in Beijing. Tomorrow I begin teaching Report Writing and Presentation Skills to the first of three graduate classes of approximately 30 students per class for the Beijing International MBA program (BiMBA).

One of the great pleasures of teaching adults is that I learn as much as I teach. In this case, I have not taught even my first class, yet I have already learned an important lesson. On the way from my hotel room to BiMBA is a serene wooded path that leads to a scenic lake. On the path is a monument to Cai Yuanpei (1868-1940), a Chinese intellectual who became the university president in 1917. Yuanpei worked extremely hard to make the university a sanctuary of academic freedom. His memory is so revered on the campus that fresh flowers always appear at the foot of the monument, and Chinese students often can be found standing quietly before the bronze statue. Perhaps they are reflecting about Yuanpei's legacy. Maybe they're saying, "Please inspire me to pass this important exam," or "Thank you for making this educational opportunity available to me" or "I hope to accomplish in my life just a small measure of what you have."

Whatever these students devotedly whisper to the statue, I have learned something from witnessing this scene: that Chinese students greatly value intellectual history. Therefore, I will surely work hard to contribute whatever I can to my students' intellectual development during my month here.