Posts Tagged ‘School’

Introverts vs. Extroverts

April 4, 2015

When I started my MBA at TCU a few years ago, they had us do a Myers Briggs Personality Type Inventory (as I think it was at called the time). Put briefly, it helps you identify how you approach the world. It was fun, and perhaps confirmed some things about how I approach the world (or maybe just reinforced my pre-conceived ideas).

One of the elements they test is your introversion/extroversion. It was a 60 point scale ranging from E30 (i.e. extreme extrovert) through 0 to I30 (i.e. extreme introvert). The presenter who explained the results had the class line up with the most extroverted at one end and the most intoverted at the other. I came up as so introverted on the scale that there would have been a 7 or 8 foot gap between me and the next person in the class, had he done it to scale (I came up as I26, she was I10). Had he explained the definitions before we arranged ourselves, about that spectrum I’d have known I was introverted. but even I was surprised how strong a score I presented.

The presenter asked me a bunch of questions about my score (way to go presenter, play to my wheel house), where I conceded that I wasn’t much for parties, or small talk, and just needed a small number of good friends.

I’ve always been told I’m intense, or earnest, or focused, or driven, or determined, or “walking to the beat of my own drum” (in a way that implies that I’m a bad, bad boy for feeling that way), and I think that this is related to introversion in some way, but I’ve never been sure exactly how to find out (or cared sufficiently, I’m earnest about stuff, shouldn’t everyone be?)

Anyway, I said all this to say that…. I was trying to explain the difference between extroverts and introverts to a friend recently, and made a right pig’s ear of it. What I should have said was…

“Introvert know exactly how the meeting/presentation will be. They can’t be sure of the outcome, but they’re prepared. Totally prepared. They have followed a set of rules he discovered years ago, and has developed them ever since. They knows they work, and why they work.

There may be a crowd of people tomorrow, but they don’t phase the introvert. They’re is prepared – this is no longer down to social skills, but to how good his preparation is.

For the introvert presenter, there is nothing more important than preparation – it lets you put together all the hard parts of communication without anybody looking at you. it lets you shape ideas in your own time and your own space. Spend as much time as you can on the preparation, and the presentation will take care of itself.”

To my friend that sounds like control issue. It isn’t it’s just playing to our strengths as introverts. The problem is, when it comes to new things that are outside my wheelhouse, I can come off as nervous, when it’s not. Extroverts are better at thinking with their mouths. I’m not. I couldn’t wing anything, no matter how had I tried, but give introverts time, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

GaoKao always impresses me as being surreal.

June 5, 2013

The GaoKao is the Chinese university entrance examination. It’s a really intense experience for any kid who has any chance of doing (even remotely) well academically.

Put simply, the students do exams in Chinese, a foreign language (usually English it seems), Maths, Chemistry, Physics, and History over a 2 day period. This year it’s on Thursday 6th and Friday 7th of June, and the pressure on the kids is huge. The whole “One Child ” policy, combined with the fact that their lives won’t be that great if they don’t do well means they’re aware of the potential downside if they fail.

Our school is a host school for the GaoKao. This means that the students run round like crazy, trying to get the school in ship shape. The process is amusing to foreigners, because Chinese classrooms are a pigsty from about the third day of the year. The kids seem unwilling to use their lockers (the result is desks piled high with books -their heads poking up from behind them), and always smell of takeaways. In short, they’re a pigsty, and Western teachers hate how their Chinese counterparts let the kids treat the classroom. We run a constant running battle out make our rooms better (but after 9 years of “anything goes” it’s hard).

The preparation process involves the students removing every scrap of evidence that the room is a classroom (save the blackboards), nailing 2 nails into the wall (presumably for a clock, but I’m not sure, and I’m not sure why they have to do that every year), making the floors spotless, and having a man come round to check if the desks and chairs are stable, and are exactly 80cm apart (they seem to make rulers that length especially for GaoKao), and 20cm from the wall.

What gets my goat about that is if there’s even the slightest issue, the chair or desk is replaced. I wouldn’t mind but our parents pay 36x more than the parents of the “main school” kids (yes 36x more), and yet you can guarantee that our stuff won’t work, and trying to get it replaced requires a stubbornness about things that boarders on dogmatism.

On the day of the exam itself, the kids and staff are turfed out (noone’s allowed on site), the police block access to the road, cellphone masts are turned off (to prevent cheating) and parents congregate in areas round the school sending “Do well or you die” vibes to their children.

So all in all, the experience is strange, and the pressure intense. We had a child commit suicide our first year here, because of the pressure placed on him from pretty much everyone and his dog.

Funny comments I got at interview

April 27, 2013

Today was entrance examination day at my school. The school gets a few hundred applicants, they do a couple of papers in the morning, followed by an interview in the afternoons. I’ve just come back from the interviews. Here are my favourite comments I got back:

Q) Pick a number between 1 and 5…….?

A) 34

Q) Pick a number between 1 and 5…….?

A) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Q) Choose a number between 1 and 5…….?

A) 7

Q) Excluding China, which is your favourite country?

A) China

Q) Which is your favourite country?

A) Which country are you from?

Q) What is the longest journey you’ve ever taken?

A) Three Days.

Q) Where did you go?

A) Beijing

Q) Did you go by train or car?

A) No we flew

Q) And it took you 3 days to fly there?

A) Yes

Q) What is the most important thing in your life?

A) My life (I said “Yes your life,” assuming he wanted clarification, but his answer was life).

Q) What famous old customs do the Chinese have?

A) Basketball.

Q) How far from here do you live?

A) 34kg

Q) Do you really mean kg?

A) Yes

Q) You sure?

A) Yes really

Q) Have you ever read a book in English?

A) I have a book in English.

Q) What’s it called?

A) The dictionary

Q) What job does your mother do?

A) She’s the boss.

Q) What is she the boss of?

A) The company.

Q) What does the company do?

A) Business.

They may not be the funniest comments in the world, but they kept me amused.

A Chinese student’s ear for English

January 3, 2013

Teaching in China is interesting. The kids, in the main are good, motivated kids, who want to do well and succeed in the future, and that makes our job easier when it comes to presenting content.

One of the things I’ve noticed, however, is the kids ear for what I call idiomatic English. To my mind, it separates the good linguists from those that try. With the new kids at school, you learn quickly that you have to speak in short simple sentences when you speak. The Chinese have really good English, but it’s obtained by drill and rote learning. As a result, they know the words, but don’t have what I call that “fingertip feel for the language” (which isn’t all that surprising when you think about it).

By the time they’re about to graduate (or come back to visit the school), you hope you can build more complex sentence structures with them, along with a love of language. They’re going to spend the next 4 years abroad, so you hope they’re getting a love for the language.

My favourite example of what I’m talking about is the question “How’s it going?” To me, that separates the really good linguists from the rest. Ask a lot of people that here, and I promise you’ll get “To the…..” as an answer. I know they heard what I said, but they seem to translate the question as “Where are you going?” I ask that question a lot as one of my indicators of how strong their English is. That allows me to adjust my English accordingly.

I’ve had a really good accurate answer to that question 4 times now, and I ask it a lot. That probably tells me that our English department probably need to work on that sort of thing.