Send via SMS

Friday, December 30, 2005

The final day -- International Marketing

As I walked into my students' classroom this morning a wave a sadness hit me...While I've only been their teacher for three weeks, I will miss them!

It's quite astonishing how much they have learned in this short period of time. None of them had ever heard what a target market is, much less segmentation, 4 Ps, SRC, COE, m-time/p-time...well, the list goes on. Clearly, they do now! If you want to see their group photo their smiling faces will greet you!

This afternoon each group had 20 minutes to make their group marketing presentation. Listening to them present one group at a time, I couldn't help but marvel how much they have absorbed over this short three week, intensive class. As they presented their cultural analysis of their American target market (geographic, demographic and yes, psychographic), and their chosen Chinese product--what they needed to do to change the product, packaging, etc. to accommodate American tastes--how they will price it (one included skimming!) decisions about a much more complex sales channel process for exporting, and general understanding about the promotional options...well, I couldn't help but smile...there are some budding marketing folks here!

One thing that really surprised me was the question and answer period by the other teams of the team who had just presented. Talk about brutal! I have never seen as intensive questioning--yes, even badgering--by other students of other groups before as a teacher or as a student. It was fascinating watching each group respond to the challenge in questioning. I guess knowing each other, almost like brother and sister, provides a different level of response in this type of situation!

With the last class concluded I gathered the 3x5 cards with their required response: The #1 thing you learned from the group project and the #1 learning from class. Many of them took the opportunity to write personal notes of appreciation to me, or to linger after class to chat. When I left their classroom this evening the feeling of sadness remained...but, I do know one thing. My goal in teaching International Marketing was to somehow make a difference. Based upon the precious notes I received today, well, I know I have. The opportunity Saint Martin's University and Wuhan University of Technology gave me to touch China's future leaders...priceless.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

"The Great Debate"

It caught me off guard. Turning my first exam back to my students on our second week together, I was prepared for about a 10 minute activity. My students taught me: reviewing a test is a different type of experience here!

As I began reviewing the exam one page at a time asking for questions and receiving none, I thought this activity would be pretty much like the one I experience in America. Wrong! As we approached the essay questions, questions in the previous pages started to fly. And, as I read the question and then give the correct answer and why the other options—multiple choice or true/false—were wrong, that's when "the great debate" began.

Language is an interesting thing and nuance in language can walk a fine line. I had prepared my exams in America using the text provided software program and had tried to eliminate words that are used metaphorically or have double meanings or questions that seemed unclear. Clearly I had failed this exam filter test since my students felt many of the stated answers made no sense. And, they were very willing to explain the accuracy of their answers vs. mine. It was a fascinating learning experience!

During the next 40 minutes we walked through nearly every 25 true/false and 25 multiple choice questions together debating the value of their responses vs. mine. I decided to take this opportunity to re-teach the lessons we had covered and explain in a different way the reasons why those they selected weren't the correct responses until I got agreement.

Fortunately, I had at least foreseen my need to provide the choice of one additional essay question as a bonus when they took the exam. I told them that was my way of rectifying whatever language issues were inherent in the exam question. I think they appreciated the wisdom in this.

For the second exam's review I planned better and allotted 40 minutes for this exercise. The experience this Tuesday was similar, (they told me this test was the hardest of the two) but I think my students now better understood I wasn't trying to trick them. All I want is to know they know the subject. So, I had prepared to discuss every question in detail...and I think this is a good, new insight for me: post-test review provides just as important a learning experience as pre-test in a different culture/language. I plan on applying this to my tests in March when I return to teach Public Relations.

Thanks International Marketing students for teaching me this lesson! :)

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Classroom Monitor

Before I arrived in Wuhan I learned from another Saint Martin's teacher (Thanks Jon!!) that on my first morning of teaching I should ask who the class monitor is. It's key to gaining access to what you need at the school. I didn't fully appreciate the depth of this statement then. I do now.

There's some discussion among the teachers here how a class chooses the equivalent in the states of a class president, of sorts. Some have been told it's the best student in terms of grades, other classes claim it's by class voting. However the monitor is chosen I learned of mine that first morning.

Inquiring for that person to claim the distinction, she introduced herself and promptly strode to the classroom PC and found the listing of my 15 students. As she dragged it off of the classroom PC and dropped it into my memory stick, I couldn't help but marvel at the difference in receiving a class roster. I never really thought about the role of classroom monitor again...at least until this, my last week here in Wuhan. I learned of her power, for lack of a better term.

On Monday when I arrived I quickly noticed the lady with the key had forgotten to unlock the PC from its wooden stronghold. I asked an early student arriver if she knew where my morning greeter was...no, but our class monitor has a key. My student was on her cell phone to tell the classroom monitor to make a quick entrance to the classroom, which she did and unlocked the computer so I could prepare for the morning's lesson.

The next day I gained yet another level of understanding. Never tardy, my class monitor arrived 30 minutes late. Opening the metal door she stepped through the raised entrance and held a small, white device in her hands and waved it triumphantly. The students went berserk. I really didn't know just yet what was going on. Everyone talked excitedly as one student fished out two batteries from her backpack as a donation to cause and another student inserted them into what looked like a remote device. It's then it dawned on me.

We have heat! The wall heaters here are operated with a hand held devise, much like a TV remote. That's what this was. Another student pointed it at the heater near me. It purred on. Next, he pointed it at the heater in the back of the room—the one that mocked me each day previously as I remained bundled in my four layers and one layer of gloves. It rose from its hibernation.

Dumbfounded, I said to no one in particular, "The heaters work???" A student heard me and said, "Yes." Still mesmerized by the heat belching out its warming effects from both ends of the classroom, I tore my jacket off and inquired, "Why are we just now getting this remote?" The answer I received was this: the sun isn't out so we can run the heat.

A good lesson for me: always inquire what all your class monitor can do for you, beyond providing the class roster.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Cohorts & Classrooms

China's educational system approaches the learning experience by doing what a few places in America do, put a class into a cohort so the same group learns and, in this case, nearly lives together. As I've learned during my time here this is also the tradition in primary and secondary school. Students build bonds with each other that are life-long. In effect, they learn the nuances of what Americans call "networking" and it provides the platform for business and personal relationships throughout their lives.

My students are from different provinces, so the chances of them knowing each other prior to university I would say are slim. These students are Juniors so they've been together now for three years. It's fascinating the dynamics this produces.

It was apparent from my first day they all knew each other very well. One of the things I really miss is fully understanding--since they speak Chinese with each other and English with me--all the conversational dynamics among individuals. I can only tell by body language--assuming it's the same between cultures, which may not be--when they are upset with one another. So, when I allowed them to break themselves into groups, it was a very easy decision for them all to make.
As a cohort they have a classroom where they take all of their classes. In a sense, I enter their kingdom each day--vs. what I would say in America would be 'neutral' ground. The desktop image projected from the PC to the screen right now is one chosen Tuesday by one female student; it's a local heart throb singer who is popular in China right now. "He is very handsome!", she confessed.

They also put favorite songs on the computer and during the 10 minute break between my two class periods each morning and afternoon, occasionally someone activates one of he songs and they blair through the two speakers mounted in the ceiling. I call "time" at the sound of the bell and silence the music.

On the first day of class one of my students asked me, via the 3x5 cards, if I would put a copy of my presentation slides on the computer. Sure! So they access these slides and use them to study, review the words that may be unfamiliar (and I've not given a good enough explanation on a word's meaning...more later on that) or slip their memory disk into the computer and take it to their dorm room with them.

My student's classroom bears description. Standing at the front of class in front of the blackboard I see three sets of wooden seats--similar to auditorium ones that the seat folds up--with small, long wood tables in front. (I've sat in these and for my Western leg length they were not designed) All these seats and tables are connected, so it's challenging to "bring the chairs together" for group conversations. On my left is a bank of windows with light blue curtains; because of the light we draw them so students can see the slides projected on the screen that powers down from the ceiling when I press the button each morning.

The teaching lectern is wood and it has about a foot tall platform that runs the length of the blackboard. Standing on top of it I feel like King Kong, so I maneuver myself in front of the lectern on the floor and stretch to reach the mouse to advance my slides.

I stare at the back of the room at the same type of wall mounted heating unit that I have in my bedroom and office back at my apartment. It has never worked during my tenure here. When I reviewed my first stack of 3x5 cards on my first day of teaching one student expressed concern for my health, "was I used to the cold since I didn't wear my jacket in the classroom?" The easy answer to that was, no, I was freezing but had elected--on only that day only--to not wear my gloves and jacket in the classroom, thinking as a teacher I need to look like I was staying in the room rather than leaving. Alas, I abandoned that notion the next day and like the students, wear my jacket and the first level of my nordic ski gloves to conduct class...I will need to wash my black gloves very well when I return to extract the chalk dust.

One thing I mentioned to Lorraine that I saw missing in my classroom were two items: a clock and a trash can. She said she didn't have the former but the latter ishe has in hers, since she teaches at another university that's close (there are 30 in Wuhan!) Not having a trash can in any of the classrooms at WUT produces what can only be described as classroom detris as anything that needs to be discarded finds a home on the stone floor...breakfast food packaging, toilet paper used as kleenex for those with colds, and the usual suspects. This is one reason why I appreciate the fact that most of my teaching is first thing in the morning, after the woman who washes down the granite hall floors has done a tour of duty in my students' classroom.

:)

"PartyWorld!"

Another Christmas party! This time, it's just the American group (although I think they should call it North American as half are Canadian) of the International Education Department at WUT. All of us Westerners working for the Department were invited to join the festivities. The evening's agenda was dinner and karaoke. So, all the people I work with on a day to day basis in the office and my apartment mates and those living in East Campus housing jumped into cabs at 6:30 Thursday evening and headed for another party! Our hosts are most gracious and enthuiastic about the season!

We arrived at a multi-story, modern building that seemed like a hotel. At the elevator bank a TV screen monitor lay flush with the elevator buttons. Hum, interesting. The elevator whisked us upward and we disembarked at our floor. Similar to a hotel, thus far, the dramatic difference announced itself when we entered one of the two rooms set aside for us.

This was karaoke on steroids! Each of our two rooms—there must be endless numbers of them in this huge building—was a sound and video maven's dream come true. The room Kate, Serge, Paul and I joined our Chinese hosts in was about 12 x 12 and featured an L shaped couch with some sort of master computer panel at one end. To the right were four bar stoods on either side of a raised bar and another computer panel inset into the wall and across from that a chair with a computer panel freestanding. The wall that contained the doorway featured an entire video complex with four speakers hanging from the ceiling aimed at the seating area. Four microphones connected to each computer panel sat idle. Volume was no problem.

The whole point wasn't to have the microphones remain mute. To start off the party, we all took the stairs down one level to fill our cafeteria-style plastic plates with an assortment of food (when I say food, you must always assume Chinese) and a selection of fruit drinks. We hauled our food upstairs to our room, ate and chatted and as the empty plates were cleared away the festivities began to slowly escalate.

On the way over Serge asked me if I had brought any Frank Sinatra music on my computer. Alas, I was without Frank. He said the song, "Strangers in the Night" had been going through his head. Well, that was the first song out of the chute. With the title punched in to the computer system the music along with a video—like MTV—appeared and the lyrics in English and Chinese. Serge grabbed a mic and began "karoke-ing" (is that word?).

Paul and I, being the older folks in the crowd talked incessantly—sharing how we arrived in Wuhan and our parallel universes of company layoffs—he in Canada and me in America—and how our careers had 'flipped'. (there seems to be a theme here with 'older' folks I talk to here). Anyway, before long Paul had been persuade to join the song fest and he started belting out an Elton John and Beetles tunes...but brought the crowd to its knees with a wonderful rendition of the German song from the Sound of Music that I can't spell, Edilwisee (I have butchered its spelling).

Our Divisional head and hostess of the evening called the party over at precisely 8:30 and we all descended the elevators and awaited the ritual of the "hailing of the cabs." On our exciting cab ride back to campus Paul remarked about the time with Jon (you'll love this Jon) and he shared a cab ride that they called "Indy 500". I related to a similar experience "Nemo" in Mexico with my friend Peggy. Although this cab ride was memorable, those two memories for both of us still rank as #1.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

My work commute

One key I've found to acclimating to a totally different culture is developing a routine so at least some aspect of your day is predictable. My morning commute has become this for me. It's almost always the same and in that I take great comfort.

Every school morning, Monday – Friday, at 7:30 a.m. I trundle down the four flights of granite stairs fully bundled in four layers of clothing. Turning the knob with my gloved hands on the light tan door of our apartment building I step out and make a sharp right to begin my walk. I take notice to see if the "recycle man" has been there yet. Recycling is done by someone who turns the contents of our three blue trash cans on the cement, picks out the items to recycle and leaves them for the garbage man to collect and dispose of. I've noticed this done elsewhere, so it appears to be the process of recycling here.

Ahead of my path I see my first of three sets of Chinese senior citizens. Regardless of the weather I know they are there since I started listening to their traditional Chinese music filter through my kitchen window at 7:00 a.m. About 10, mostly female, they do what I believe to be as Ti Chi, very focused and precise maneuvering of their arms and legs. I think what a wonderful example to me; I should be exercising. I walk thru this first group since the area they choose serves as both a connector for cars and foot traffic.

Crossing the small street between buildings I see another group of seniors doing a slightly different routine as the first. All appear like the first: silent and very focused on their movement. I make a right and then a left. The foot and car traffic and noise increases as I head towards the West Campus gate and the major street. As I make this part of my commute, I regularly pass one to three women out sweeping the sidewalk and gutters. Their brooms are made from twigs and are tied to 1" bamboo sticks. They have a specific cadence in their sweeping motion that seems to allow them to gather a tremendous amount of natural and man-made debris with these booms. They pause and deposit the debris in their two wheeled carts and seem completely focused in their work and never look up at me.

I pass through the West Campus gates and begin the adventure of crossing a major intersection. Red and green traffic lights serve as symbols or suggestions of what one should do as the driver of a car, truck, motorcycle...and person. There's seems a rhythm to this seeming chaos...now that I've lived here nearly two weeks, I can see it. My first day crossing I didn't. I know now how to navigate with the lights, which serve merely as ideas for directional motion of all motor and person propelled objects.

Clearing the street I enter the East Gate of the campus. Like the other side of campus, the road and sidewalks are in the finishing stages of construction. Through my two weeks here I've seen the construction workers, without any mechanized tools, clear, straighten and lift heavy concrete and granite stones to create beautiful walkways. I've marveled at their accuracy and dexterity of placing the slabs with a 4-man lift system, comprised of two-inch thick bamboo poles, ropes and four sturdy backs.

Walking straight the road curves to the right and my third group of seniors appear on my left. This is a different group. One man and three women all wield yard-long ceremonial swords that gleam if the light is strong. They maneuver them through the air in nearly perfect timing and with dance-like steps to match their music. I find all three groups fascinating to watch, but this one in particular catches my eye because of their live props.

One more turn in the road and I see my destination, the tallest building on the WUT campus. Most students haven't begun running to class yet and I enter the door and over to the one of four elevators that will take me to the 6th floor. Most mornings I wait, sometimes I forsake and climb the stairs. Either transport device puts me on the 6th floor; I make a right to walk to the end of the hall to my classroom.

I can tell, based upon evaporation of water, how recent the woman who washes the granite floors has visited our level. Almost every day my classroom door is open and the wooden stand unlocked so I can begin the punching of buttons to awaken the PC, projector and screen. The woman with the key and I have developed a special relationship. Neither of us speaks a language we can converse in, but through sign language and smiles we have become friends...she is usually the first person I see each morning who says our version of "hello."

And then my sleepy students start to scramble in from their dorm rooms and another morning class begins. As soon as the bell sounds, nothing in the rest of my day is ever predictable.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

"goldfish"

One of the ways I'm trying to help my students think from a different cultural perspective for their project of marketing a Chinese product to America is to experience an unfamiliar American product as Chinese consumers and then reflect back on what they experienced.

Yesterday each group picked a brown bag that contained an American product I brought with me. As they opened the mysterious bags, oh my...What a hoot! I nearly needed ear plugs...you were right, Patti. The Pepperidge Farm goldfish soup crackers were the hit of the day. Two other products that were equally as interesting were Quaker Oats' 'smores' and peanut/chocolate granola bars and a UK product, Ginger Altoids.

They were to meet in groups yesterday and present what, if anything, they would change in each product to accommodate to Chinese tastes and packaging in this morning's class. This focus group of sorts was fascinating to listen to.

For starters, the goldfish were so interesting and so well liked the students said nothing needed to change, not the taste or the packaging and in fact, it would be positive to leave the copy the same way it is because of the country of origin (COE a term we learned today) was the US. When I told them there are other ways to eat the goldfish, namely putting them on top of soup, they looked at me strangly. Then I said, "Yes, one way to eat these is to put them on top of your lotus soup...you see goldfish floating in your soup and you eat them that way!" This was an amazing, and totally gross, idea to them. Eating as snacks is apparently the way to go! :)

As for the other products, the granola bars were 50% too sweet for their tastes and peanuts and chocolate together aren't good combinations here. But, they thought if Quaker could decrease the sugar content by 50% and not put peanuts into them, they might do okay here.

With Altoids, there was much discussion about who liked ginger--a traditional Chinese herb and ingredient in some cooking--and who didn't. The consensus was still too sweet, and maybe if instead of being round they were in the form of stars the young people, like themselves, would like it. They liked the metal box. And, two students noted that somewhere over here an enterprising person is mixing Coca Cola with ginger...

Certainly not an empirical study, but I think it enabled them to get a feel for the need and challenge in understanding other cultures when it comes to marketing new products.

Monday, December 19, 2005

"Blessed are the flexible...

...for they shall not be broken." While this isn't one of the Beatitudes, I recall our pastor in California saying it should be. I was reminded of this phrase today and am having the opportunity to apply it.

When I arrived I asked to see the students' textbook, it looked very different: softbound vs. hardbound. And as I turned to the back, I noted that it didn't have the full number of Case Studies I had integrated into my class. But, I had carried copies of them and had them photo copied. So, I felt victorious in this. But, today I learned I didn't look closely enough at the text last week, since it said it was the same version on the cover.

The cover lied. One of my students came early to class and told me she couldn't do the assignment since the chapter wasn't in the text. Upon further examination and to my horror, the one shipped to me from Beijing is very different than my students' textbook. Their version also lacks 5 chapters I have.

Even if you don't teach, I'm sure you have an appreciation what that means to me right now; I spent a tremendous amount of time preparing for this class with my 19 chapter text. Now, I'm doing it again in "real-time."

"Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be broken." My lesson today: Teaching in a different country and culture is the ultimate petrie dish experiment to perfect resilience and resourcefulness.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Divisional Christmas Party

Josephine and I, along with my other three teaching colleagues here, accepted our host's gracious invitation to join the International Educational Department's annual Christmas/New Year's party. Talk about great timing on our part!

They have a staff of 60 people; they run three separate programs-- American, United Kingdom and Australian--where they work with many universities (10 in the US) to develop and maintain the largest and best curriculum in China for its students. So everyone attended this big annual event.

We arrived at the restaurant which was built in the style, I was told, to give a rural farming feel. Built over the waters of the East Lake in Wuhan, we all entered smaller sized rooms in groups. The Dean of the Division, Dr. Wang, presided at our table, one of two tables in our room. Square tables—the first non-round ones I had dined at thus far—had two person wood benches on all four sides.

Josephine and I sat down together and within a few moments we learned the big black pot of bubbling stew before us was none other than...dog stew. Josephine jumped up in shock as I mumbled something about preferring not to eat a pet...through much laugher we switched sides of the table since they knew dog wasn't a preferred menu item. Mr. Huang advised, "You must get a photo of this dog dish!" So I obliged.

Throughout the evening small groups of the staff came in to toast everyone, so there was much clanking of glasses—in China you want to keep your glass lower than the other person's to show you are humble—and merry making. I couldn't help but think this is just like the Christmas parties I've attended and thrown at companies where I've worked in America.

There are more similarities between us—Chinese and American—than there are differences.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Student Talent Night

Thursday evening the International Education students put on a 2 hour talent show and invited us--the foreign teachers--to attend and to do something as part of the program. About 200 students attended in the Student Union about a block from the foreign faculty housing.

First of all, the four of us (Tyler, Serg, Katy and Tyler) walked away from the event very impressed with the talents and creativity all of the participants showed. The floor manager did a great job keeping the pace of all types of singers--from a band to solos, duets--muscians including a traditional Chinese string instrument, clarinet, guitars--and all sorts of dance numbers.

It's hard to describe the variety since there were so many...one that really stands out were 5 guys who did impossible balancing, dancing with basketballs...the Harlem Globetrotters should be scared since they did some amazing tricks.

All the students showed great talents; the four of us faculty were the untalented portion of the event.

Asked to participate the day before, the four of us met in my apartment the night before and shared a bowl of popcorn to decide what to do. With little preparation--clearly the students had done a tremendous amount--we decided to bring the Yule Tide season to Wuhan. As we took the stage with microphones in hand we broke into our quartet number: Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. They gave us polite applause and encouragement, but clearly, the students were the ones who showed talent and alas, we teachers showed our lack thereof.

We all had a grand time!

My students blow me away!

Today is Friday and each of my three student groups were to have identified a Chinese product they want to market to America and share it with the group. I had only asked for them to bring in a product and talk about it...they far, far exceeded my expectations since each had created a PowerPoint presentation as well. :)

One group wanted to create a product. I told them that's what my graduate students will normally do and that is really hard...but I didn't want to dampen their spirits. Well, they are very well along to knowing the American target market for a healthy drink they believe Americans will enjoy...they also want to create a business, so who knows where this may go...

Another group is leveraging the country's silk industry history and has identified a type of silk scarf they want to import; they have already designed a protoype packaging model and explained today why they want to create the package a certain way.

The third group has identified a product line of hair combs that are unique to China and reflect "beautiful" in the Chinese characters. They have already begun thinking about ways to position it in the market, before I even talk about positioning.

This group of 15 students are showing all the signs of entrepreneurs.

They are teaching me so MUCH!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

3 x 5 cards

It's so key to have feedback from students...to know what's working and what's not working.

I had been told that the approach in education here is primarily lecture and no classroom dialog. To try and get what I thought would be missing feedback, I devised a SEMDR feedback loop on paper. (all of my American students reading this will know what this is since I teach it in every class!)

I hauled a stack of 3 x 5 cards and hand them out at the close of class. They get points for the activity. They must write their names (how I take attendance) and write either one thing they learned or a question they have to ask me.

It's a facinating way to learn how they are learning...or not.

For starters, it was my understanding this would be their only class. So, I structured this class assuming 100% of their attention. They have two other classes...so learning from several students that the work load was too much gave me the ability to quickly adjust it.

I also have benefit of learning if I have been successful in communicating a concept. On several occasions now--although we've only met 4 times thus far--I know when to go back and explain a concept differently and what words I needed to explain better.

One surprising, yet very exciting, outcome of this daily activity is some of the personal information students ask and share with me. I can see their personalities emerge and this is very, very fun.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

"The Blog"

Today I gave my students "the keys to the kingdom"...i.e. their log in and passwords to post on the blog. Talk about excited!!!

As I showed the photos of the American bloggers by way of introduction it became clear to me that this blog was a very, very, very, very exciting and new dimension to their school learning. Their eyes said it all...(Cindy/Roger, they especially loved seeing the photo of you and the boys!)

Passing out the "how to" sheets with their access codes the conversations grew louder as they started to write their introductions to the American bloggers. I think this is a home run.

WTO & Current Events

Today we discussed in class the World Trade Organization, its predecessor, GATT, other trade organizations and the impacts these have on understanding the world stage for trade. As International Trade majors, these weren't new concepts to my students, but the fact that the WTO is concurrently meeting in Hong Kong right now makes it more facinating to me. Another trade group, ASAEN was also meeting in Malasia Monday-Weds.

At night I watch the Beijing channel CCTV9 which is in English. The news segment is hosted by British reporters in the studio and Chinese in the field. They highlighted the WTO meetings. But the ASAEN news report had a great deal of coverage and expanded into a separate program that followed called Dialog, had two pundits (one a Beijing professor and the other a guy from America) talking about the discussions and issues being discussed (or not discussed as they perceived it)was rather facinating for this Eastern Asia meeting of ASAEN.

First, having this type of insight into the issues facing Eastern Asia and the discussion surrounding different aspects was something I would never have access to in America. Second, by being here and observing this debate--including why the US wasn't invited to it and the different historical perspectives of both pundits--gives me a totally new perspective on East Asia and how the countries view each other.

This made today's lesson for me even more relative.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

I meet my students!

My eyes popped open at 4:00 a.m...wide awake! I watched the minutes tick by before I could rationalize getting out of bed to walk over to my new classroom. I had met the woman who opened the classroom doors the day before and knew she would be there around 7:00 (class starts at 8:00) so I decided to greet her at my door at 7:00...so I did!

The city is busy at all hours, but it was much easier to run across the street between the East and West campus at 7:00 a.m. After about 10 minutes she arrived and opened the door and helped me get the computer started...it was rather funny watching us figure this out (since I had forgotten my lesson from the day before).

My students arrived at 8:00...13! We began introductions and it was clear to me that this class was willing to ask questions and engage with a lot of eye contact. This is great! Today I was scheduled to have an afternoon class, but it was pushed to tomorrow since they had an exam at that time.

We broke into groups today and they seemed to get great enjoyment out of my method: three packs of gum. They drew from the packs and turned into three groups: Wuhan 1, Wuhan 2 and Wuhan 3. I am having everyone write a question or what they learned on a 3x5 card at the conclution of class. I enjoyed reading the comments they wrote to me...some really good marketing questions, and a number of personal comments about their enjoyment of the morning's class.

Tomorrow we will have class #2 and #3. We will have more fun tomorrow!

Monday, December 12, 2005

Classroom 617

Wuhan University of Technology's International Education office is on the 6th floor of the tallest building at the university. My ongoing contact with the office is Britannia, who joined the university in July upon her graduation as an English major at another Wuhan university. She showed me to my classroom, went thru the process of pulling up the computer, overhead, lowering the screen. This takes some memorization since, of course, everything is in Chinese.

I will welcome 15 students on Tuesday morning at 8:00 a.m. I am very much looking forward to meeting all of them.

While in the office I showed David and Britannia this blog...they were very excited and thought this teaching tool would be very welcomed by my students.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

China Classroom -- "Firsts"

This opportunity to teach in China is giving me a number of classroom "firsts" as well.

Beyond the obvious of a different culture, 100% English as a 2nd language students (ESL), and me being remote from family and friends for 3 weeks, the classroom experience will be very different on three levels.

First, I've always taught one night a week for all of my classes. This will be the first time I'll teach during the day and on consecutive days. My schedule for my one class at Wuhan is: Monday - Friday 8:00 - 9:40 and Tuesday and Friday 2:00 - 3:40. Preparing for this model was very different and challenging.

Second, I've taught both undergrad and grad Marketing classes, but never International Marketing. Developing my 21 International Marketing classes has been a tremendous learning experience. I have a new appreciation of the "controlled vs. uncontrolled" components within my new marketing lexicon which now includes three types: Domestic, International and Global Marketing. In previous marketing positions I have been totally 'domestic' focused, always relying on our "in country" marketing managers' cultural knowledge. I have a new-found appreciation for the complexity of building a successful, global marketing function without those valuable resources.

Third, my understanding of what is "normal" for Chinese students in a classroom is very different than what I do in America. The China teaching model is lecture and tests; memorization plays a key role in the Chinese education. Group work and asking questions/dialog in a classroom is an unfamiliar practice.

Bringing the American approach into the Chinese classroom is one big reason why Wuhan University of Technology, International School of Education Department, is working with Saint Martins University (SMU) to bring their teachers to Wuhan. Based upon my conversation yesterday with Jon--thanks for all the insights!!--who just returned from teaching there for SMU, the students are ready and willing to embrace this new classroom experience.

I'm really looking forward to us learning together.

Tyler