Job ad vs. reality Nystrom Janssen begins her article by recalling the advertisement for her current assistant professor job at the Asian University for Women in Bangladesh. The description called for a candidate with at least five years’ experience in the region who was an adventurer and nonconformist. She went on to learn that her career move to teach English in a developing country required not so much Asian experience and adventure-seeking, but actually “professionalism with flexibility, creativity, and resourcefulness.”
In other words, in order to adapt to the unique challenges of her particular foreign working environment, she needed not so much to be free-spirited and adventurous as creative, positive, cooperative, and adaptive.
Words of wisdom for graphic designers came yesterday courtesy of Liu Zhizhi via the The New York Times. In “Putting the Chinese in ‘Made in China’ ”, Alice Rawsthorn looks at the nascent graphic design scene in China with the Beijing-based graphic designer as her focus.
Last week, TheEconomist published an article on the China Europe International Business School’s (CEIBS) part-time executive MBA program in Ghana. The Shanghai-based school opened its satellite in Accra, capital of Ghana, in 2009.
Ok, I give in. Normally I don’t write numbered-list blog posts, but since I’m writing about lessons from the Chinese, and they prize the lucky number eight, I’m going to try to get on the good side of fortune (and the world’s largest ethnicity) and hope that my audience forgives me.*
8 Things Gen Y Can Learn About Workplace Relations from the Chinese
Via CCAP and Marginal Revolution, faculty at a major Chinese university recently asked an American professor to talk about trends in U.S. education, and an answer came out that reflected the old Chinese way: Standardized curriculum, rote memorization, and nationalized testing.
As a former teacher of English as a foreign language in China for almost 5 years, I was not surprised to read that the Chinese faculty laughed out loud after hearing this. What surprised them was that this Indiana University professor was talking about America’s schools moving towards what Chinese schools have started to move away from: standardization. As an article in the July 10 edition of Newsweek points out, education reform in China is driving more problem-based learning that stems from real-world inquiry.
Traditional Chinese approaches to learning embody what Newsweek calls the “drill-and-kill teaching style,” where everybody is looking to model the teacher in unison. Collectivist culture is reflected in the classroom, where students are more comfortable going along with the group and avoiding the spotlight.* Learning is centralized: teachers hand down wisdom from pedestals, and students passively receive the information. Plenty of this type of learning is stuck at the bottom of Bloom’s taxonomy, and can largely explain why China has never produced a Nobel Prize winner.
I am heartened to see China’s educational system begin to move toward the top of this pyramid, especially when you consider how much of the world’s future leadership will hail from its 1.2 billion+ population. Considering our national standardization movements of the last 5 years or so (fueled by No Child Left Behind), I can only hope that, conversely, the U.S. does not slip too far towards the bottom in the name of accountability.
*This “Stripes” clip of a mixed U.S. immigrant English class embodies the Chinese model, from passivity to shyness to choral repetition. Start at the 50-sec. mark for the heart of the scene. (Warning: mild language.)
From the “What, me worry?” files, a great biographical tale from Paul Jury in Huffington Post reminds us of the need for discernment before embarking on a vocation. Much more deeply than the cliché, his story illustrates how we sometimes need to get lost in order to find ourselves.
In a nutshell, he retells his post-graduation “Into the Wild“-type decision to stop sweating his attempts to land the ideal job in a recession. He instead took his $80K tuition debt and drove to all 48 contiguous U.S. states in 7 weeks, purposely avoiding the interstates and sleeping mostly in his car.
Ultimately, there is something reassuring about his laissez-faire approach to a recession job search that should give solace to anybody feeling the pressure to land that elusive ideal job right out of the gate. I can personally relate to this story because in my first year out of college, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do either. Rather than jump into the first high-paying (or low-paying) job that came along, I decided to join my high school’s year-long alumnus volunteer program. Housing/utilities were provided (three volunteers shared a charming century-old house), and we received modest monthly living stipends. Each volunteer worked within a specific structured school program with an immediate director. I elected to take a position that involved tutoring more “challenged” students, which in turn led me to discover how much I enjoyed teaching.
The volunteer experience—and specifically the experience of being a full-time tutor/mentor—inspired me to choose my first full-time job as a teacher of English as a foreign language … in China. I held this wonderful job for nearly five years before making a career change that brought me to another great job. Both the home volunteer experience and foreign teaching career shaped my life outlook in dramatic ways. These nontraditional paths expanded my understanding and appreciation of different cultures (and of my place in the world). For that I would not trade anything.
Yes, life is more than a job, to be sure. As Jury’s blog post inspires me, I recall the underlying power of the famous words spoken by The Shawshank Redemption‘s Red: