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I don't just teach English, I teach communication

I don't just teach English, sometimes, I teach how to communicate correctly and effectively.

 Last year, I aimed to educate my adult students on how to appropriately discuss and, hopefully, view African Americans through a workshop. Prior to the workshop, my encounters with many of my adult students had alerted me to the lack of knowledge about who African Americans are (and who Americans are). I therapeutically wrote about it in my submission to The Atlantic.

 Recently, I've been discussing current events with students. Every week I choose an article that the students read and try to comprehend through the guidance of comprehension questions, and then I ask them to communicate what they just read to their partner. After that, I usually have students answer some questions with a partner to prompt them to divulge more of their opinion or to relay whatever information they already have on the subject (in English). It's always interesting to hear students' perspective or observe how they avoid the topic because it's sensitive for them, personally; they don't care about the event; or they are afraid of what others might think of them, etc.

 Anyway, this week I decided to dive into the life of Mexican drug lord El Chapo and Chinese entertainer Zhou LiBo, who was allegedly caught with cocaine in Long Island, NY. I had ran the new articles and my questions past my coworkers and a manager who have been living in China for over 2 years. They mentioned that students might not know a lot about illegal and legal drugs in general. I wasn't completely convinced because people surprise me with how much they know and don't know, but I prepared for the possibility. I added in a slide to my short powerpoint that gave classifications of drugs from most harmful to least harmful, and it mentioned that alcohol and tobacco were legal harmful drugs to make sure that when students answered the warm-up questions, they knew that the word drugs in English does not just mean illegal/street drugs. I'm glad I did that because once I asked my students, "what do you know about drugs?", I was hit with a series of responses that sounded like it came out of America's D.A.R.E. program.

 "Drugs are harmful"
"People WILL get addicted to them"
"They're illegal"
"They ruin people's lives"

 But once I showed students a preview of the drug classifications and they saw that medicine, cigarettes, and alcohol are considered drugs too, they calmed down and began to use language that specified what kind of drug they were referring to. The conversation seemed realistic or mature after that. Next, I handed them the article to read and comb through. My students said they were very entertained by El Chapo's cleverness and success, as was I. I was quite pleased that they enjoyed reading it. But the "after you read" discussion was a hit or miss.

 My first class was a bit shy about the topic probably because they didn't know everyone in the room, but I now know that "drugs" are more socially accepted in America than in China. My second class of only a few people opened up to the point of telling me how one can make heroin from an opium poppy and that some restaurants drug their customers to get them to come back (that part I had read about in the news a few years ago). And then the the third class, which only had a few too, were very much open about street drugs in China such as which providence was infamous for mass producing them, many Chinese celebrities use them, street drugs are easy to find for those who really want to find them, and Chinese drug lords who were captured by authorities are not publicized but users usually are like Jackie Chan's son.

 I tend to enjoy classes like this because I get to see and hear Chinese adults just be individuals and not a nation. I also have an opportunity to see how similar or dissimilar China is from the U.S. So far, we seem quite similar in terms of how we view each other's cultures and politics.

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