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Matthew Jellick: The world is a big classroom and we should never stop teaching and learning

Jan 23, 2018 Special Report

One of the two Grand Prize winners of the Second Young Teachers' Teaching Contest is Matthew Jellick, a foreign English teacher in the Center for Language Education (CLE) at SUSTech. Coming from the United States, Matthew has been teaching English abroad for nearly ten years including working at Middletown Grange College in New Zealand, and Ambo University and Dire Dawa University in Ethiopia. SUSTech is his first stop in China. Having been with SUSTech for 14 months, Matthew is responsible for teaching academic writing skills to  Sophomore students as well as conducting Staff English Training courses.

“SUSTech is a young and energetic university that is advancing on the path of vigorous development, I am honored to work at the university and witness its growth and development,” said Matthew, “teaching at  such a newly-developed university gives me an opportunity to make more meaningful contributions. When looking back ten or twenty years later, I would be proud of the teaching work I participated in and achievements I made.

Teaching and learning in the diversified class

As an ancient Chinese saying goes, if three men are walking together, one of them is bound to be good enough to be my teacher. Matthew believes that the classroom should be a diversified teaching platform that integrates various cultures. For him, the most important teaching method is to provide equal time for "teacher talk" and "student talk". That is to say, students can present their viewpoints as well as teachers, and teacher can learn from students with diverse cultural backgrounds while students learn from them.  

“One does not necessarily know more than the other. Only within a specific knowledge framework can one become a teacher of others, and beyond these  specific circumstance, one  needs to learn from others,” said Matthew. Suppose there are 30 students in a class and everyone can express his/her thoughts, there will be 30 different and valuable feedbacks in the classroom. He thinks that in teaching, especially language teaching, encouraging students to express themselves can not only improve their speaking ability, but also improve their self-cognition and activate their thinking. Matthew believes that it’s essential to share ideas within the classroom.

A good textbook has an important guiding role for knowledge acquisition. In Matthew's viewpoint, good teaching methods may arouse students' emotion and strengthen the interaction between students and teachers in the classroom, but a good textbook can further arouse students' interest in learning and expand their knowledge and cultural level. In the course of knowledge acquisition, the textbook can materialize the abstract knowledge so that the students can understand the concepts of that knowledge more clearly.

Teaching is a process of continuous adaptation. Matthew needs to adapt himself to different geographical and cultural environments and students from different countries and different cultural backgrounds, and establish mutual trust based on mutual understanding and communication, and then promote each other through the teaching process. A good textbook, as an important support mechanism in the teaching process, also needs diversified content, so that students can broaden their horizons and understand more world cultures while grasping knowledge.

Expand the teaching platform and teach through lively activities

Matthew has his own way of teaching. He doesn't advocate “cramming teaching”, but tends to interact and communicate with students, so that the classroom is full of vigor and vitality. Matthew believes that a good teaching process should not be limited only to the classroom and, therefore, he extends teaching outside the classroom. He provides the university’s staff with English training courses, and in his spare time, works with the English Speaking Club and English Book Club, providing a diversified platform of English learning for both teachers and students. He often encourages students to challenge themselves in the classroom. When he taught in Ethiopia, it was a great challenge for his outstanding undergraduate students in Africa to pursue a master's degree or doctorates in Britain, France or the United States, but if they succeed in doing so, they will broaden their horizon and benefit from it by obtaining knowledge and experiencing different cultural environments..

Broaden the horizon while staying true to education

Matthew has his own way of teaching. He doesn't advocate “cramming teaching”, but tends to interact and communicate with students, so that the classroom is full of vigor and vitality. Matthew believes that a good teaching process should not be limited only to the classroom and therefore, he extends teaching outside the classroom. He provides the university’s staff with English training courses, and in his spare time, works with the English Speaking Club and English Book Club, providing a diversified platform of English learning for both teachers and students. He often encourages students to challenge themselves in the classroom. When he taught in Ethiopia, it was a great challenge for his outstanding undergraduate students in Africa to pursue a master's degree or doctorates in Britain, France or the United States, but if they succeed in doing so, they will broaden their horizon and benefit from it by obtaining knowledge and experiencing different cultural environments. 

“If I go to other countries for English teaching in the future, I will bring the cultural knowledge, teaching experience, customs and humanity I have learned in China with me, as I have  brought the cultures of other countries into my  classrooms here in China,” said Matthew. While accumulating teaching experience, he will continue to be a disseminator of education and culture. In his view, he will lose motivation, passion and his own uniqueness if he stays in a country or university for ten years or more, so he will keep forward with the teaching experience accumulated and the humanities harvested, to pass the cultural customs he has learnt to the next stop. As he sums up his teaching attitude with a word, "the world is a big classroom and we should never stop teaching and learning."

Picture: Xiaoyan Zhang

Text: Liu Chunchen

Edit by: Chen Zibing

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