Comprehension vs. Understanding
A popular book on education right now in Thailand is called 'Westerners understand, Thais comprehend', and highlights some of the differences in education between the two countries both procedurally and culturally. It looks pretty pop psychology so I haven't picked it up yet, although I may.
The biggest difference seems to be that in the U.S. the burden lies on the student to prove that they are learning, while in Thailand it seems to be on the teacher to prove that they are teaching. Now it seems to me in both cases a middle ground would be best; make the student prove that he is learning adequately while also periodically checking to make sure that the teacher isn't teaching that the earth is flat or Columbus, Ohio was discovered by Columbus, Christopher. But the U.S. tends to default to one side, and Thailand the other.
Most of my time at UNC was filled with truly delightful professors. Doctor Worley, Doctor Santos and Doctor Kleinfelter, for example, are three true scholars and deeply committed individuals. While most of the staff were more in their league there were, of course, those on the other side of the graph; and in my sophomore year I met the worst of them all. I cannot remember his name for the life of me, likely for the best, but he did seem to fully believe if we didn't do well it was because we were not paying attention. Not, say, due to the fact that he was vicodin addled most of the time and not in the awesome Dr. House way, interrupted students during presentations, and would not let students say they didn't think Emily Dickinson was a good poet. And yet some of the students who told their parents were assured they probably just needed to listen more or study harder. Not me, fortunately. I, uh, just didn't tell my parents. Until...now.
Now on the surface the other side, ateacher having to prove they are teaching sounds like a good idea, but what it does is change the job of an educator. I can't be concerned solely with guaranteeing my students understand, I have to prove it. Everything has to go in to their notebooks, even tests have to be stapled in, or else parents don't think I'm teaching. Never mind that their students can now speak twice as well as they could before, since they do not have a piece of paper I must not be doing my job. It is somewhat frustrating to have the burden of proof for a student's education fall entirely on what I staple in to their notebook, not their actual level of comprehension. Its like having to take the CSAT (the Colorado standardized test, if I have any out of towners) as a teacher. And maybe only a little frustrating because it means I don't yet get to put the burden back on my students. But that would be mean.
So its interesting to experience a difference in perception and expectation, something I probably wouldn't have experienced back home all things considered. I'm treating it as a benefit, the opportunity to expand my working style and learn other educational approaches; it is certainly not an expectation I would have worked with in the U.S., and I can see how this might help me watch myself from becoming complacent when I do teach in the states. So a benefit, at least until I get fed up with it.