History Slam Episode Ninety-One: Teaching in China

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By Sean Graham

What did you for the summer? A common question asked when you see someone for the first time in the fall. Normally, I haven’t had an overly interesting answer to that question, but this year was a little different. For a couple months this summer I had the pleasure of traveling to Beijing to teach in the international summer school program at the University of International Business and Economics. It was my first time not only in China, but in Asia, so the cultural learning curve was steep, but by the end of the summer, I had started to feel more and more comfortable with my surroundings.

In addition to being in a new city, the teaching was rather different from what I expected. The biggest thing that I discovered was how much I rely on assumptions in my teaching. Teaching, whether in Boston or Ottawa, I learned how much I could reference something and be assured that the students were familiar with the reference. On the other side of the world, however, I couldn’t always rely on that luxury and had to do a better job presenting a clear narrative.

In this episode of the History Slam, I talk with Dorothy Verkerk from the University of North Carolina about the experience of teaching in the summer program at UIBE. Recording while we waited for our flight to Toronto at the end of the program, we chat about the challenges of teaching a condensed summer session, some of the highlights of the summer, and how much we enjoyed teaching our UIBE students. We also debate the pros and cons of teaching abroad and discuss my ambivalence towards Chinese beer.

Sean Graham is a William Lyon Mackenzie King post-doctoral fellow at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University where he studies the history of North American media and broadcasting. He is an editor at Activehistory.ca and host/producer of the History Slam Podcast.

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