Jackie Chan in My Lessons
I am a teacher of English and history at a German school teaching students between 10 and 19 years of age. Always trying to find new ways of getting them interested, I have recently found the topic of Jackie Chan and want to tell you about how he gained access to my lessons.
The Jackie Chan Kids Corner provides excellent teaching material for teachers of English as a foreign language. The texts are written in good English, but not too difficult, so that even beginners can understand them. Whenever I need some information or some interesting text, I first of all look at the Kids Corner.
So I found the text about Chinese New Year, which I have used with learners in their 2nd and 3rd year of English. They loved to learn about Chinese culture, they were happy that they could read real texts (as opposed to textbook ones), they wanted to find out about their own Chinese horoscope and they enjoyed coloring pictures or drawing their own ones.
Another text I used was the Kids Corner description of Jackie's life. We had read some texts about success and I thought that a real-life example would be more motivating than fictitious characters in textbook stories. Jackie's story made a great impression on the 12/13-year-old kids - and you could see their determination never to give up, even if things might become difficult.
Now it is relatively easy to motivate younger students - they like and admire Jackie and are prepared to accept him as a role model . But I hesitated to do the same thing with older students. They are used to questioning their teachers and parents, they are more skeptical and critical – and most of all I was afraid of making a fool of myself. After all, for most people in Germany who don't know anything about Jackie Chan, he is just some sort of Kung Fu clown who appeared on the scene around 1999 and is not a person to be taken seriously.
But after having had some talks with my 12th year English students (17/18 years old), I thought about how I could make them think about their attitude to school and work, how I could motivate them to get more involved. Some of them didn't do as well as they had hoped and tended to put the blame on others. At the same time I came across some statements of Jackie's in his diaries – statements that I knew my students would not accept without questioning and discussing them . But I didn't find any other text that might provoke them and make them think, so I decided to give it a try.
I chose two examples of diaries from January 2006 where he spoke about how to achieve success. I explained to my students that these views were based on a particular personal and cultural background and that I would not be angry if they couldn't accept them as guidelines for their own lives. But I wanted them to have a look and discuss these texts.
It was a very serious and intense lesson. As I had expected they found the idea of being thankful for criticism a bit strange at first, but when we talked more about it, they understood what Jackie had meant. Even more important, they realized the importance of their teachers' criticism and feedback. We also spent some time on talking about the sentence that there are no shortcuts in life. We realized that this applies to professional or school success as well as to other areas: sport for example, but also growing up. In order to mature and grow up you have to go through hard times and sadness and trying to drown these in senseless activity, alcohol or drugs doesn't help, but only creates more problems in the long run.
It was a very intense lesson, as I mentioned above, and when I finished by saying that they could hand the texts back to me, nobody did – they wanted to keep them.
I have often come across ideas in Jackie's diaries that made me think, and often I share his view and am happy to have found someone who agrees with me. I have learned to respect and admire Jackie Chan for his work, his attitude and his humanity. Of course, it would disagree with my idea of teaching to use Jackie Chan as the only ideal role model – I want to present my students with a variety of views to make them decide for themselves which path they want to go. But I can use Jackie Chan as one example from which they can learn.
Apart from that, there is the fun factor: texts from the Kids Corner, excerpts from movies –everything that the kids are interested in helps them to learn English and also more about the world in general. My students also get an idea of Chinese history, they learn more about other people's way of life and maybe this helps them to understand the world a bit better . And understanding is the first step to peace.
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