Chinese teachers as 'creators' of an alternative teaching environment

Although each participant seems willing to compromise, the data also suggests that the participants would like to form a community of TCFL teachers in Denmark in which they can seek consensus. The formation of such a community is associated with their willingness to question the values of their own culture and other cultures and, thereby, to create a new teaching environment. The formation of a specific community is equally important for NCLTs in the sense that it can legitimatise their membership (Lave & Wenger, 1991).

Generally speaking, Danish students are reluctant to accept pressure and discipline imposed on them by their teachers. We continuously remind them to improve their manners in terms of learning attitude and behaviour; for instance, abiding by class attendance and submitting assigned homework. However, our kind reminders do not seem to make a significant difference. It is only when they realise by themselves that they would like to achieve good exam grades that they begin to improve their learning behaviour and attitude. Am I right? Therefore, we, as teachers, should learn to wait for the right moment to let our students reconsider these reminders. Don't you agree with me? (Grace)

I definitely believe that a self-disciplined and highly motivated teacher sends a positive signal to the students, but you should not expect them to behave in the ways you do or in the ways you would like them to. The majority accept homework in moderate quantities and at reasonable intervals, but they will say no - or refuse to do it - if you press them too much. Many have a part-time job and an active social life. Although they are supposed to study full time, in reality, their time is fragmented and devoted to things other than just study. ... Remember, the students are independent individuals and have sole responsibility for themselves. (Rebecca)

Unfortunately, teaching in Denmark differs from teaching in China, in the sense that we teachers should leave a lot of space for students to become masters of their own learning. Am I right? To put it simply, if we wish to be good foreign language teachers in Denmark, we have no alternative than to adopt Danish pedagogical approaches to teaching Chinese, which means that pedagogy for teaching Chinese in Denmark should be rooted in understanding the local culture - to teach Chinese to Danish students as Danish teachers do. (Thomas)

In excerpts 7, 8 and 9, Grace, Rebecca and Thomas repeatedly employ plural pronouns such as 'we', 'us' and 'our' when referring to Chinese teachers and the Chinese teaching culture, and they employ plural pronouns such as 'they', 'them' and 'their' when referring to others - namely, Danish students and the Danish teaching culture. This construction of an 'us and them' dichotomy implies that the TCFL community is built upon shared beliefs and a shared understanding about how language teaching and learning should function. The implications of these divergent views of learning and teaching for both Chinese teachers and Danish students are evaluated as incongruent. For example, Grace describes the sense of doubt this causes among TCFL teachers in terms of teacher identities: 'We, as teachers, should learn to wait for the right moment to let our students reconsider these reminders.' This description of 'learning to wait for the right moment' implies a move from tolerating the Danish way of 'doing' language education to finding a consensus. On the one hand, this move might have helped her overcome feelings of disempowerment ('They treat us as equals.' '[They] can sometimes be very critical of teachers.' and 'They say no - or refuse to do [their homework] - if we give them too much.'), but, on the other hand, it might have helped her overcome potential doubts regarding her own teacher identity. Grace asks a series of rhetorical questions in this sense: 'Am I right?' and 'Don't you agree with me?' These subjective markers suggest that she identifies potential limits to creating her own meaning partly at contingent and temporary levels; conversely, these markers also suggest that she might have sought consensus and solidarity within her community of TCFL teachers.

Rebecca's view arises from her reflection on her interaction with students in Denmark. In a strong personal statement of belief ('I sincerely believe'), Rebecca shares her vision of teacher identity in terms of self-discipline and high motivation. In contrast to what she believes, Rebecca's assertion - '[TCFL teachers] should not expect them [the Danish students] to behave in the ways we do or in the ways we would like them to.' - offers a less complimentary view of the participants' interaction with the students. Nevertheless, the strength of Rebecca's evaluation is reasserted in her final remark: 'Remember, the students are independent individuals and have sole responsibility for themselves.'

Besides the community of TCFL teachers in Denmark, Thomas explains that there is an alternative teaching environment in which TCFL teachers are able to adopt a 'mediated teaching method' that supports the dichotomy of 'Chinese pedagogy' and 'Danish pedagogy' in language teaching. It appears - albeit implicitly - as though Thomas favours adopting a Danish pedagogical approach to teaching Chinese. The dichotomy Thomas employs gives rise to arguments across several dimensions. For example, in contrast to teachers in China, who take greater responsibility for their students' learning, Danish teachers simply guide their students and leave a lot of space for them to become masters of their own learning. Thomas provides a clear statement of what he believes distinguishes classroom teaching in China and in Denmark. For instance, in Denmark, classrooms are characterised as casual and informal, and Danish students are 'independent and critical', 'non-disciplinary', and 'less competitive'. The situation is different in China, where more emphasis is placed on the students' dependence on the teachers. Furthermore, there is also an emphasis on discipline and individual work, and the classroom atmosphere is formal and serious. However, despite this extreme contrast between Denmark and China, Thomas' resolves in favour of the situation 'here'. Having encountered vastly different teaching and learning environments, Thomas concludes it is best to 'teach Chinese to Danish students as Danish teachers do'.

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