Excerpt from Donald Quist’s essay collection Harbors from Awst Press. Available for order here.
Week 1 (Introductions)
Course Title: ENGLISH-IV (Academic Writing for Second Language Learners)
University Course Number: BG2001
(0:00) / (1:30)
Greet students as they enter.
Don’t officially start until ten after, to allow for late arrivals.
(0:10) / (1:30)
Write your name on the board.
Introduce yourself and welcome students to class.
Pass around the attendance sheet.
(0:15) / (1:30)
Lead into icebreaker activity.
Pair students and have them introduce their partners to the rest of the class.
Encourage students to exchange contact information.
(0:50) / (1:30)
Distribute and discuss the syllabus.
Discuss classroom attendance policy and smartphone usage.
(1:10) / (1:30)
Place a chair at the front of the room below your name on the blackboard.
Take a seat and invite the class to ask whatever they are curious to know about you.
Anticipated and Frequently Asked Questions:
Can you rap?
Can you dance?
–Whenever I get the opportunity.
Can we touch your hair?
–I rather you didn’t.
What do you like to eat?
–Food. Food is good.
Do you only teach?
–I’m a professional writer.
Do you have a Thai wife?
–I am married. She happens to be from here, Bangkok, and she is Thai.
Teacher, do you know Drake, Future, Chris Brown, 2 CHAINZ, liLwayne, BIG SEANickiminajuIcyjayz!?!?!
–No. Not personally.
What about Will Smith or Tyrese?
Have you been to jail?
Were you in a gang?
Have you sold drugs?
–Yes, but that isn’t why I was arrested.
Why were you arrested?
–I did something I shouldn’t have done and it’s a lot easier to get arrested in America when you look like me.
Why is it easier to get arrested?
–Because of racial bias, but it’s a lot more complicated than that. Or maybe it isn’t.
What is racial bias?
–Treating someone differently because of his or her skin color. Judging someone because of how they look.
Like Laquan McDonald or Michael Brown or Eric Garner or Tamir Rice or Freddie Gray or Sandra Bland or Alton Sterling or Philando Castile or Keith Scott or Terence Crutcher?
–How do you know those names?
Social media hashtags.
Is it like prejudice, when you think everyone is the same?
But, teacher, we all are different, so why can’t we treat each other differently?
–We are all different, and we are not the same, and yet we are. Does that make sense? I think all people should have certain inalienable rights.
–Everybody should be respected and treated fairly. They should have the same opportunities.
Oh, okay…Do you hate white people?
Only white people can have racial bias?
Is racial bias only in America?
Is Thailand prejudiced?
Examples for Citation:
- The persecution of Thailand’s hill tribes along the northern borders
- Blackface in Dunkin’ Donuts advertisements in 2013
- The discrimination and political suppression experienced by Muslim Malays along the southern borders
- The ongoing mistreatment of Rohingya and other refugees
- The difficulty you and other dark-skinned people have experienced obtaining positions that are not labor intensive or geared towards the service industry
- The prevalence of white westerners in Thailand receiving better pay than people of color who have higher qualifications
- The abundance and popularity of skin-whitening creams, lotions, pills, and tonics
- The instance when a photography studio edited your work visa photos without permission, giving you lighter skin, a thinner nose, and other Anglo-European features
Are we racist?
–You could be. So could I. But we should try not to be. I’m not sure how we do that, but I think asking questions helps, to ask and to listen.
Do you not like some of our questions?
–Some of your questions make me uncomfortable, but that is not always bad. My mother told me if you never ask, you’ll never know.
Yes…Teacher, do you know Oprah or President Obama?
–No. Not personally.
Teacher, will you be a kind teacher?
(1:25) / (1:30)
Before dismissing the class, assign pages from Unit 1 in the coursebook as homework.
Tell the students you look forward to learning with them.
Donald Edem Quist is author of the short story collection Let Me Make You a Sandwich and the nonfiction collection Harbors. His work has appeared in North American Review, The Rumpus, Puerto del Sol, Hunger Mountain, J Journal, Vol 1. Brooklyn, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, Cleaver, Knee-Jerk, The Adroit Journal, Pithead Chapel, Numéro Cinq, The Nervous Breakdown, Slag Glass City, Publishers Weekly and other print and online publications. He is a four-time Pushcart Prize nominee, runner-up for the Howard Frank Mosher Short Fiction Prize and a winner of the E.L. Doctorow and Peter Matthiessen Authors Competition from the Writers’ Workshop of Asheville. He is creator of the web project PAST TEN, co-host of the Poet in Bangkok podcast and serves as Fiction Editor for Atlas and Alice. He received a fellowship from Kimbilio Fiction and earned his MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Find him online at iamdonaldquist.com