Selover and Schmitt Fill Shimazu’s Absence

Students across six different classes are adjusting to new teachers, after Gregory Selover, Teaching Fellow in Japanese, and Ying Schmitt, Instructor in Chinese, stepped in as substitutes for Teruyo Shimazu, Instructor in Japanese, while she is on maternity leave. Eighteen Japanese-100 students now have Selover as their teacher. He is teaching Shimazu’s two Japanese-100 sections in addition to his own Japanese-200 and Japanese-300 classes. Schmitt is teaching Shimazu’s Japanese-400 and Japanese-600 classes in addition to her own Chinese 640 section. The instructor changes affected not only students in Shimazu’s Japanese classes but also students in several of Schmitt’s Chinese classes. Because of her new responsibilities in the Japanese Department, Schmitt was no longer able to teach her Chinese-100 and Chinese-300 classes. To solve this problem, the Department of World Languages combined two Chinese-100 classes, freeing up Lixia Ma, Instructor and Chair in Chinese, to take Schmitt’s 300 level class. Ma also teaches two periods of Chinese-520. Peter Neissa, Head of the Division of World Languages, said, “Nothing is perfect, but are the students losing ground? No. Are they working on what they’re supposed to do? Yes.” Ma said, “[The transition] was a little unexpected. The change itself was really hard to pick up right away, but it is not as difficult now.” The teacher that was originally hired to temporarily replace Shimazu submitted her resignation on October 8, only two days before Shimazu delivered her baby. Because Shimazu’s delivery was five weeks premature, the Department of World Languages did not have time to search for and hire another substitute. Neissa said, “When Phillips Academy hires someone, it’s a grueling process for any department.” “Every teacher has to go through a CORI [Criminal Offender Record Information] check, [which] is a criminal background check. They need to go through interviews with me, the department, all the deans, the athletic director and the dean of Community and Multicultural Development [CAMD].This process [takes] at least three weeks,” he explained. In order to find someone to fill in for Shimazu, Neissa instead turned to current teachers within the language department. He knew that Schmitt, though an Instructor in Chinese, had lived in Japan for ten years and was able to teach Japanese. He recommended Schmitt to Temba Maqubela, Dean of Faculty, who approved the decision. Because the switches were immediate and unanticipated, Schmitt and Selover did not have the opportunity to observe Shimazu’s classes beforehand. They are now closely following Shimazu’s syllabi to teach their new classes. Despite the suddenness of the transition, Schmitt said, “This is a very good opportunity for me to remind myself of Japanese, since I haven’t lived in Japan since 1993. I speak Japanese with people, but [speaking a] language is always different from writing or reading language.” According to Schmitt, there have been funny moments during class when she has not known the current definition of certain words. She said, “I wonder at times, am I ancient now?” Julia Smachlo ’13, who now has Ma instead of Schmitt for Chinese-300, said, “Ma and Ms. Schmitt have very different teaching styles, but they are both very good. It has been a pretty smooth transition.” Zoe Gallagher ’14, whose Chinese-300 instructor also changed from Schmitt to Ma, wrote in an email to The Phillipian, “The students are slightly frustrated by [the switch of] instructors in the middle of the term, mostly because it is hard to adjust to a new teaching style after finally feeling settled with the first one.” Alex Kim ’14, who is in the same situation as Smachlo and Gallagher, said, “It has been very confusing to have two different teachers in just the first half of the fall term, each with different teaching and grading methods.” Sierra Jamir ’14, who has Schmitt for Japanese-400, said, “I know Ms. Schmitt is trying hard to speed up the class, but [she’s] coming from the Chinese department which teaches at a more rigorous pace… our class isn’t quite adjusting.” Neissa added, “I think the parents are more concerned [than students], especially at the upper level, and rightfully so, because they are thinking about student performances. Disruption is a legitimate concern, but we are trying the best we can, given the situation that required immediate coverage.”