Last year I heard stories of rambunctious Japanese students sleeping, using their cellphones, and walking around the room during class. Unlike them, my classes were angels. The only problem I faced were that some pupils were not interested in English. Of course it had nothing to do with me, and was because of the quality of their Japanese teachers and the way they were raised.
This past week I started teaching my Chinese students. Wednesday and Thursday was more of the same from my kids, even in the class my Chinese colleague described as “naughty.” I wrote in my teaching notebook “don’t pat myself on the back too much here … only the 1st [few] day[s] and I didn’t actually teach them any [new] English” despite writing this, deep down I was like “I am the flipping MAN!”
Friday morning Stuart and I had class first period with a group that had been described as “naughty” sometimes. Class began at 8:10, and as were trolling the 3rd floor around 8:09 we realized that this 8th grade classroom was not near the other 8th grade classrooms, we dashed up to the 4th floor, where it wasn’t either, then back to the 2nd, arriving around 8:12 to the correct room to see their home room teacher waiting for us.
She walked out without saying a word.
Late, embarassed and flustered I walked in and started my warmup which I’d done with relative success in my prior 5 classes. If I say “jump” then the kids jump, if I say “cry” the kids cry, and so on. It bombed with these kids. Usually a few kids are not amused, but they still go through the motions. There was a group of boys there who not only were not amused, but refused to comply at all merely staring at me with a look of
“What do you want?”
Already off my game, that shot my confidence even more and I never really recovered for the duration of the lesson. Kids continued to talk loudly while I gave instructions, ignore their classmates at the front of the room and hit eachother.
Overall, very minor transgressions to be sure, and due in large part to us showing up late, and having a lesson plan that just was not very engaging. It just goes to show how spoiled I have been as a teacher, and how much I shall learn this coming schoolyear. And, while it was a good “experience” it did shake me a little, so I was happy that the afternoon classes went far smoother.
From 8:30 to 11:00 and from 14:30 to 17:00, if we don’t have class Stuart and I are supposed to sit in the English office. During my interview I was told that if I didn’t have class, I did not need to be at the office. As such, initially when I was informed I’d have to sit in the office during non-teaching hours. I panicked, and thought “oh this is the only the first step of lying to me about my contract! Next thing I know I’ll be laying bricks on the new campus!” I called the boss of my company and complained. She said she’d look into it.
Once I realized it only really meant I’d be sitting for about an hour or so most days, as I usually have 5 classes a day, I felt like a total ass. After she’d looked into it, I apologized to my boss for wasting her time.
It’s actually a cool place, and it gives me a chance to get to know some of the non-English teaching Chinese teachers. So far our conversations have been limited, with their limited English and my non-existant Chinese. We’ve still had fun, though. They’re slowly teaching me Chinese, and we’ve made plans to play basketball.
The dynamic is very unique amongst the other teaching offices I’ve observed. If you’re finished with a glass of water, you pour the other half on the floor. If you’re smoking a cigarette, you ash on the floor. Male teachers regularly break into song. And, while there isn’t cold water available, there are several big jugs like these
which are filled with very hot water, which is used both for tea and just for drinking. According to one of the English teachers in China they don’t drink tap water.
Everybody has these glass jars which they drink from. If they want to make tea, instead of using a teapot or a bag, they just put the leaves directly into the jar with hot water, which I find to be far cooler.
I bought one of those jars called a “CLASSIC CUP” on the box Wednesday night. On my second afternoon of use Friday I hit something as I was brining it up from the floor and it flew two and a half feet before shattering in the middle of the teacher’s office.
Everyone was very chill. Nobody laughed or clapped, instead they said “no problem” in English and cleaned it up for me as I stood helpless and confused watching.
My favorite part of the schedule is the two and a half hour break for lunch. Apparently many Chinese nap during this time, and I think culture wide mid-day naps, a la siesta’s in spain, are about the best thing ever.
Given it was a Friday, Stuart and I decided it’d be natural to go out for a bit. Beforehand we played basketball for about a half an hour which was great for me as I’m not one to exercise of my own volition, and Stuart is all about it. We decided to explore “downtown”, which is so far defined as the areas surrounding the biggest department store, McDonalds and KFC.
As we strolled we were surprised how much shopping is available. There are dozens of big stores, one Addidas, others like the Chinese J-Crew, Gap and Banana Republic, then there’s also many small boutiques.
For dinner we settled on this building,
Sat down, were given a menu completely in Chinese characters which we couldn’t understand, then took the waitresses recommendation, which was a complete mystery to us.
Worked out for the best, as we were served two still sizzling hot plates filled with thin pepper steaks and eggs. Far more than we were expecting, and definitely a place worth visiting again.
Afterwards we again walked, passed by some torch work which was sending sparks down to the street
down a road completely under construction, but which had some of the best looking restaurants around and back to the main drag where we bought a couple of beers and chilled at the outdoor tables with the locals. We were having a usual faux-intellectual conversation that comes up when single moderately intelligent males drink without other unknown single females around for more interesting conversations to start, when this girl came up to us.
“ My friend wants to speak English with you.”
We invited him over, but he was shy, obviously I guess considering the girl was coming over on his behalf, and stayed put. Eventually she came back again and invited us to her table – an invitation we accepted, and then had a wonderful time chatting with her and her two male companions.
“So what do young people do in Anqing for fun?” I asked.
“They go to bar.”
“Where is bar?” I replied, excitedly. Stuart and I had been unable to find one.
“There.” he pointed across the street to a big neon sign that said “BAR” in English.
By the time we’d left they’d invited us to dinner tomorrow followed by a guided tour to the river, where there’s also a temple and a bar.
Note, my “Where is bar?” is not a typo, it’s an example of the English I tend to speak with marginally good non-native speakers.
The diary entry above was written on the morning of September 5th, 2009 about September 4th, 2009.