Thursday evening. School is done for another week. No work Friday and Monday is a holiday. It’s the mid-Autumn Festival. I was always taught that Autumn began on September 21st and considering it’s September 8th now it’s kind of confusing. But it works for me as it’s a day off.
It’s hard for me to realize my schedule has 9 teaching hours. That’s not a lot and I was told I’d get 16. However, I can’t believe how tiring these 9 hours are. A lot of it has to do with the lack of participation by the class leaving me to talk for nearly 80 minutes in a 90-minute session. (There is 10 minutes for break so I don’t talk). The kids are self-conscious about speaking so I’ve given up asking for volunteers and I just call out names. I’m constantly surprised when I get answers that aren’t too bad. They’re not brilliant but they indicate to me some knowledge of English so therefore there is something to work with.
My extreme teaching depression coming from the textbooks is over. I’ve decided to go with the idea of giving the class an assignment to write a short speech (we’re starting with 30 seconds) every class. I will then randomly pick out about 8 students in a class and have them come to the front to speak. I told them that the 30 seconds didn’t include the time they spend giggling out of nervousness. The class must listen and ask questions. I will be giving a test based on what the student’s spoke about. My first topic I gave them was “My Best Day”. Wait, it might have been “My Best Friend”. I have to take notes on what I do in class. Okay, it’s sucks but let’s start small. So if Amy tells us that Wang Wei is her best friend because she always gives her money, the test might have questions like “Who is Amy’s best friend and why”?
So there are 20 to 30 kids who won’t speak in that class but they have had to write out their little speech. The next time they might be called on and it will a different speech that they’ll deliver. So everyone writes for every class and some of them speak. I discussed this idea with the person who I think is my best (or one of my best) student and he liked it. He thought it was good and that’s good enough for me.
As I said, I’m starting off with 30 seconds and I told them they could read what they wrote. I will be lengthening the speechifying time and will change things to “not reading” but memorizing and speaking.
So that’s a load off my mind. I might throw in some lectures on things in the textbook but I can’t use the reading passages or the listening passages they provide so it’ will just be lectures and explanations without examples. It might work.
I have 2 subjects. One is “Advanced English” and the other is “Study Skills”. The daily public speaking is for the “Advanced English” class. I will use the textbook for “Study Skills” and I’ll be dumbing it down during the lectures. It might lead to some good discussions and study skills are for everything and not just English.
As I was proving to myself that the listening examples were no good by playing one and confirming the kids understood less than 20% of it (except for 1 or 2), we got on the topic of “same sex relationships”. I’m pretty sure that this is something they don’t discuss in any class, or with any adult. I am hoping for more of these serious and adult conversations. I went around the room asking each student if they thought a gay relationship was okay. I was surprised that about 60% said it was okay and 40% said it wasn’t. Since talk about gays is pretty much taboo as far as I’ve surmised from reading in the Toronto papers that have stories on China, and from what Shujie tells me, I expected more against it. I was pleased to learn I was wrong.
I asked a few of the kids why they were against it. I was curious. It was hard to get an answer. I don’t even think they know. I’d get answers like “I just am”, and “I love girls”. That’s okay. I’m hoping that these little controversial subjects inspire them to speak more.
I wonder if the students do any homework. They claim they get about an hour a night but it seems like there is always music blaring over the school’s outdoor loudspeakers so how could they study? I can’t complain about it as they wouldn’t listen to me.
The other thing that really bothers me is how dirty and disgusting the classrooms are. The floors and walls are cement so the sound bounces all over the place. Everything is dirty. If they were nicer it might inspire the students more. But of course money is the issue.
We have become sort of friends with our upstairs neighbor who is Korean and the Korean teacher. He looks about 25 and is a nice kid. His English is very good and so is his Chinese. He studied both English and Chinese in University. He came over for about an hour after classes today and it was a nice visit. He had the same issues as I do in class (kids not talking) but he’s a trained teacher. I learned he doesn’t like to drink because he’s a Christian. I don’t know what that has to do with imbibing some alcohol but to each his own. I forgive him his religion.
Tomorrow we’re going to Nanjing for 3 nights. We’re going to sightsee and stay in a decent hotel so it should be nice. There are some interesting things to see (at least they sound interesting) and there is shopping that can be done and Western restaurants to be found. Perhaps we’ll dine at Tony Roma’s. (I’m disgusting).
I’m bringing the camera so I should get lots of pictures. The weather looks to be rotten for the next few days (rain, rain and more rain) but what can you do? I’m looking forward to a comfortable hotel bed, a bathroom that’s bigger than a closet, another Big Mac, the museum about the “Rape of Nanjing” and other things. This museum promises to be horrifying in it’s displays of Japanese inhumanity back in 1937 when they invaded Nanjing.