Some days are better than others

Now isn’t that an original title?  How do I think these things up?  I truly amaze myself at times.  I’m tired.  I need sleep.  I don’t like to go to sleep early and I hate waking up at 6:21.  If I had morning classes I could sleep in the afternoon but my Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday afternoons are all booked up.  Woe is me.

I didn’t realize I haven’t posted since Monday.  I usually post every 2 days and now it’s three.  Is time flying or am I just out of it?  Who knows.

Tuesday I began with my class of stupid cheaters.  I pointed out how they cheat and I assured them I’m not stupid.  I reminded them that I’ve been around a lot longer than them so I know all the cheating tricks.  I told some of them that I was disappointed in them because I know they are smarter than that.  I hope it was just a one shot deal.  I just had to waste time with a class on cheating.  Sheesh.

When it was time for my first class with my one of my 1st year classes, no  one showed up.  The idiot head of the English department came in the room and asked me where the students were.  Doh!  How the hell do I know.  Then she said, “it’s not my fault”, and I knew it wasn’t.  How insecure of her to say that.  It seems the head teacher of that class didn’t get the message to the kids.  Since we weren’t sure about the 2nd group I was to come back to teach but if no one showed up, I could just leave.  They showed up.

I felt a different vibe on Tuesday.  No one really talks to me or says hello to me.  It’s weird.  People, especially students, should smile at the strange foreigner and say hello.  Maybe after 1 year of school they’re jaded.  Anyhow, starting Tuesday, I was getting hello’s for lots of people I’d never seen before.  Naturally, not all of them were my students.  I was quite pleased.

The new students seemed pumped to have a foreigner as a teacher.  For more than 90% of them I’m the first foreign English teacher they’ve ever had.  These kids are lucky.  There are about 3,000 new students and I have 70 of them.  So many lose out.  I wonder how they choose the winning classes.  It’s not that I’m great, but I’m the only exposure they’ll get to English spoken properly and all the other benefits of having me.

One little girl (okay, she’s 19 but tiny) came up to me and starts blabbering in Chinese that morning.  I told her I didn’t speak Chinese but she kept talking to me in Chinese.  She was with a friend who spoke to me in English.  Naturally the one who only spoke Chinese is in my class while the other one who spoke English isn’t.  But I invited her to my Tuesday movie night and told her that I was available for talking any time she’d like to arrange something.  She came to the movie Tuesday night and came to one of my classes today.  She’s a real sweetie so I guess that’s why she’s not in my class.

I do a great opening “dog and pony” show.  I do the blurb about my background and why I’m here and that I’m not Chinese and a bunch of other things.  Then they all talk about themselves.  Some are very brief.  For example, “my name is xxxxx, I am 19 years old.  Over.”  It’s very illuminating.  My favourite was a girl who said, “My name is xxxxx.  I am Chinese.”  Did I laugh and so did the class and she was rather embarrassed when she realized what she said.  I faked a heart attack and said, “You’re kidding!”.  It was quite funny.

I have one boy who had an English tutor (I think) from England.  His vocabulary is quite good but he didn’t shut up.  He even sang a song.  I think his classmates were yelling at him in Chinese to sit down and shut up.  After class some of them wanted my phone number so I gave it out and I got a message from him asking for my QQ address (it’s like MSN) so we could chat online.  I told him I didn’t chat online so he wrote back that it was okay, we could chat on the phone sometimes.  I hope he makes some friends.  I really hope so.

On Tuesday night I showed Rocky.  The kids said they liked it and I loved it.  I had new students there and some of my old ones.  The ones I only have on Thursday’s now didn’t show up because they mostly forgot.

Wednesday I returned to the hospital for blood work and to have a doctor figure out what blood tests to do.  Of course I had the results of my last blood tests with me but he needed to do this by himself.  I think it’s because he doesn’t read English.  It’s frustrating.  After all this I was told that I should go to this hospital in Nanjing that has a bunch of doctors who were trained in the U.S.  So that’s tomorrow.  I need to go through all this to get all my prescriptions in order but what a pain.  I’m not looking forward to this.  We’re going to stay in Nanjing tomorrow night and hit the Super-Walmart on Saturday in search of Western delicacies.

Wednesday night my “tutoring” student Beata (don’t ask) came over.  Her English is terrible but she’s trying.  It took a while to explain what “inside” and “outside” meant.  But she’s a sweet kid and she brought apples with her.  So she has good manners and a pretty smile.  She shows up at the movies and she’s interested in learning.  Shujie likes her but doesn’t think she’s very bright (and we’re not counting English).  But I say if they’ll try, I’ll try to help.  She asked to borrow a DVD from me and I leant her one.  It’s against my policy but since she’s not a real student of mine I leant her “The Wizard of Oz”.  I hope she likes it.

Also on Wednesday I got 6 extra students in one of my classes.  They came to audit the class.  They’re interested in English and I’m the only foreigner in town.  I was quite pleased to have them.  I wish they were my students instead of some of the lunkheads I have.  I may be able to build a harem of English loving young ladies.  It’s a bit of a high when they like you and laugh at your jokes because they really do think they’re funny.  There are a lot of nice kids here.  And then there are others.

Some of the names of my new students are “Michael Jordon”, “Kobe”, “Orange”, “Blue”, “Green”, “Red”, “Brad Pitt”, and “Nine”.  I understand the basketball tributes but the colours?  I don’t get it.

Today I separated 2 boys so they wouldn’t be sitting beside each other and talking.  This is college.  It’s ridiculous.  I gave them this break since it’s the first week.  Next week I start kicking them out.  My pleasant personality makes them think they can talk in class.  Today I had to slam a cupboard door to get their attention and after that there was no talking.

I gave another of my standard speeches to my 2nd year class today.  I asked them if they understood what they had taken in the textbook so far (all 7 pages).  Naturally no one says anything.  So I take a deep sigh and start around the room to ask each student individually.  The first one hesitated and I’m telling him it’s okay to say that you don’t understand.  He sucked it up and admitted he didn’t understand.  Good for him.  Most of them didn’t understand.  One boy who knows nothing and never pays attention said he understands but I just laughed at him.  I have a few students who I trust and when they say they don’t understand, I know that it’s close to no one understands.  The highest I got was one girl who said she almost understands.  I believe her.  She’s the kind that’s a joy to have in a class.

I tell them that it’s their responsibility to tell me when they don’t understand so I can explain things better.  I do the “I work for you” speech.  I hope it works this time.  I know this book is hard and I’ll “dumb it down” as much as I can.  But I need the feedback.  I don’t know why those that want to learn don’t tell me when they don’t understand.  I know it’s an Asian thing but I just can’t accept that.

I guess in a month or two they’ll beat the enthusiasm out of me but I hope not.  I hope I can beat the desire into them before they beat the desire out of me.  If only you could cherry-pick the students who get to do spoken English with the foreigner.  It would be a bit of heaven.  I’d feel quite worthwhile and the students would appreciate learning with someone who can help them and cares.  Maybe in the next life.

1 comment
  1. Tomas said:

    Hmmm … I don’t ever remember going through these “talking sessions” in classes during my college days … not even in the huge lecture auditorium, where speakers had incredible hearing perception of the “deep” … maybe time have change … nice read …

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