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Monthly Archives: June 2012

I cry easily.  I always have and I probably always will.  I cry at movies.  Even comedies.  One sappy scene and I’m tearing up.  But for some strange reason (maybe superior self-control), I didn’t cry yesterday (Tuesday).  I’m starting to write this now while it’s all still fresh in my mind.

On Sunday evening we were dinner guests at a BBQ restaurant with one of my 2 freshman classes.  We all sat outside and it was very nice.  I like BBQ so I could eat which is always a bonus.  Now I’ve always mentioned that these kids look so young.  On Sunday I shared my observation that at the beginning of the year they all looked like they were 12 years old.  Now they look 16.  I guess they’re growing up.

They were drinking beer.  There is nothing wrong with that as they are 20 to 21 and there is no legal drinking age in China.  It just looked so strange to me to see these little toddlers drinking beer.  I almost said (and I’m serious), “Should you be drinking that”?  Luckily I shut up first.

These girls are mostly small.  Tiny small.  I would figure that it wouldn’t take much to get them drunk.  Two girls got blotto within 45 minutes.  They both couldn’t stand or say a coherent sentence in any language.  One of the two girls was crying and crying.  Why?  I don’t know.  They were among the drunkest human beings I’d ever seen.  They were probably more drunk than Sayoon ever was, and she could get very fall-down drunk.

Now here is the good thing.  The culture here is that you take care of your classmates.  A couple of the girls got a taxi and took the two of them back to the dorm and then they came back.  I love how they look out for each other.  The other thing I was thinking was that if it wasn’t a class function and they were that drunk, it wouldn’t be surprising (Chinese or not) if they woke up the next morning in some strange bed.

It was interesting and the whole event was quite nice.  Everyone had to come over and toast me.  They love to toast here.  I was toasting with my Coke and they with their beer.  Now when you toast, you drain your glass to show respect.  There were a lot of drained glasses.

There were a lot of hugs at the end.  It was nice and warm and I could feel the love.  I’m not an idiot and I know I will soon be a distant memory, but at that moment in time it was all sincere and that’s what matters.  I could feel that I had touched a few lives, and they had touched mine.  And all this hugging in a very non-hugging culture means a lot to me.  One girl kissed me on my cheeks.  It’s such a compliment that they feel that comfortable with me that they can step into my culture and show their feelings.

I had told both my classes that I would be in the classroom Tuesday morning if anyone wanted to stop by and talk.  I expected 1 person (Mandy) to be there.  I was flabbergasted.  In the 1st class out of 28 students, 23 showed up.  I think some of them came because they didn’t understand that they didn’t have to come.  I think some came because even though I said they didn’t have to, I’m the teacher and they better cover their asses and show up.  Then there was the 3rd group of which I believe there were more than 10.  When I asked, “why are you all here?”, Mandy said it was because they wouldn’t have many more chances to see me.  And for some of them, that was true.  They might not be the most brilliant students in the world, but I think they are good people.  And I tell them that being a good person is much more important than speaking English well.  I thanked them for helping this to be a great year for me.

Naturally I talked the most.  I got some questions (how old were you when you had your first girlfriend?) but I had to blabber on or there was silence.  Everyone stayed the full 90 minutes and when the bell sounded I received a few gifts.  The first was a card from Kimoko which I have photographed.  I can’t express properly how good it made me feel to read her words.  She is one of my favourite people here.  I tried to get an answer out of her as to whether all she wanted to do was go to school and then get married, but she wouldn’t say.  I think she is one of the students who I just wonder what the hell they are doing here.  It must be extreme laziness.  What is good is that those who want can take an exam after the 2nd year and if they pass, they can go to university.  I hope a lot of them follow through and do that.

Then Mandy gave me a notebook that she had inscribed.  I have photographed it and it’s below.  She talks about her memory of New Year’s eve when she told me she would never forget this night.  If you look at the right under name it says “Martin” and for address she wrote, “live in Mandy’s heart”.  There is no reason to write that except if you feel it.  Once again I’m honoured and touched.  I told her last night that of course I remember New Year’s eve because it was very special to me.  Mandy and Nine took me in hand and we walked arm in arm to the activities (with Shujie following).  What made it special for me was that it wasn’t teacher and student, it was friends.  Here I am, almost 58, being accepted as an equal and a friend to these 20 year old girls.

I can’t explain properly how I feel.  I guess it’s what everyone who ever wanted to be a teacher dreams of.  You want to make that connection.  I now know you can’t make the connection with everyone, but you can make the connection with a few and that is something to be quite thankful for.

There were a couple of other gifts and some pictures.  Below is a card they made me and gave me last night with a couple of pictures in it that they ran out and got developed.  How freaking sweet!

Last night was the final movie of the year.  It’s really weird.  Three weeks ago it was “Schindler’s List” which was mandatory.  Before that I would average 10 to 15 girls (no boys) each week.  The girls were regulars so that made me feel good.  Some were there for the English, some were there to see Western culture, but they were all there to see a good movie.  I gave them a taste of everything from “Princess Bride” to “Clockwork Orange”.

Last week it was not mandatory and there were about 40 there for the movie.  Why?  I have no idea.  Last night there were 39 (or maybe more) and I don’t know why.  Where were they before?  Shujie thinks it’s because they now their time to see me is running short.  But in the movie, I don’t talk to anyone, I sit alone, I don’t discuss the movie (I don’t want them to feel it’s “school”), and they tear out of the movie like bats out of hell.  But they were there and maybe Shujie was right.

Here are a couple of pictures with each class and me.  Shujie figured out how to do it for the 2nd class so the 1st class picture is bad.  What can I say?  I’m overwhelmed.

What’s really nice about this is something like Mandy’s gift.  If this was the West and some girl wrote that I think I would wonder, “is it sexual”, “are they after something from me”, “what’s their game”.  But I’m here in China and I understand something of the culture.  It is what it is.  It’s an expression of feeling with no sexual overtones and no hidden meanings.

We’re here for another week and I told them they could call and we could get together.  I don’t expect to hear from anyone.  I mean, how many times can you say goodbye.  In the privacy of my apartment I can think about all this and let the warmth come over me.  I don’t have to worry about keeping a “stiff upper lip”.  I haven’t cried but this is as close as I’ve ever come to being touched without tears.

This morning Shujie and I went to see the Dean of the school.  We had one mission and that was to sing the praises of Wang Jing.  All people ever do is complain to managers and bosses.  We believe in telling the boss when someone is really good.  I spoke and Shujie translated.  I think he was pleased.  Shujie said she had never heard of anyone in China ever telling the boss about good people.  They only hear complaints.  I wanted him to know how lucky he is and how good and kind Wang Jing is.  Later Shujie heard from Wang Jing because the Dean reported to her what we had said.  That’s good.  I was hoping he would say something to her.  We didn’t tell her what we were doing as it wasn’t so we would look good.  But if the Dean tells her, then he is pleased, Wang Jing is pleased, and Shujie and I are pleased.

It’s crazy right now.  I’m a jumble of feelings.  I will miss many things about here, and I hope I’m this lucky next year.  I found out I’m teaching culture and writing which doesn’t thrill me.  But I will twist the textbooks they give me to work for me.  A culture textbook!  Western culture is many different things.  If you are raised Jewish your culture is different than some raised Christian.  So I guess the textbook sticks to stereotypes or avoids the intricacies of culture.

It’s now Saturday morning and I’ll finish this post off.  It’s been a pretty boring week with no classes and just waiting to leave on Wednesday.  The library did give me a notebook as a gift.  I’ve never been to the library but Shujie gave them some novels (in Chinese) that I had bought.  So I get the gift.  A thank you would have been fine and the thank you should have been for Shujie.  Oh well, everyone loves the white guy.

The dean of the school told Wang Jing about our visit so I was very pleased about that.  She was pleased and surprised we did that.  Shujie figures her idiot boss Christie will hate her even more when she finds out, but that’s beyond our control.  If someone does an outstanding job, you should tell their boss.  This is not done in China so once again I’ve broken new ground with my foreigner ways.

We are getting organized and it’s not too bad.  We have a bunch of stuff we’re shipping to Baotou so we don’t bring too much stuff with us for the summer.  I usually bring 3 times as many clothes as I need but I’m getting better.  I have no more than 2 times the clothes I need.  Shujie doesn’t have so many clothes as Asian people don’t change every day.  There is nothing wrong with that since they don’t smell either.  They don’t use deodorant and they smell just fine.  I change because I just feel dirty if I don’t.  I use to change my clothes about 3 times a day but now I’m almost normal and only change every day.

It’s the “Dragon Boat Festival” now.  Don’t ask.  I asked Shujie what it was and she didn’t know.  I asked Wang Jing and she said it was to honour some poet.  I think you race boats on the water.  Who knows?  Since I have no more classes, it doesn’t affect me.  If it were a day off it would be another story.

Today we are going to visit Wang Jing’s new house.  I’m told it is an actual house, which I’ve never seen here.  Everyone lives in apartments.  It’s quite nice of her to invite us, and Shujie and her have become quite close.  I hope they survive the breakup and I wonder how long they’ll stay in touch.  I would say they are “work friends” except Shujie doesn’t work here.  But the friendship pleases me and I’m quite fond of Wang Jing myself.  Doh, if I haven’t mentioned it 100 times already.

I don’t know if I’ll post over the summer.  I don’t think I’ll have many observations but you never know.  I will be back to regular posting at the start of September.  New city, new school, new students, new people.  I’m nervous and I hope the situation is good.  I don’t want any hassles.  Just leave me along and let me fumble through what I do.  I’m not thrilled teaching writing and culture.  I’d rather just do a generic oral English because I feel that’s my strength.  I will bend the culture course to my needs but the writing will be more of a challenge.

Julie (the one student I sort of tutor who visits once a week who I always lend movies and books to) came yesterday for the last time.  Did she say thank you to me?  Hah!  What a cold fish.  I should have told her that.  You say thank you when someone does something for you.  Weird.  Shujie thought she was a cold fish too and kind of strange.  She thought not saying thank you was rude.  I’m glad I called that one right.

I will leave you with a picture of the local pool hall.  There are many more tables than in the picture and yes, it is what you think it is.  It’s just pool tables lined up on the sidewalk and people pay to play.  It seems all the tables (or the way they sit) are warped so it makes the game quite interesting.  We’ve done it twice and had fun.

I will be at the same address, adventuresinjurong, come September.  I should change the name but how would my one or two followers find me if I did that?  So I’ll stay with what I have but it will really be adventures in Baotou.  Can you feel the excitement?

It looks like I’m done.  This past week were my “final exams” or what passes for them.  After final exams there are no classes although officially school goes until June 30.  So here I am stuck in China’s number one tourist city (I kid you not, they have a sign that says that), until we depart on June 27th.  I love doing nothing but it would be nice to have a few things to do to break the monotony.

Tonight we are going to a “barbeque party” that one of my classes is having.  I was honoured to be invited by them.  They first told me I was the only teacher they invited and then it changed (I think) to they invited other teachers which is fine.  Maybe I’m full of myself (and I can be at times), but I know that I am their favorite teacher.  Maybe not everyone, but more than 70% of the students.

I like to think of myself as the whirlwind that blew into their lives and showed them that things can be different.  Class doesn’t have to be the teacher talking, the students listening, and then the students leaving.  One student told me it was “disrespectful “ to tell a teacher you don’t understand they understand.  How fucked up is that.  I tell them that if they are listening and they don’t understand, it’s my fault and I need to explain it better.  I also tell them that if they don’t understand, there are at least 5 other students who don’t understand.

Does it matter?  Not now.  School year is over, they may never see another teacher, and I highly doubt they’ll ever have another crazy person like me.  And the things they learned (I hope) about how a class should work and students should learn are useless to them in China.  It’s a shame.  A big fucking shame.

I had one on one interviews with all my students this past week.  I heard some students speak for the first time.  I was amazed.  It takes forever to get over the shyness and the years of training to keep your mouth closed in class.  I think they all agreed they were free to speak in my class and some students told me they were afraid of some of their other teachers.  That’s sick.  How can you learn without a dialogue?  But I’m only a foreigner.  I know it’s the culture here, but the culture is wrong.  There is a better way to do something, so you change the culture.

I feel a little guilt showing them the other side and giving them something to miss.  But I have to be me and hope some of what I do sticks to them.  I thought everyone knew I was leaving the school but some students told me they hoped I would be their teacher next year.  It’s nice to hear.  And I will miss many of them.  I do care and wish the best for them.  I hope they push themselves to get into university.  I told them to stay in touch if they want and I’ll write.  We shall see.

I broke my rule.  I asked 2 girls if I could hug them.  There was another one who I wanted to ask but she seemed kind of nervous so I let it go.  One girl (and it was a surprise) asked to hug me.  Still waters run deep.

Only one girl cried and it was Mandy.  I knew she would cry.  She likes me as a person who she can observe different ways of doing things from.  I am so fond of Mandy (and Shujie adores her too).  I like in this country and I want to see more of it, and I want more mature students, but I will miss a lot of them.  I was nice to everyone and wished them all the best (even if I didn’t like them), but I did tell some of them that I enjoyed seeing their faces every day and it was true.  If you see the kids that care it takes a lot of pressure off and you can be yourself.  Of course being myself still involves putting on a show, but if I have the listeners, then I don’t have to care about those that don’t care.  I’m not their father.

I asked everyone what grade they felt deserved and most of them were in the ballpark which pleased me.  Some were on drugs.  I asked one student who I trusted how they could ask for a 90 where I feel they are lucky if I give them 65.  He told me that if a student comes to class and is never late, they get a good mark.  Good for them.  That’s the way to teach them.  Being on time doesn’t really count for much.  I don’t debate their arguments because I want them to talk.  And you get a few students who go too low so I will raise them.  Some students I told just told them how freaking happy I was at their improvement and that they made me feel so good.

I lasted a full year.  I did some good (I think).  I fell in love with some of my kids and they fell in love with me.  I know in 5 years (and probably much less) they won’t remember me.  But right now they have warm feelings and I will linger a bit in their minds.

I didn’t blubber which is amazing for me.  I worry for many of them.  How will they get out of this hole they’ve dug for themselves.  (This school is the hole.).  Maybe they learned and they can take an exam after the 2nd year and if they pass they can go to University.  I hope many of them try and succeed.  I only see their English and being good in English doesn’t mean you’re smart.  But I just have a feeling they can do better if they chose to.  I really hope I’m right.

I wish we were leaving this week.  I’d rather sit in Toronto and do nothing.  For a while anyways.

It’s funny.  So many people from North America tell me I’m crazy to do this.  There’s no money in it and what about your future?  All I can say if I am rich with this and other experiences.  I’ll die one day and then nothing matters.  But my trip there will be interesting.  I think I’m going to have to get an illegal passport to shave 10 years off my age so I can do this longer.  It’s not easy, but it’s not like work.  I learn, they learn.  I communicate (sometimes).  I’m a lucky guy that I can do this.  I’m lucky that I have a wife who doesn’t think I’m crazy to do this.  My kids, mother, and sister think I’m crazy, but they’ve always thought that.  But we’re all different and we chase our dreams in different ways.  My way is to see some of the world as a “resident” and not a “tourist”.  I have been one lucky S.O.B.

And if you’re in Baotou next winter (when it’s really cold) please come and visit.  I wish those that think I’m insane could see part of my life and what I get from it.  I write this blog but it doesn’t really catch the flavor.

I had one girl tell me she deserved an 85 (and I agreed) and one of her reasons was that she won two “Oscars” for the plays we did.  I got them to things they’d never done before.  I got them to show some responsibility (not all of them, but most of them).  I am so pleased I didn’t underestimate them like everyone else does.  They are not Einstein’s but neither are they total morons (or most of them aren’t).

I showed “The Green Mile” last Tuesday and it wasn’t mandatory to attend.  We had a big crowd and half the headphones for sound didn’t work.  I asked one girl who rarely comes to movies why she went and she told me that she wasn’t going to get many more chances to see me.  She didn’t talk to me but I guess she was showing her love and respect.  What can I say?  I ‘m honoured to have drawn out those feelings in her.

I will probably post once more before I leave.  I don’t know about the summer.  It might be quite sporadic.  In the fall I’ll be back in business but I don’t want to change the title from “adventures injuring” to “adventuresinbaotou” because my 2 of 3 followers may have trouble following me.

I’m happy.  I did the year.  It was a success.  I an do this.  I have a talent.  I touched some lives.  Some lives touched mine.  I’m one freaking lucking guy.

As some people might say, 17 more “sleeps” until we leave for Toronto.  It seems like just last September that the school year began.  Oh wait, it did begin in September.  It’s ebbed, it’s flowed, it’s been fun, it’s been annoying, it’s been invigorating, it’s been tiring, and so on.

I’ve decided a school year should be 8 months long.  Ten months is too long.  I’m about out of ideas and energy after 8 months.  And if the students did any work, they’d be tired too.  But I ‘m sure many of them will graduate with honors in “playing computer games”.  Oh wait; there is no “playing computer games” degree.  What will these people do?  I don’t know and I don’t care.  I can’t lose sleep or waste energy on those who are too stupid to care.  I need to give my energy to those that have a shot at improving themselves.

This week is the last week for me of “classes”.  It’s my “exam” where I will ask the students what they deserve and why.  I’ve told them to not give me any B.S. marks.  Anyone from my elective at the MaoShan campus who said they deserved a 100 got a 60 (minimum to pass) or a 65 (if I was feeling kind).  Honesty counts.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  Technically I’m the “English Teacher”.  But I don’t see myself as that.  I’m here to show the softer side of life and teachers, and different alternatives to the way people think.  There are many good ways in China, but not everything.  Some things from the West are better, and some are worse.

I try and get them to think for themselves and to be creative.  English is just the tool I need to communicate.  I’m sure I’ve said this before but I believe in this.  Every student, good or bad, had the opportunity to speak without fear of someone telling him or her they’re stupid or wrong.  It was up to them to open their mouths on their own.  If they didn’t then there is nothing I can do.  I can’t force people to make an effort.  Some took advantage and some chose to stay stupid (the way I look at it).  They saw this as an “English class” but those who could see beneath the surface (and there were a few) knew I was trying to pass something else along.

I’m curious as to what they’ll say as to what they deserve.  I want to know what I did right, and what I did wrong.  I want to know what helped and what didn’t help.  And I want to know why those that didn’t give a damn or make an effort didn’t give a damn or make an effort.  Everyone passes although I don’t know if they realize this.

I did my Holocaust lesson this week.  Instead of one day I split it into 2 days.  90 minutes isn’t enough and 3 hours aren’t enough, but it’s a start.  Shujie sat in the class with me for fast translation of things and to give the students an opportunity to ask questions in Chinese if they couldn’t in English.

In one of the classes all stereotypes went out the door.  I would have thought this topic would interest the boys more.  In this class all the boys sat at the back and didn’t pay attention.  The girls (or most of them) listened.  I looked in their eyes and you can see who is paying attention and who isn’t.  I was quite pleased and I think they got something out of it.  Now they have a little more knowledge and the opportunity if they so choose to go and look for more.  I gave them 56 pages in Chinese on different things in the Holocaust so they can read if they want.

The boys in this class were a huge disappointment.

In my other class that only has 3 boys (because I got rid of 8 idiots by offering them a pass mark if I never had to look at them again), most of the students appeared to be interested.  There were a few students who paid no attention because choosing to stay stupid is always an option.  One boy slept.  He was one of my top students in the first semester but he just doesn’t care anymore.  He complained to me once about his class and I said he can talk in my class and it doesn’t matter if no one else does.  But he just chooses to do nothing and just sleep most of the time.  I heard from someone else in his class that he’s up all night playing with his PSP (Personal Play Station).  I guess they’re giving out diplomas in that.

They didn’t ask enough questions.  Why?  I don’t know.  They could talk in English or Chinese.  Are they just stupid and don’t give a damn about anything?  I don’t know.  Maybe they are just speechless at the horror of it all.  That’s a possibility.

On Tuesday night I showed Schindler’s List because that shows some of the horror quite graphically, and it also shows what one good person in capable of.  I haven’t seen the movie since it came out in the theater and it was fabulous.  I made the movie mandatory for the first time ever.  If you were late you would lose 10 marks from your final grade and if you didn’t show up you would lose 20 marks from your final grade.

One student turned up late (I knew he would since he’s always late and he just sleeps), and one student didn’t turn up.  That was Mr. PSP whose excuse I heard was that he doesn’t like movies.  I didn’t want any excuses but what kind of reason is “I don’t like movies” to not go to a mandatory class.  That’s like skipping an exam because you don’t like exams.  Insanity.

Even the “dummies” came (the 8 I chased out of class this semester).  I think the announcement they got was that “everyone” had to come.  I let them stay but I really wanted to say, “get out of here”.  They’re a perfect example of choosing to stay stupid.

I won’t fail anyone in English.  It’s not like they’re going to be doctors and they might hurt someone, it’s English and a failure to speak English doesn’t kill anyone.  So Mr. PSP can’t lose 20 since that would take him below 60 (minimum pass) but he’s guaranteed his 60.

I don’t think they sit there and decide, “will I be stupid or will I learn?”  But it’s the same thing.  So many shouldn’t be here but I can’t worry about them.  For those that try I wish them the best and hope they find their niche.  As for the dummies, it’s too bad and so sad, but it would be a waste of my energy to feel anything for them.  At the age of 20 you must make your own decisions.  I know the culture is different and I think it might have a tendency to screw kids up.  There’s a lot of pressure from home and you’re supposed to please you parents.  Pleasing your parents is nice, but you have to make yourself happy.  I think those who are just wasting their time should go and start sweeping streets now (if they can get that job).

I’m sorry more students didn’t take advantage to just come and talk with me.  Two students all year, that’s it.  Julie still comes once a week and Beata stopped when she left to work.  Her courses were finished but she was back this week and she came by to say goodbye.  I felt really good seeing her.  It was so funny, instead of looking like a 12 year old; she looked like a pretty young lady of about 20.  She just came up to me and gave me a hug goodbye, which made me feel good.

That’s two freaking students who made a decision to try and get better.  I won’t try to understand why so few.  I offered enough times and then just gave up offering.  It has been one of the big disappointments here.

I’m glad I came here.  I learned a lot.  I met a lot of young people I like.  I met Wang Jing who I “love”.  I met Eleanor (the other English teacher) who showed me how she “teaches” English (not like me).  It’s all good.

If you put the good on one side of the scale, and the bad on the other side, the good far outweighs the bad.  I don’t know how much I’ll miss this place.  A lot will depend on how next year goes.  I am hoping it’s better in terms of students.  I’m pretty sure these kids actually have to qualify to go to this school unlike this one.  I hope no one hassles me and just leaves me alone.  I’m trying to not get my hopes up too high but why shouldn’t it be great?  It’s a new part of the country with different people so that should be interesting.  It’s with kids who actually want to learn so that should be good.  But when all is said and done, the answer lies in the future.

I’m just so happy to say for the first time, I’m glad I did this and I think I did have a positive effect on a few students.  That’s a great feeling.

Life is so every day.  Nothing is new.  I haven’t been anywhere exciting lately.  I’ve had no adventures.  It’s a life like any other only it’s in China.

I’m not bored and I didn’t expect excitement 24/7, but it’s too normal now.  Maybe it’s because the year is winding down.  Maybe I’m tired.  I’m sure it will be a new ballgame beginning in September in a new city, in a different part of China, working with different students.  I look forward to it.

It’s June 4th today so it’s just 23 days until we leave.  That’s getting really close.  It’s also my father’s birthday.  It’s weird.  What do you do on the birthday of an important person who has been dead almost 6 years?  There is no party.  You don’t phone family and say, “it’s dad’s birthday”.  I’m sure they know.  I don’t think I think of him more on this day.  I think of him plenty on normal days, I’m just aware of the date.  It’s very strange.

We have arranged to go to a ballgame on August 11th to see the Yankees.  That’s the date that works for everyone and us will be around.  It will be Elana and her new beau from England name of Rich, Leah, Shujie, I, Jared, Sonja, Hayley, and Jared’s girlfriend Ashley.  I look forward to it.  Of course by August 11th I may have already hung myself.  This will be a strange and boring summer.  I look forward to seeing everyone, and I look forward to eating some “normal” food, but that doesn’t fill 2 months.

I was going to have my “exams” which are short one on one interview with the students the week of June 18th.  After exams they are no classes.  However, I’ve decided to do them next week since I’m all talked out.  I’m tired, as usual, of trying force conversation out of those who can’t be bothered.  So what’s one week?  I’ve warned them that I will be asking them to give me a mark they think they deserve and why.  I don’t want anyone telling me 100.  In my elective classes anyone who said “100” got a 60-70.  That was for being stupid.  That’s a big penalty but they had a choice to be serious or deluded.  I’m nice (or thought to be).  Will they be fooled.

On Thursday Shujie will do her cultural differences presentation.  So I really don’t have to be there as it’s all in Chinese, but it’s a good idea.  They might, god forbid, learn something.  On Wednesday it’s a normal class where I will see what strikes me and tomorrow has me all nervous and uptight and not sure that I know what I am doing.

They learn about the Holocaust in school here.  I think they spend about 10 minutes on it.  They learn about the horror of what the Japanese did in WWII here and that’s important.  I happen to believe they should know something about the holocaust.  I am no Holocaust scholar but I’ve accumulated some knowledge over the years and to do this properly would take a month or more it you want to get into some kind of detail.  However, that wouldn’t work here with students who have the attention spans of gnats.

So tomorrow I’m having a class on the Holocaust.  I speak English.  They really don’t.  Not an auspicious beginning.  Shujie will come with me for quick translation and to enable them to ask questions in Chinese if they don’t know the English.  Learning something about it far outweighs the “teaching English” aspects of it.

I have pictures, I have video, and I have a power point presentation I whipped together from some good presentations I found online.  I’ve got in down to about 115 slides (and I have 90 minutes to teach).  The one I did myself was very wordy and wouldn’t work although it was quite interesting.

I’ll show slides, give brief points, have Shujie translate where necessary and hope for the best.  I’m very worried (hopefully for no reason) that something like a giggle or a student talking will happen.  I joke about everything, and everyone knows that.  However, I told the class this is one topic I do not joke about.  Hopefully they take that serious because there is the potential for me to lose it.

They all have their little insolated playing computer games lives, and I want to shock them.  I want them to know that bad things beyond their imagination can happen.  I want them to be horrified.  It’s important that everyone know this stuff.  I wish I had many days to do this, but I don’t.  So I risk the “brief” and fast introduction and history.

Tuesday night is movie night and for the first time ever I am making the movie mandatory.  I have never done that.  I wasn’t going to and I asked Julie (my tutored student) if I should and she said yes.  Teacher’s can throw out these extra classes but I’m not a fan of them.  But I’m showing “Schindler’s List” which is interesting, well done, has a basis in history, and shows some horror.  It’s a cheap way to learn some history.

Since I made this decision after my final class on Thursday, I’ve asked 2 students (1 from each class) to pass the word.  Shujie asked me what I was going to “threaten” them with and I replied “I’ll kill them if they don’t show up”.  She thought that wasn’t serious enough.  So I’ve decided to become a 1-man police state and I’m not happy about it, but neither am I happy about the general feeling that no one cares.

So they lose 10 marks off their final grade if they are late.  No exceptions.  They lose 10 marks off their final grade if they leave early.  No exceptions.  They lose 20 marks off their final grade if they don’t show up.  No exceptions.  I’m very easy going but I’m quite serious about this “no exceptions”.  Because of who I am this might be hard to get my meaning to them (after all I am Martin the Nice), but I’ll have Shujie tell them in Chinese and to not fuck with me on this one topic (or words to that effect).

I’ll have one student from each class mark off everyone who enters before 6:15.  At the end of the movie no one leaves and I do a quick attendance.  If you are there but not on the 6:15 list, you are late.

I hate doing this babysitting but I’ve not asked them for much all year.  I think they can do this one thing for themselves and trust me that it’s a good thing to do.

I think on Wednesday I’ll try to discuss this.  Good luck to me.  I think many students think because I’m Martin the Nice, and I want to be, that means that I can be taken advantage of.  And I can’t be.  I’m so easy going but the students must learn there is a line that can’t be crossed and they’ve had several months to learn this.  If I tell them I’m dead serious about this, then they should believe me because I’m never lied to them.  I’m going out of my way to prepare this stuff and to bring in Shujie for any needed translations.  This transcends English and if the Chinese school system doesn’t feel it’s important, they have one foreigner who does.

As I’ve mentioned before, my job #1 is to impart some knowledge to them based on coming from another culture, appreciating what I think is good about their culture, and my 50+ years of life experience.  Any English that sticks to them is a bonus.  Maybe I don’t fit the “English teacher mold”, but I don’t care.  I think this is more important.  If I had a class that was a preparation class for a huge exam that they must pass, I would make that my goal.  But since I’m in pretty much an “anything goes” mode, then I feel it’s my responsibility to widen their horizons.

I’ll be nervous all day.  I want to be pleasantly surprised.  I want adults tomorrow and not middle-school children.  I’ve rolled with the punches all year and tried to work with them, but tomorrow is my day and my rules.  The topic is that important to me.

When I asked the students how important is was to learn about the “Rape of Nanjing” in 1937 (a Japanese atrocity), they all said it was important to learn about it.  I agree and Western students should learn about it.  They need to know about the war in Europe and the “War against the Jews”.

So I’ll spend today worrying about tomorrow.  I’ve printed about a handed of 56 pages (all in Chinese) about different parts of the Holocaust.  I found it on the Yad Vashem website (www.yadvashem.ord) which is a must if you’re interested.  I know I’ll being out a few that care and want to learn, and I will be bringing out the “dummies”.  I hope the “dummies” surprise me and play against type.