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.