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Monthly Archives: October 2012

Who am I to judge?  Probably no one, but most people tend to judge others.  We don’t judge everyone but when we meet someone who steps outside the boundaries of the ordinary, we tend to judge them based on our knowledge, our morals, and our beliefs.  We might think we’re smarter, but I’ll tell you, sometimes we are.

I think I’ve been using the phrase “they deserve to be shot” more often these days.  Shujie really likes it here (she loves the teaching), while I wouldn’t cry if I left tomorrow.  I know the grass always looks greener on the other side, but I’d be willing to take the plunge.

I mentioned this moron Australian teacher last week.  Just when you think someone couldn’t be more stupid, he comes through again.  Many Chinese students due to immaturity and how their parents and their teachers have babied them don’t really contribute in class.  It’s annoying when no one answers simple questions.  My 3rd year students think they are so smart but so many of them can’t talk.  However, that’s their problem.  I don’t have time to spend hours and hours trying to get everyone to talk.  Looking at their ages they are adults.  Looking at their maturity they are kids.  I would say they fall somewhere below a 16-year old Western teenager.

When I see this Austrailian moron I cross the street.  If I see him enter the building I wait 5 minutes so I don’t have to share an elevator with him.  I was brought up with good manners and if I really said how I felt I ‘d say something like, “shutup you stupid ignorant piece of shit and why don’t you just drop dead on the floor right now and do EVERYONE a favour”.  Words to that effect anyways.  I choose to annoy him.  However, sometimes he’s on the elevator as I’m going down.  His piece of all knowing wisdom from last week was his “can’t fail” way to get all students to talk.

You find the “top dog” in class.  The “top dog” is the one with the most money.  If you can get them to talk, all the other students will talk.  I’ve mentioned that to a couple of people (both students and teachers) and they’re not sure if I’m joking.  They can’t believe anyone could say such a stupid thing.  Not all teachers are great or even good, but some are even dangerous.  He falls into that category.

A teacher we get along with was judging an English contest with him and he kept saying to the girls, “what’s your boyfriends name”.  You don’t say this to Chinese girls unless you know the girl and have a friendly relationship with them.  What he is doing is humiliating them and making them feel stupid.  The other judge told him to stop it, but of course Mr. Idiot ignored her and carried on.  I really wish one of the students would report him because that might earn him a 1-way ticket out of here.  Not all teachers are great or even good, but I honestly believe for all the crap the administration feeds you here, they don’t really care.

These kids (young adults) are so irresponsible.  I had a minor blow up with one of my classes last week.  They wouldn’t answer my questions and when I asked them if they were simple enough, they said yes but that they’d already answered them or they didn’t know which words to use, which wasn’t true.  I sometimes feel like they are pulling my chain.  Near the end of the class I either told them (I can’t remember) that they were too stupid to be around or I was just sick of them, and I walked out.

I have 10 classes and this is the only class that really annoys me.  I had one student yesterday send me an email yesterday complain about what I wrote on her essay she handed in to me a month ago.  I told her I didn’t even remember it and if she has an issue with something I wrote, she should bring the essay to me within 1 week and discuss it with me.  I’m screwed here.  I don’t babysit them, so I’m not the best teacher.

My 3rd year classes (and I teach culture to all of them) told me the book was stupid and too easy so I changed what I taught but told them they had to read the book.  I would assign something every week and at the beginning of class I would ask if everyone did the reading.  Of course they all say yes.  Now I know they don’t.  I asked one student who admitted that she didn’t do the reading and I asked her why, and she told me it was because I never checked it.  Is that mature?  I think not.

This week they are getting a surprise test on the book.  I am guessing the average mark will be 15%.  Why am I doing this?  One reason is to humiliate them.  Another reason is to show them that although I am a nice guy, there are limits.  And the 3rd reason is to try and get it into their thick skulls that they are not as smart as they think they are.

Now the 15% score might be difficult since I have 6 3rd-year classes and I want the test to be a surprise to all classes.  Every class will be told to not tell anyone.  If I find out that one student has “spilled the beans” and that will be easy to see, then  the students in the classes who had the test before that one class will get a zero.  Every student.  This is a collectivist culture and everyone is responsible for the group.  So I don’t have to find the culprit, I just have to use Chinese culture.

Do I think this will improve them as students, improve their work habits, and mature them?  I don’t it.  I just don’t know them well enough to care about them.  There are a few students I respect and enjoy and their marks will reflect that.    I can’t fail everyone and if you fail someone, that means they get a make-up exam which is crap to me.  I think in the West if you are caught copying from another source there is a chance that you may be sent home.  Not here.  You just get a zero for that one paper.  This isn’t a school.  These people wouldn’t know a school if it hit them in the face.

I could live with it last year since no one pretending they had a good school.  Here it’s pretentious and full of crap.  When I wrote to “my boss” about my problem with that one class (suggesting they should all be shot), but I got no reply.  It’s hard to care when no one else does.  I do care but the amount I care for seems to drop every week.  And if I’m not invited back next year, that’s fine with me.  Would another school be better?  Who knows?  All I know is that my job search includes finding a position for Shujie.  It’s a real conundrum.  If I’m nice, they take advantage.  If I’m not nice I’m too strict and a bad person.  Yes, I admit it.  Although there are moments of pleasure to be had, overall coming here (except for Shujie’s job) was a bad choice.  But I’m learning and I’ll be better prepared with the questions I ask next year.

I don’t care what anyone says, I was happier last year.  I thought English majors would make everything better, but I was wrong.  Maybe if I taught at Beijing University it would be better, but they’re not hiring me.

I’ve offered to make myself available to 300 students to just chat, and right now I have had one offer of “maybe”.  Are they too busy?  I don’t think so.  Do they dislike me?  I don’t think so.  I just think they are lazy and stupid.

They all say they want to learn culture but their best way is to communicate with the foreign teachers outside of class, but they don’t.  They should come to my Wednesday night movies and about 35 of them do.  They are just so full of it.

No, I’m not in a bad mood.  Things are what they are, and this is what they are.  I’m not throwing in the towel yet.  I think if I was honest to my marking scheme about 85% of my students would fail.  And they would be failing for not opening their mouths in class and contributing.  It is so easy to do well in my class but they are just too damn stupid to catch on.  I tell them every week but they don’t listen.

So next week I give them a simple math lesson on how they are mostly on the road to failure, and to show them they should read the homework.  Am I doing this to be vindictive?  Probably a little.  But that’s not my problem.  They are here to work.  I work so they should work.

I wonder what I will end up with next semester.  I hope I get some freshman classes since they seem to be the most enthusiastic   They get jaded after the 1st year.

I belong to Netflix and I’ve watched about 150 episodes of “Law and Order”.  I have less than 2 seasons to go.  They only have the first 8 seasons so I guess I’m lucky they don’t have the next 12.

Hulu Plus (which I also have) is a bit of joke.  Commercials, commercials, commercials.  I pay for this service and it’s no better than watching TV with commercial interruptions.  I would think if you pay, you shouldn’t get commercials but they say they do this to keep the costs down.  I’d pay an extra 2 bucks a month to do away with them.  But no one is going to listen to me.

So here I am, enjoying my life in paradise.  There is always next week and things can always get better.  A nuclear bomb can fall on this place, you never know.  But regardless of how I sound, I remain optimistic.  It can’t really be this stupid, can it?

 

Beats me.  I don’t know.  I asked Shujie if I was happier last year (I think I was) and she tells me I wasn’t.  It seems to be I complain more so I honestly can’t say since she’s telling me different.

I didn’t show “Ozzie and Harriet” this week.  I was going to talk about stereotypes since so many students would write in their papers that all Westerners celebrate Christmas.  However, that changed quickly.  I did a class on religion, a brief history, and some of the weirdo’s of today.

I think many of them were interested (I can go on and on) while some of them were not listening (as usual).  I found out they had 1 lesson in religion last year (mostly Christianity) but most couldn’t remember what they were taught.  And I was told that the Chinese students have superior memories.

I focused on Christianity and Judaism since those are the two I know.  Trying to cram a history of those religions into 90 minutes is kind of tough.  They got the extremely condensed version.  Then at the end I throw in my mini-rant about the craziness of Orthodox Jews (what I have personally witnessed) and the craziness of Southern Baptists (what I have personally witnessed).

I did this talk six times during the week.  Yes, it gets tiresome.  At my last class of the week I focused on one girl who looked like she was carefully following every word I said.  After class I went up to her and thanked her for listening so carefully and she told me that she thought it was very interesting.  It helped to see her listening.  I told another girl that she was not listening and she said if I talk all the time she gets bored.  I told her that if I ask questions, no one answers and that anyone can ask a question at any time.  She had no answer to that.

Their writing assignment for this week was television.  How much do their families watch, what do they watch, and is TV good or bad for Chinese culture.  Let me tell you, TV can make your life more colorful.  They love the word “colorful”.  I have to find out what it means.  TV can make you more active which is a very hard one to figure out.  These people can’t write (I know I said that) and they can’t organize their thoughts.  One girl copied a bunch of hers from the Internet so they can’t think either unless they can copy it from the Internet.

I’m tired of the copying.  I made everyone sign a paper that said if they are caught copying from the Internet, they will receive a grade of zero for the year.  I’m serious about that.  This girl who copied a bunch of her paper I’m not sure how to deal with.  Do I write her off or since it wasn’t the whole paper I don’t give her zero and let her know that at the current moment she would get a zero so she better start showing me something besides how stupid she is.

I want to have fun.  They might have been dummies last year, but they were my dummies, and I could have some fun.  I don’t want to work.  If I wanted to work, I could find a job that pays real money.

I want to quit my part-time job at the high school.  It’s a pain going there twice a week.  I’m always in a rush and I can’t stand my 2nd year students.  They don’t try to speak.  My 1st year students are much better and more of them make an effort.  The regular English teacher of the 2nd year students said I should play games with them.  I don’t want to play games.  I don’t think that games help at that age.  What helps is speaking and speaking and making mistakes and getting better.  Maybe I’m wrong.  It’s been known to happen.  But I might throw in the towel.  What’s the point if I’m not enjoying it?  As I said, I didn’t come here to work.  I actually do work but I don’t want it to feel like work.

The secretary came and asked me this week what I wanted to teach next semester.  I already spoke to them about this so I just repeated myself.  I would like to have the same class 3 or 4 times a week and teach them different subjects.  The school is worried that it would be too many classes to prepare but my preparations are a brief outline and might change at the last second depending on my mood, the classes mood, and a feeling I get at the moment for what might work.  I also told her that I prefer oral English.  I just want them a lot so I can switch things around and combine the subjects, which would allow us to do different things.  Who knows?

The foreign food store closes on Tuesday and it’s starting to look empty.  I’m sorry to see it go.  Shujie found out about a warehouse where they get food for the hotels and she went there and got some things.  I ‘ll go with her again and see what I like.

There are about 18 foreign teachers here.  I knew I wouldn’t like all of them, but some of them are just ridiculous.  There’s an older man from Australia who thinks he is the oracle of how to teach in China.  To listen to him all his students speak and learn everything.  If it’s not his idea, then it’s ignored.  There is no conversation with him and I try and avoid him.  We ran into him and his wife (or girlfriend) in the foreign food store yesterday (she’s Chinese) and Shujie tried to talk to her.  All I know was at one point I heard him to say to her “don’t talk”.  I’m not sure what that referred to, but  it might have been Shujie.  Shujie was speaking to the people who look after the building and they heard him tell her that she shouldn’t speak to them.  (They know a bit of English).  What gives?  I just file him under “ass” and try not to have conversations beyond “hello” with him.

My biggest disappointment so far this year is that no students have approached me to get together outside of class and talk.  I want to so much but I can’t ask them because I don’t want them to feel obligated.  So I have to let them be stupid and not try and advance themselves.  I would like to think if I were a Chinese major, I would try and converse with my Chinese teachers after class.  I think they’ve really screwed the students over in this country with the culture of the classroom.

And that’s that for another week.  There is always hope for the future.  I like to delude myself.  Maybe I am getting old and it’s harder to have fun.  I hope not.  I really do want to like it here but I really don’t.  But I shall keep hoping against hope that I will.  Shujie is enjoying her classes, which is good, and she gets good feedback from her students and she hears from students she doesn’t have that they are sorry that they don’t take her classes.  She’s smart.  She’s taken what she learned in Canada and combined it with what she knows of here and I think it makes for a better class.  I knew she’d like it and I knew she would do well.  This makes me happy.

There are small moments of joy here.  I get to laugh and enjoy the company of some students.  On the other hand, I get puzzled and a little annoyed at the mentality here.  Is it culture?  Maybe.  And if it’s culture, who am I to be critical of it just because it doesn’t match my own.  It’s a fine step I walk.

I took in more complaints/suggestions from the students this week.  Let’s just say for every good suggestion there are about 10 idiotic comments.  Things like “maybe I’m too old” or “I need to have more energy”.  I asked them what energy should I have?  I stand the whole class while they sit.  I move up and down, side to side, back and forth and they sit there.  Do they want jumping jacks?  I tried to explain “constructive criticism” but I think that concept is a little too difficult for many of them.

The low point was when I asked a class why so few answered questions.  One boy (let’s just call him an idiot) gave me an answer.  The reason he doesn’t answer questions is that my question are too easy.  My comeback was his brilliant suggestion for our class is that we should play games.  I can’t change them.  They don’t want to put up their hands, they just want to shout out their answers.

It seems that my 2nd year students are a little more mature than my third year students.  It should probably be the other way around, but so be it.  It is what it is.  I would rather have freshman because it seems that the level of enthusiasm drops as the students advance.  They think they’re pretty smart English majors for students who cannot speak a grammatically correct sentence and can’t write a proper sentence to save their lives.

So at the moment my thoughts are to hell with those that are too stupid to live.  They will be ignored as long as they don’t participate.  As much as I’d like to fail them, I won’t because then the school will want me to give them a “make-up” exam.  The school really doesn’t want anyone to fail regardless of how stupid they are.  It’s bad for business.  So I will give them the lowest pass mark allowed.

As for my students that make an effort and contribute, they have nothing to worry about.  There is only a small group in each class who speak and participate, but what can I do.  I told them from day one that if they don’t volunteer to answer, I won’t be asking them questions.  They are 21 or 22 year olds and they act like 12 year olds.  I’m not their babysitter and they have to take responsibility for their actions.  It’s a bit of a conundrum because of the way they are raised.  Their parents tell them everything to do, and their teachers tell them everything to do.  They are not taught to think for themselves, which is what I require of them.  I can’t change to this absurd (in my mind) Chinese way.  I try to treat them like adults, but as the Chinese teachers tell me, they are just children.  Yes they are, but I will tilt at windmills and not play their game.

I have invited every student I have (and that’s about 300) to feel free to approach me outside of class to talk.  Maybe to come over for a cup of tea.  I told them that I won’t approach them because I don’t know how busy they are and I don’t want to put them on the spot, so they have to approach me.  I have not had one request to talk outside of class.  Sometimes when I see a student outside they will walk with me for a minute or two or stop to chat, but they have no desire to attempt to improve their English by speaking with a native English speaker.  I think that’s pretty stupid for English majors.  I asked them if they talk to any foreign teachers outside of class and they said no.  I tell them they have to take advantage of their opportunities.  They don’t listen but I say what I believe is true.  It’s up to them to follow through.

On Wednesday night I showed the film “Boys Don’t Cry” with Hillary Swank in her first Oscar-winning performance.  She was great and the film is great.  I’m not sure how many people were there when I started (I think about 30), but at the end of the movie there were 3 people and I.  It seems that everyone but those 3 walked out during the sex scene between the two girls.  This is not what the movie was about, but part of the movie.  We are talking about 21 and 22 year old people and they are so immature and repressed it’s scary.  They are brainwashed to be offended by such things.  I would think that your mind should open at that age, and that it narrows at an older age.  I find my mind expands so it’s not a hard and fast rule.  But if these morons are the leaders of tomorrow, this country, as big as it is, will stay a 2nd-rate country.

I spoke with 2 of the young ladies who stayed and they explained why so many people left.  But these 2 young ladies are a little more mature and open to seeing new things and trying to understand Western Culture through the movies.  They are a pleasure to speak with and because I won’t be showing “A Clockwork Orange” to the general public, we will invite them over for a private screening.

I’m serious.  It’s scary that these “young adults” behave in such a manner.  Is it culture?  Some would say yes but I think of it more like stupidity.  And it’s stupid people making a conscious decision to stay stupid.

It’s been six weeks so far (feels like six years) and I think I’ve learned just like Joni Mitchell that you don’t it always seem to go, that you’ve don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.  This place with its B.S. English majors is no better than the “dummy school” in Jurong.  At least in Jurong they didn’t pretend they had good students.  I think if I want top-class students I would have to teach at one of the top-ranked universities in the country, and they won’t be hiring me.  So we’ll let it ride until April and then start evaluating the situation.

And now let’s talk about VPN’s.  A VPN stands for a virtual private network.  As you might know, China spends millions of dollars trying to disallow their citizens from seeing much of the outside world.  No Facebook (good idea), no YouTube, no western blogging sites, and so on.  If you want to access them you purchase a VPN service, which you connect to and then it changes your IP address to the country where the server is.  So if I connect to a server in the U.S., it looks like I’m in the U.S. and everyone who monitors me sees me as being in the U.S.  It’s good for getting on those streaming services such as Netflix and watching films.  The problem is that it’s very unstable.  Things can change daily and I keep trying different services.  I was with one service that started out well and then the service was horrible and virtually unusable.  They would tell me to change my server.  They said that because I’m in China I might have to change the server I use every day.  What they didn’t mention is that I am only allowed 5 changes a month.  That’s a Catch-22 and quite unacceptable.  I cancelled them.  I’m now testing a new one.  I don’t think I’ll get perfection, but I would like honesty and logic in the company I deal with.  It’s a real pain and it takes up too much of my time trying to make things work.  It’s not that I have so many better things to do; it’s just that it is so annoying.  The Internet in Jurong was better than here.  It seems I say that a lot about the things in Jurong.

So it’s Saturday morning.  I have papers to mark, which is not my favourite thing to do.  I lose patience after seeing so many poorly written things.  I think the students I grade closer to when I start get better marks than those I grade near the end of the ordeal.  It’s not fair, but it’s reality.

In my Culture class this week where they don’t like the book and want to talk about different things I tried with the topic of dating.  What a disaster.  They had next to nothing to say.  I would think dating would be interesting and we can compare dating in China to dating in the West, but I think the subject is a little too mature for them.

I keep videos on an USB to show if I run out of time and those aren’t good enough.  A great Jerry Lee Lewis performance at his best doesn’t interest them as it’s not their type of music.  I show them educational films from the 50’s which I think are a laugh, and they are lost.  The only thing that was a hit is the scene from “I Love Lucy” where Lucy and Ethel are working in the chocolate factory.  That doesn’t fail to have them rolling in the aisles.

This week I will be subjecting them to “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” as part of my visit to the culture of the 50’s.  I’m sure most of them will be bored.  I think if I don’t want them to be bored I should play Chinese pop videos.  But that’s not going to happen.

The beat goes on.

It’s been 10 days of no school and a lot of doing nothing.  I hate to say this but I’m not anxious to get back to things.  I hope things pick up and I can work a miracle or two.  The writing class will remain as it’s been for about 3 more weeks until they can write a sentence.  Then I’ll try and branch out giving them more intelligent things to write and not the boring exercises.  I’ve told them that, so they’ll have to stick this out, and if they can’t, too bad.

The culture class will change.  The textbook isn’t bad but realistically speaking I don’t think a book can teach you about intercultural communication in such a way that it will be of use to anyone.  If any of these kids end up speaking to a foreigner, they aren’t going to be whipping out their book for ideas.

I think I’m just going to let them read the book on their own, and ask questions if they have any.  My class time will be spent on discussing culture in the West.  I think I’m going to do the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and so on.  I’ll show some old TV shows and play some music.  We can discuss them and perhaps they can get some understanding of how it’s different from China.  What they have been taught is scary.  All 18 year olds move out from their homes.  Everyone celebrates Christmas.  Things like that.  Crap.  I will try and move them away from stereotypes and towards actually understanding a little of how it works.  We shall see.  But the thought of watching the same episode of “Leave it to Beaver” six times in 1 week is a little scary.

The first few days of our holidays we just hung around and did basically nothing.  That was fine with us.  I’ve come to realize that living in Inner Mongolia is not the thrill I hoped it would be.  I don’t know what I was expecting but it wasn’t this.  We’re too far from places to go visit for the weekend.  It’s expensive.  The city of Baotou is nice but to tell you the truth, I liked Jurong better.  I guess I should be careful about what I complain about.

On Monday we took a day trip to the Genghis Khan Mausoleum and the desert.  So we went.  Is old Genghis buried here?  No.  Is his brother Don?  No.  I think they just picked a place in the middle of nowhere and stuck up this area with a few 10th rate exhibits.  What a waste of time.  Here are some less than exciting pictures:

Here is a statue of old Genghis himself:

How his camp would look with some lame iron statues:

And of course what site wouldn’t be complete without access to a fine Chinese toilet.  It is one word that they seem to translate fine as witnessed by this fine photographic shot:

It was a real waste of time, but then again we needed something to do.  Then it was off to the desert.  There was a lot of construction going on but if you were facing the right way, you could actually imagine being in the desert.

Of course, there was the obligatory camel ride and here we are on our camels:

We also took a slide down a mountain of sand.  The excitement never ends.  It’s interesting with the sun that it looks like we are sliding in snow.

That was our big day outing on Monday.  Tuesday we did nothing which is always a pleasure and Wednesday we took off for Hohhot which is the capital of Inner Mongolia (but not as big as Baotou) and about 2 hours by train.  I’m glad we went because we got out, but we won’t be visiting again.  There weren’t a lot of things to see, but we tried.

The best thing we saw was a nice temple in that it was nice and peaceful.  It wasn’t overrun with tourists (like the Great Wall of China where millions (it seemed) went at the same time).  Here are two pictures of the temple area:

Here is one of thousands of Buddha’s (they are everywhere), but this one is made of jade:

There was a big monk meeting going on and we saw some of it and I sneaked in a picture:

Even the monks are part of the 21st century as witnessed in this shot:

And Shujie is always happy to disrespect wherever she is.  Here she is praying to Buddha, which is pretty good for an atheist.

We also visited where the general in charge of the army hung out during the Qing dynasty.  You might know that one because the “Last Emperor” of China was Pu Yi (whose story was told in the Best Picture film, “The Last Emperor”).

Here is Shujie in the document stamping room as the Chinese have always loved paperwork (and still do).  Shujie is doing the paperwork here.

Here I am in the waiting room, waiting for the General to see me.  I was kept waiting a long time so I used the opportunity to catch a few z’s.

We went to the Inner Mongolia Museum and the best thing I can say about it was that it’s new and clean.  After so many museums in my life, it takes a lot to impress me.  There just weren’t great things to see in Hohhot.

We went looking for Mongolian Grill to eat but I’m out of luck.  When I first visited China in 2004, the best meal I had was Mongolian Grill.  Here I show the locals pictures of what it looks like and no one has any idea what it is.  You can get Mongolian grill in North America, but in Mongolia, forget it.  Can you feel my pain?

So we’ve just vegged this weekend (we are good at that) and reality bites back at us tomorrow.  I will go through student’s complaints and suggestions for the first half of the week (the classes I haven’t done this exercise in yet) and then move on with my “new plan”.  If it works, fine.  If it doesn’t, oh well.  All I know is I’m better prepared to ask questions next year.  I hate this learning one step at a time, but that’s how it goes.  You don’t even consider some things until you don’t have them.  Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you don’t have until you don’t have it.

My apologies to Joni Mitchell.