Signs of winter approach

Would this be considered a sign of Winter?  This is what we saw when we awoke this morning.  I heard there would be snow, but I was skeptical.  However, here it is.  This picture is taken out the back window.  Maybe we’ll get a lot of snow this winter.  Someone told me yesterday (a Chinese fellow) that the temperature hovers around -20 in the winter.  We shall see.

Tonight we are going out with Nadja and Greg for HotPot.  HotPot is a very popular dish in China.  You get a big pot of boiling water or soup (who knows what) and you put your uncooked meat or vegetables in it.  It takes about 30 seconds to cook.  I can eat it.  Nadja is a teacher here who seems like a nice lady and her husband is Chinese.  Naturally I’m curious so I thought it would be a good mix since we are both from mixed marriage’s.

Our goods we ordered from the warehouse we went to last weekend since “Jenny’s” our Western foods store went out of business has actually ordered and received what we asked for.  Supposedly we will have it by Monday.  They have it so that’s good.  I’d hate to run out of Nacho chips and salsa.  Plus for some strange reason it’s the only place I can get cheddar cheese.  In Jurong it was no problem but in this “big city” of 2 ½ million people it’s not to found.

I found out most of my classes will be switched next semester.  I’m not getting what I want, but it’s closer.  I will only have 2nd year classes so I lose my 6 3rd year classes.  I like a lot of the students, but they think they’re so much smarter than they are.  There is still hope (I hope) for the 2nd year students.

I will keep my 4 2nd year writing classes plus I will also have 3 of those classes for speaking/listening too, and one of them for Introduction to Culture.  My other 2 classes will also be Introduction to Culture, but I’ll only have those 2 once a week.  I wanted a class 3 times a week but it’s a bit better than what I have now.

If by some miracle we decide to stay another year, I know to ask for all I want before deciding anything.  I know I was lucky with my setup last year, but I think if I go back to a “dummy” college I can get that.  The fact of the matter is that English majors have a better vocabulary but they can’t write a sentence and they can’t speak a proper sentence.  The “dummys” (and I’m not trying to be insulting) knew they weren’t good.  These kids don’t really understand just how bad they are.  Of course, being China, they don’t want to fail anyone because it’s bad for business.  I haven’t decided how honest I will be at marking time.  I give 60% of my mark in my 6 culture classes for class participation.  That means if you just talk and try you can get a good mark.  If you don’t talk and based on your other work, about 40% of the students would get below 30.  I think that would really freak out the administration and pretty much assure that I’m not coming back.  I’m not doing it to be vindictive because life is so much easier when the students are making an effort.  If they make no effort their papers are hell to mark (I’ve pretty much given up and I just write at the bottom that what they wrote is garbage and not English).  As I keep telling them, I’m not their parents.

It’s a real problem.  The maturity of the students (who are 21/22) is lower than my 16-year-old niece Hayley.  That’s because they are given no responsibility.  Their parents tell them everything to do, and their teachers teach them how to memorize things.  You don’t need to exercise your brain.  Of course, I try and explain that we do things differently in my class and they have to think.  Maybe if I had freshman it might work better, but by the 3rd year, they are clueless.  I wonder what their other foreign teachers have done.

When they give me papers, I am a very hard marker.  I tell them I don’t give them 80 just because their attendance is good and they handed something in.  If they get an 80 from me, they can feel proud because they earned it.  So they bomb out on their papers but as I tell them, on the other hand because class participation is the big thing you can still get a 70 by doing lousy work and trying in class.

It’s very frustrating.  I was very upset this week because I don’t feel I’m having an effect, and if I am, I don’t know who I’m affecting.  Last year I had an effect on 3 to 5 students and I was pleased.  The effect wasn’t about learning English, it had to do with using your brain and thinking.  English is minor in the big scheme of things.  I have 300 students who I don’t really know and who don’t really know me.  How can I have an effect seeing them once a week?

I need to figure out the secret of getting through.  Next semester I’ll have about 220 students (which is better) but is still too many.  It depresses me and on Wednesday I was a nervous breakdown.  My problem is that I care.  I don’t have to reach all the students or even 20% of them, but to reach a few would be nice.  I have to learn how to handle this.  Shujie tells me I shouldn’t care so much, but if I don’t care, why bother doing this.  I’m not here to change China or hundreds of students, just to make a small difference in a few lives.  If I can’t do that, there is no point.

So that’s my big project for now.  I need to figure out how to have this effect.  Maybe it’s impossible here.  We shall see.  The new semester (begins in March after the 2 month holiday) will give me some idea.  I don’t really know if I want to stay here.  There are too many foreign teachers and I don’t think the staff gives a damn about the students.  Pay your money and that’s it.  They’ll pass you and move you along.  I’m telling students all week to quit school if they’re not going to try and save their parents some money.  Maybe I’m the only one that tells them the truth and cares that they try and make something of their future.  Maybe others care and tell the truth, but I don’t know.  But I have to figure out how to balance all this or this will make me more crazy than I already am.

I quit the high school this week.  I couldn’t really handle the rushing back and forth.  It wasn’t worth it.  I would get there and worry about the time.  It’s better for me to just forget about it.  I feel guilty because I couldn’t deliver, but I guess I’m not Superman.

I bought the Windows 8 upgrade.  It sure looks different and I think it’s slow.  I should have stuck with Windows 7.  The upgrade was only $40 so I couldn’t resist.  Fool.  Maybe I’ll adjust.

I gave all my 3rd year students a surprise test on the reading I assign them every week.  They all tell me they read it but they never have questions.  Some students tell me they don’t read it because I don’t check it.  Ha, Ha.  I told them, “what if I give you a test?” and they all laughed.  Now I’m laughing.  I’ve marked ½ the papers (3 classes worth) and 2 people have passed.  Maybe they’ll do the reading now.  They care so much about marks here so it should be quite interesting to see their reaction to they’re failing.  I actually stopped reviewing the papers and I just scan them.  I can tell if they came close or they failed by a mile.  If they’re close, I’ll review it, but most of them aren’t even in the right ball field.  I tell them I assign the reading not for me, but for them.  Dumb.  They are so immature but what can I do.  The culture insists that they stay immature.

This hasn’t been my best week ever, and I need to see some improvements in the situation.  There is no point if it’s not fun and I’m helping.  Naturally I won’t throw in the towel yet.  I just hope the towel doesn’t throw me in.

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