It don’t worry me

This is it.  Exam week begins and within another week they will all be marked and the final grades will be given to the office.  Do they know what they are doing?  I doubt it.  Shujie still doesn’t have her schedule for next semester but she’s been told she’ll have it by next week.

I have about 175 culture exams which will be worth 10% or less so they should have no effect on their mark.  I told them that after me giving them the questions, and telling them where the answers are, failure is not acceptable.  As for the writing students, there will be approx., 130 papers to grade and that one counts for 30%.  They have to write 8 paragraphs, one for each unit in the book we covered.  I see no reason why they shouldn’t do well and I plan on “marking easy”, but it they screw it up totally I’ll fail them.

It’s hard to be fair.  I have all these students with good vocabularies, but who can’t speak proper sentences.  When they want to talk they say it in Chinese to themselves and then they translate word for word in their heads.  It’s not the best way to lean and they suffer for it.  And they know it.  So how much can I penalize them for not knowing things they were never taught?

I’ve done all my grading up to the exams and it’s a mishmash of stuff.  I look at things I have marks for and I look at their pictures and I come up with a grade and then decide how much I want to bump it up to be fair.  I’ve been told Chinese teachers give okay marks but foreign teachers give good marks.  I told the students to think of me as Chinese.  What good is it to give a student 95 when they are not worth 95?  What do they learn from that?  I’m not here to teach English, but to help them discover and use their minds.  It works on a few but I’m fighting about 16 years of the Chinese education system.

I asked everyone to write and tell me what they thought they deserved and why.  After reading about 300 of these, it can get depressing but there are a few bright spots.  We have students who think they should get 88 since 8 is their lucky number.  We have students who think they should get 90 since their English name is the same as my daughter’s (Leah).  I have students tell me  how useless they were so they “only” deserve 90.  There will be a few disappointments there.  I have students that tell me they should bet 90 so they can strive for a 95 next term.  I don’t get it, you can always strive for 95.

So you don’t think they are all bozos there were a few that stood out.  This was the best one (no translation from Chinglish to English here:

I am a very special student in your class.  I always ask questions and there are many puzzles in my mind.  Still now, I always have some problems abut the things I learned from my English classes.  I always ask the teacher to help me but only Jan (another teacher) could give me some help.  I have no time to translate all mu questions into English.  But during the vacation, maybe I can.  I will send the e-mail to you.  I hope you can help me, not like my Chinese teacher , give me the cold shoulder.  I really want to know something.  As for the grade I don’t care.  It’s so stupid.  I don’t want to be a “memory machine”.  I want to solve my problems in learning English.

She was the only student who didn’t ask for a specific grade and explained clearly how she felt.  As I told the students what they write won’t lower their mark, but it might bump it up and I had at least 10 students who increased their grade based on what they wrote.  Angela (who wrote the above) was the best example.

I told them all that they should tell me how great their attendance was since I didn’t care.  Chinese teachers give marks for attendance but I think it shows up if you are not in class.  However, about 50% mentioned their attendance.  I guess they didn’t have much good to say about themselves.

What was also interesting is that China is a collectivist culture where the group is everything.  I had my students do plays and for the plays, everyone in the group gets the same mark.  I don’t want to know who did this and who did that.  However, some students (backstabbers that they are) would tell me that THEY wrote the play, and THEY did this and THEY did that.  I was quite shocked but Shujie told be that’s common.  They sure fooled me.

It will be very strange after the holidays to start work again.  Seven weeks is a long break.  I hope we have a good time.  All my six 3rd year classes will be leaving me (and I will miss many of them), and I’ll only have 2nd year students so I will have 4 classes where I teach them 2 subjects.  I like that.  A student in one of those classes told me (under sworn secrecy) that some of her classmates don’t want me as their teacher and want to ask for someone new.  The reason is that I will ask them to talk in class and as English Majors, they don’t want to talk English.  So, to hell with them.  I I worried about everyone who liked me I’d go crazy.  I know plenty like me and appreciate what I bring to the classroom and they appreciate my attitude were I don’t act as the “wise, old man” but rather try and relate with them on their level.

I asked my 3rd years if they had any suggestions for me on how I could be a better teacher and I got a couple.  But I also got some which shows how freaking stupid these kids are.  Mu favorite was that I should use coloured chalk.  That should help.  I should have more PowerPoint presentations (since they can just sit and watch), and I don’t smile enough (since I should be smiling all the time).  I tend to ignore these and won’t mind never having anything more to do with these poor excuses as students.  They want clowns to entertain them.

The other thing I’ve done, which I didn’tthink I would do, is was to give extra marks to students who made an effort to talk to me outside of class and who came to the movies regularly.  No one lost marks for not doing any of those things, but I think I should recognize those who actually make a move to do something to improve their English.

Today (only -16) I have to find some new glass frames.  If I look down my glasses fall off.  This should be exciting.  There is a MacDonalds close by so I guess it’s lunch there today.  We had our Pizza Hut yesterday.  Two days of “western food”!  Holy cow!  We got our shipment of lots of cheddar cheese and salsa so I’m happy about that too.

It’s not all hell here.  Dealing with the students is easy.  I just try and ignore the staff since they verge on incompetence and I have no patience for them.  If they leave me alone, we’ll get along great.  I don’t know what I expected this year but I’m not getting it.  I learn a little more every year and when it’s time to start looking again I’ll have my shopping list written out in advance.  The only problem is that it will be hard to find another University job that pays as wll.

So life rambles on and changes are always possible.  I try and keep an open mind but I can honestly say, for whatever reason, that I don’t like the school.  I know that many schools in China will be the same, but if I go to another place run by idiots, I’ll be in another part of the country seeing different things.


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