Donald Trump in China

Time for a more serious and topical post than usual. Donald Trump is  famous world wide, and since he comes to power in a week I thought it’d be interesting to tell you all some anecdotes about him from some of the students and staff members here in China.

For starters, everyone was shocked that he won the election in the first place. It became clear he would at lunchtime, and my boss John really couldn’t believe it. Following the election through the news, it appeared as though Clinton would win, and people were genuinely surprised that he didn’t.

The evening of results day I taught my senior 2 special class. These students are exceptional and are going to study at foreign universities, so they are hyper-aware of the changing political climate. As the students were discussing their future plans and the countries they planned to study in, one student remarked that she was thinking of going to America, but didn’t want to now because of Trump. She was laughing as she said it but it did make me think.

Even more heartbreaking was one of the exam answers I marked around that time. The first question was what is your biggest concern about studying abroad. The Korean girl in class, Olivia, wrote that her biggest concern was dealing with racism in America because she is Asian and Trump will be president. After making corrections to her answer I genuinely had to take a moment to think about her future. She should be feeling so excited to live in the States and be nervous about understanding her lecturers and the work like last years students were, but thanks to Trump and his rhetoric she’s most worried about facing racism amongst her peers.

On a lighter note, his influence is also obvious in the regular senior 1 classes. When playing the game who am I, where students have to guess the name on their forehead, one group started with Hitler then swiftly moved on to Donald Trump and asked me to spell check the name!

Moving forward in time, this weeks lesson is on hypothetical situations. Most classes are surprisingly into it and like discussing various would you rathers and moral dilemmas. What prompted this post was a response to: would you rather live in the USA or the U.K.? 2 separate students in separate classes answered with the U.K., because it is safer and in America it is not safe to walk around at night, you will be shot and die. This is the perception of America that Donald Trump’s campaign has created, and it will be interesting to see what will happen once he actually has control.

Reflecting the serious nature of this post, have a video of exam papers being counted.

 

 

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Stories from China: The Re-teach

The weather has been slightly warmer this winter, but unfortunately the pollution has been much worse. It’s been on the news in the States, the Foreign Office emailed out a warning and one of my classes have bought an air purifier for the classroom. Unfortunately nothing’s made a blind bit of difference, and it has been hideous to go outside, to the point where I’ve cancelled plans because I can’t shake a cold because I haven’t breathed fresh air in months. I have however, figured out how to wear a pollution mask and glasses!

As well as ruining my social life, the pollution has had a great impact on travel. The buses have been free, which since I’m the only one of the Squad without a bike makes me much happier. It did however, impact Gabz’ trip to Shanghai quite a lot, which in turn doubled my workload for a day.

This paragraph is all written before actually chatting to Gabz so this is what I’ve got from WeChat. See the pollution was terrible as usual on Saturday, which meant the motorway to the airport was closed and his flight out was delayed for at least 6 hours. But he eventually got there so we didn’t have an irate Gabz joining us on New Years Eve. Coming home was the main issue. The first time we hear of an issue is the middle of the day on Monday, which was a day off for everyone. Turns out all flights to Shijiazhuang had been cancelled for the previous 2 days, and Gabz was getting a little anxious that his might also be cancelled. Fast forward a few hours and it turns out that yes, they did cancel his flight and there was no way he was going to be home before class the next day. After messaging back and forth for a while we settle on a plan. Gabz would get the train up (and as I type is currently on said train), and me, Izzie and Umar would cover his 5 classes.

That was all background information, the main part of this post is the story of how I taught some of my old classes. Gabz is the senior 2 teacher, so his classes are my old ones. Originally the plan was to whack a movie on, but in the morning the school messaged us saying we couldn’t do that! Desert Island is always my backup plan so I went in with a rather fun lesson planned, but also strangely nervous to see the students again. So much so that I was actually shaking for part of the first lesson!

After pushing my nerves aside I soon fell into the old routine, and so did the students. It was so strange to see the old faces again though, some had clearly gone through puberty a bit more and has shot up! Others were not so happy to see me, one class were completely silent when I walked in until I explained why I was there – I’m pretty sure that they thought I was lost or they were going insane. It was also remarkable how much some of the students had progressed since I’d last taught them. Class 10 I’d nicknamed my ‘Zen Class’ because they always did exactly what I asked, talked at a normal level and were just chill. They were also my last class of the week so probably reflected my own tiredness. Desert Island is a discussion heavy lesson, which they would have probably struggled with last year, but they handled with ease and seemed to enjoy it. It was fun teaching my old students again, but when I finished and went to my regular lessons I realised that I don’t regret asking to teach grade 10 again. I was able to get a fresh start with new students, learn from my mistakes and have a backlog of lesson plans in case I need help!

To sum up, I still love teaching grade 10 specifically, but it’s always nice to see the old faces again, especially when they’re so happy to see you.

Have a video of the weird tigers that took over the city one time!

 

Also for the first time ever I’m actually ahead in blog posts! I still haven’t written the narration of my trip to Mongolia in October but hey-ho I’m actually scheduling posts! I’m writing this on Tuesday but it won’t be posted until Thursday! Maybe this makes up for not writing anything for 2 months….

Christmas time, Pollution and Flu

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Unless you’ve got a killer cold and the pollution is off the scale, in which case it’s Christmas in Shijiazhuang!

This festive season, I was, as previously stated, full of cold. Mainly affecting my throat, it meant that I sounded sterner in class which was nice, but the slight fever meant that I could not control my temperature and therefore didn’t wear enough clothes in class (according to the kids. I assure you all, I was well covered!). While it made me short-tempered, I was able to enjoy my Christmas classes with the students and the Christmas party with the foreign students. (Cultural Exchanges).

The annual Christmas gift from the government this year was a kettle. Sounds underwhelming, but it has the ability to keep water hot! This has been very useful lately. After the handshake, we had to go for lunch with some of the officials, which was bizarre, but had good food! Plus the restaurant had fish everywhere which I kept staring at 😀

Last year on Christmas Day, we had a lovely buffet meal at the Hilton, but this year with the day being a weekend, we had to settle for Christmas Eve Eve! After faffing last year with expensive wine we brought our own in, and proceeded to have an excellent night chatting, eating and being merry. Unfortunately, the combination of wine and flu meant that I woke up on Saturday with a migraine which immobilised me all day, and I missed out on the Christmas Eve get together.

By Christmas Day I’d recovered enough to have brunch and secret Santa with the squad downstairs before trekking across the city, cooked goose in tow, for more celebrations and food at Sarah’s apartment. I’m still not sure how we all crammed into her living room and cooked more than enough food for all of us in her tiny kitchen and oven.Eventually everything had been cooked and we sat down to a meal which included goose fat roast potatoes, YORKSHIRE PUDDINGS, gravy and mash. It was spectacular!! Afterwards a couple of people slightly died and we all just chatted and played games.

All in all it was a good Christmas, even if it was ridiculously polluted and I was sick!

Cultural Exchanges

In December the foreign teachers and I were lucky enough to be invited to 2 separate parties celebrating the festive season. At the first, the foreign students had prepared several small performances and the foreign teachers had prepared nothing, so hastily assembled and wowed everyone with a rendition of ‘Jingle Bells’. The Christmas party was much less formal that what I expected, and once the performances were over we were able to just chat and mess about (mainly with the wig we’d bought for the New Years party).

As part of the New Years celebrations at the school, we sacrificed one of our lunchtimes to attend a party with the foreign students, the senior special classes, everyone in the foreign affairs office and small children and their parents. I’m still not entirely sure who the small children and parents were but they seemed to enjoy themselves. Now, like the party I attended in class 4 last year (新年快乐!) this was less of a social affair and more of a talent show. After much complaining, we were informed that we had to put on some form of performance for everyone, and after a quick accidental brainstorming session on the staircase one evening, we decided to stage a traditional English pantomime, complete with a panto dame, audience participation and free sweets.

Putting my A-level in drama to good use, I became a minor character (although I received good feedback from the students!). The basic story was that after skipping school, naughty students opened up a rift in space-time and fell into a strange world where an evil cat witch was turning everyone into cats. Poor Sean was tasked with narrating in Chinese, and everyone else got to prance about on stage. Although we were worried they wouldn’t understand what was happening, the students laughed at the jokes as well as at the panto dame and the physical comedy and it was a right laugh.

After our spectacular performance, it was the turn of the foreign affairs office who had also been forced to do something on stage and then the special students and the foreign students. I was genuinely impressed by what the students were doing, including playing traditional instruments, painting, rapping and dancing. One class performed an extract from Merchant of Venice (which included a spectacular mustachioed student) and as well as remembering their lines, they actually added emotion into the dialogue too. I had to leave early to teach (even though I begged Sarah to move my class) and was gutted to miss the students performance of King Lear.

However, as luck would have it, I taught both special classes that afternoon. I’d quickly realised that my lesson plan on animal synonyms would kill the adrenaline and happiness from the party so decided to play games with them instead. It also meant that I got to see an encore of King Lear after asking nicely.

I was really apprehensive about the performance and the party in general but it ended up being a great lunch and I enjoyed myself.

Video time!

For some baffling reason I’m suddenly able to post videos from my phone onto here. May I now introduce random videos I found on my phone and can now delete for the memory!

Beijing martial arts training

 

Featherball with Chicken Shop Tony

 

Izzie firing an arrow in Mongolia

Happy Birthday Dad from my students

Mr Umar and Gabz teach introduce the concept of ‘small talk’

 

A day in the life of Productive Daisy

Hey everyone! I’ve been ridiculously productive lately and thought I’d write a humble brag blog post about it so you all think I’m much better than I actually am! So, here is a day (today in fact), in the life of Productive Daisy.

6.30-7.10: various alarms go off ordering me to leave my comfy cocoon and venture out into -1 degree temperatures. Winter is surely coming to Shijiazhuang, and with it the dark mornings. Today however it was light when I woke up. Turns out I’d left the lamp on when I went to sleep last night, but it got me out of bed quicker!

7.10-7.40: Coffee. Much needed coffee. Plus getting dressed/brushing teeth/appearance sorting, but priority is coffee before layering up and shivering my way to school.

7.40-8.20: For some unfathomable reason, the school has pushed first and second period classes back 15 minutes, so my earliest class is now even earlier. The reason why coffee is so important on a Wednesday morning is because it’s the day I start a new lesson plan for the Senior 1’s and, annoyingly, I start with my lowest ability class. This means that what they struggle with other classes will find easy so it’s hard to gauge timings etc.. They are a lovely class to teach though, really happy, and because this week is revision week, they were happier to pay attention.

8.20-11.15: This is a gap of 3 periods in which non-productive Daisy goes back to bed and sleeps. Productive Daisy however goes to her office at home (now that it has wifi) and does work for online courses. I just finished a really interesting one on teaching and as a result my wall is covered in post-its and scribbles as I want to remember ideas. More coffee is drank, and I managed to remember to eat a satsuma for breakfast as I organised my diary and learnt different assessment techniques.

11.15-11.55: Back in the classroom for another revision lesson. These students are a higher ability class than the first lot, and managed to have some time at the end for personal revision. By this point my stomach is rumbling and the lesson overran slightly as the students asked me questions about the exam.

11.55-14.10: Lunch. Usually I cook at home but because I’d moronically only eaten a satsuma I was starving so went to the old street food building next door and ordered some wraps from Meat Pocket Lady. While I was waiting for them to cook my students from this year and last year kept me company and seemed shocked to see me there. Once I’d got my food it was back to the desk for more online learning, plus an accidental wake up call for Dad since I called him at 4.30am UK time…Oops!! This time it was an Understanding IELTS course. Although the course is aimed at people who want to take the test, it’s really interesting learning more about it and seeing the discussions underneath. By the time I’d finished it was time to get ready for an afternoon of teaching.

14.10-14.50: More teaching! This class is one of the most enthusiastic, always greeting me with shouts, cheers and declarations of love. Whilst in more formal lessons this can get overwhelming and I have had to shout at them before, their enthusiasm worked well for the revision lesson, and they were really into the game of hangman at the start.

14.50-15.50: The last break of the day. This time I went through the links I’d opened over lunch from the IELTS course and got more ideas for the senior special lessons. Plus yet more coffee as I was starting to yawn and the sweets the students gave me in the last class could only give me so much energy.

15.50-17.25: 2 back-to-back lessons. Both enthusiastic, both loved Mr Bean, both comforted by the revision lesson. One had a teacher in the back who usually marks homework but got involved this lesson, and one had a huge debate about the True/False game we were playing at the end. In one of the classes the boys who usually ignore me at the back of the classroom got really involved with the game and ended up making their own signs to hold up so they could join in. There was one boy who was open mouthed staring at my chest until his friend nudged me, but he was quickly overshadowed by the students who gave me chocolate and sweets. He will forever be Perv Boy in my eyes though!

17.25-18.10: This is scheduled as dinner time, but I don’t have time to cook and eat in this time or grab something from the street without getting bloated so I went back to my desk and prepared for the evening class. By this point Productive Daisy was turning into regular Daisy and Youtube was calling.

18.10-18.50: The last class of the day! Today it was the Senior 2 specials turn to be my last class, and after explaining various ways to express likes/dislikes/indifference I was finally able to start to wind down. Luckily this class have already had me for a year so when I’m tired and can’t English, they’re amazing at understanding and incredibly can actually understand when I’m talking at my usual speed. Or they seem to understand at least! Finally it was time to go home and so I went, shivering once again but happy to have some students say they loved me again. My students this week especially keep giving me sweets and saying how beautiful I am and that they love me. If it means they won’t speak Chinese when they shouldn’t and they actually sit and listen to me, I’m not complaining!

18.50-20.30: Again, I usually cook dinner but after a productive day like today I was 1.starving and 2.too tired to cook and faff about. So it was off to the dumpling shop for my usual take out order. I say usual, the woman now sees me alone and says what I usually order since I get the same thing every time. Old habits die hard! I ate in front of Youtube again and then sat down to write this post.

It might seem like a busy day, and believe me it was, but not all my days are this hectic. Monday for example, I got out of bed at 12 and lesson planned until my one and only class at 18.10 before watching movies with the Squad. Since today was so busy, and the past couple of Wednesdays have been busy, I thought I’d give you an insight into Productive Daisy, and what sort of things I get up to. Now it’s almost 9pm and the 3 cups of coffee have worn off, I think it’s time for a movie in bed… 😀

“ready for bed meme”的图片搜索结果

Settling into Life in the Shiz

The first couple of weeks were relatively chill here in Shijiazhuang, but honestly I was getting a little bored and was ready to start teaching. Naturally after only a week and half of lessons I’m already excited for the 3 day holiday which starts tomorrow! School kicked off with the usual opening ceremony, but rather than Sam giving the speech, for some reason the school decided I had to give one on behalf of the returning foreign staff and Gabriel had to give one on behalf of the new staff. This meant that with very little notice I had to prepare and deliver a speech in front of 6000+ students and the 100+ staff! Luckily when the students were filing in (with military precision I may add), I’d spotted a few of my old favourite students and directed my speech at them so didn’t mess up too much I don’t think!! Plus I had my student Vanessa translating next to me. The school had an annoying drone taking photos as well as the usual photographers, but although they were annoying, I’m glad there’s photographic evidence that I did the speech and I’m finally putting that A-Level in drama to use.

Predictably, our timetable was all over the place during the first week. I didn’t actually get a full one until the day after school had started, partly because they’d put me down to teach 2 classes at once and partly because I fought so hard against having an evening class on a Friday. This all meant that I taught one class before the opening ceremony and when I went to try and teach my second I was told there were no classes that day. Turns out I wasn’t supposed to teach the first one, which does explain why they looked so confused when I appeared at the door! I have less individual classes this year but the same number of scheduled classes which is nice – I don’t really get that bored of my lesson plan since I only teach it 10 times. The worst thing about my timetable is Wednesdays. I have 6 classes over 11 hours which is just brutal! The last class of the day had me last year too so last week I just stormed in and told them that they had to do lots of speaking since I was too tired and because they know me and are amazing they did so. I’ve had a lot more interaction with the homeroom teachers this time around – roughly 60% of my classes had a teacher in the room at some point to observe and a couple even introduced me and made the students clap which was incredibly sweet as well as incredibly awkward. So far the students seem much more confident than my ones last year, but they could be reacting to a much more confident teacher. Either way I’m enjoying getting stuck back into teaching even if I don’t enjoy my long day on Wednesday.

As part of my first lesson, I had the students give themselves English names. This year I want to keep better track of their names so made them make name cards. Then because some of the options are hilarious I kept a record of the funniest/weirdest to share on here!

Boy names 

  • Vermouth
  • Wede
  • Victory
  • Ewan
  • Curry
  • First Blood
  • Horatio Nelson
  • King
  • Susse
  • Krain
  • Blackstone

Girl names

  • Hibbo
  • Dreamy
  • Kirtio
  • Hyun
  • Angle (Actually I had 2 different Angle’s in different classes)
  • Army
  • God’s Sheep
  • Kevin

Double Acts

Chinese students form very close friendships, and lots of students name themselves as a double act to show how close friends they are.

  • Tom and Jerry
  • Spring and Summer
  • Herry and Harry

Highlights from other grades

  • Made in Black
  • Potato
  • Satan
  • HandsomeGuySupermanXu

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As well as settling into school, we’re all settling into life in the Shiz again which seems to mean having lots of food on the street, drinking lots of beer and cocktails at Hank’s and playing lots of card games. It’l be a shame when the weather and pollution go downhill soon and we can’t just socialise outside like we have been doing. We’ve made a new friend in the burger shop man called Tony, bumped into an old friend who took us to KTV last year and made enemies then friends with the new manager at Hank’s. To be honest though, nothing major has changed and it’s been nice to come back home.

Saying Goodbye

Spoiler alert: It was more saying see you later since I came back for another year.

Term starts here in China in less than 2 days, so I reckon this is a perfect time to reminisce about my final week in the classroom and saying goodbye to my first year of teaching. To start off my week was very confusing because I had to work the weekend beforehand. After the typical last minute cancellations on the Friday, this meant that I couldn’t get a goodbye photo of classes 6 and 10. Class 6 I wasn’t bothered about – they gave me a headache 9/10 times, but I referred to class 10 as my zen class. They were probably the most stereotypically ‘Chinese’ class I taught and I loved them for it. Because I always taught them after class 6, it was so nice to come to a classroom full of quiet students who spoke great English and were genuinely interested in what I was teaching them. All the rest of my students however got a ‘Goodbye Lesson’ of their choosing. This meant that the majority of them watched a movie… but who am I to argue with my students in the last week of school.

In case anyone was wondering – the signs have the class number on so that when I look at the pictures I know which class they were!

So in-between watching movies, taking photos and playing epic tournaments of Taboo, our time as the 42 crew was coming to an end. Although we knew that some of us would be returning, we had to say goodbye to Julian, Chris and Thandie (Not Jonathan though, he unexpectedly returned even though he sold me his bike before he left)! As a result the last week of teaching was interspersed with packing, organising and meals with the gang. As I mentioned previously, the final lessons of the year were cancelled last minute so we could have a goodbye assembly. Unlike the opening ceremony, this one didn’t involve the whole school. As the school was saying goodbye to the foreign students as well, they were there with their host families. Also there were my senior 1 special class and the top students from each class. This meant that when we had to give a short thank you speech my cheering section was the loudest and even though I knew that I was going to be returning, I was still getting quite emotional. Lily had made a montage of pictures of us all together as well as a video where some students said how much they had enjoyed our classes and other nice things about us. When it came to the end of the assembly (and the awkward attempt to sing Auld Lang Syne), the students swarmed the stage after giving us a bouquet of flowers and it all got very emotional. God only knows how i’ll react actually saying goodbye to my students!  We went straight from the assembly to a restaurant with some of the foreign office staff and the foreign students and it felt almost like we were rockstars. Because the school day had finished for the junior students, there was gridlock traffic and e-bikes all over the place. Meanwhile the students were frantically waving at us on the coach and we were waving back as parents just stared in a confused manner.

I’m in some but not all of the class photos. Not that I didn’t like all my classes, but for some of them I couldn’t be bothered getting someone else to hop on the chair to take the picture. It does however, mean that people can play the really fun game of SPOT THE FOREIGNER!

Soon enough, it was time for the first goodbyes. We were having our last meal together at our local barbeque place, smoking the Cuban cigar Sam had busted out for the occasion when it was time for Sam to wave awkwardly goodbye because she had to be up early in the morning. While the first goodbye was more hilarious than sad, when it came time for everyone to say goodbye to Julian the next morning, we were all gutted and as much as Izzie yelled “I DON’T EVEN LIKE YOU THAT MUCH” there were tears and hugs as he drove away. Izzie and I, having nothing to do other than wait until our trip to Korea in a few days, decided to spent the boiling hot day in the courtyard, reading the books on China that Julian had left behind and people watching the students outside. We ended up being like Willy Wonka and stood on the street outside the school giving left over sweets to the students who came and said hello. In quick succession everyone abandoned Izzie and I to the apartments as they either travelled around a bit or travelled home. Thankfully we weren’t left in Shijiazhuang too long, and soon we adventured to South Korea on the hunt of beer, K-Pop bands and fashion. But that post is for another time.

Looking back on saying goodbye to the students and teachers who made my first year in China so special and incredible is making miss them all over again, but I am so looking forward to seeing what the next year will bring me. ❤

42 Crew 2015-2016

我是外国人 – Being a foreigner in Shijiazhuang

Just to make one thing clear from the start:  in general the Chinese people are lovely and welcoming towards people. However China has a very different culture than the UK, and inevitably there are cultural differences. This post will go through 5 of the main cultural differences and challenges I face as a foreigner in Shijiazhuang.

Mask
1. The staring 

This is easily one of the most frustrating things about living in China. Many people in Shijiazhuang have never seen a non-Asian person before, or they have seen so few that we’re a novelty to them. Add in the fact that they are much more conservative in their dress than in the West and you’ve got a recipe for constant stares. It’s been explained to us that they’re not staring out of hostility but because they are curious. While that is probably true in the majority of cases, it does get annoying to be stared at so much. I think it affects me most when I’m sick (or hungover). I don’t want to leave my flat to get food when I feel horrible anyway, but add in the fact that I’ll be stared at and its just not happening. The staring affects what I wear too; no shorts unless I’m willing to be looked at. Again it’s not in a leery way – they’ve just never seen so much pale white flesh! The staring is most noticeable when there’s a big group of us. It almost feels like being on a catwalk sometimes.
2. The photos

Closely linked to the not-so-subtle staring, another thing the locals like to do is take pictures of us. Sometimes brave people will ask for a selfie; one memorable encounter with two Chinese schoolgirls resulted in me missing my stop on the bus. This usually happens with drunk Chinese men in restaurants too. More often people will shove a phone in our faces or try and take a picture without getting too close. Similar to the staring, they have no shame about taking photos of us when we clearly don’t want them. Some of the 42 crew react by trying to make them embarrassed so wave hello or take a photo of them in return. It doesn’t really work though, and I have no idea how many random people have photos of me on their phone. With the photos and the staring, we’re practically celebrities!


Staring in Beijing
3. The pollution

Okay granted, the pollution doesn’t only affect foreigners in Shijiazhuang, but especially in winter it was a huge part of life here. When people ask me where I teach, they’ve never heard of Shijiazhuang. Like Leeds United being how I describe when Leeds is famous for, the pollution is how I describe Shijiazhuang. It’s bad. There’s no denying that. In winter there were several months where I legitimately saw no blue sky. Because the city isn’t known like Beijing,no one really cares if the air is off the charts. I invested in some disposable masks recommended on a blog written by a doctor, but rarely wore them since they fogged up my glasses and hurt my ears. For next year I’m ordering a reusable one online which hopefully I’ll like more!


Nice clean air on New Years! Sadly in the winter it wasn’t that uncommon.
4. The travel

Shijiazhuang doesn’t currently have a subway system. They are building one, but this just means there is a heap of construction on the roads. When you’re reliant on the bus system, this gets tiresome quickly. Being a foreigner using public transport in the Shiz has its own problems. By now I know how to get to my regular places to shop or eat and meet friends, but if I get on the wrong bus or get lost if have to get a taxi back home since I can’t ask the bus drivers where they are going. Alright fair play I should try harder with Chinese and then maybe this problem will vanish. What will not vanish however is the sheer number of cars, people, and bikes on the road. Crossing the road often feels like I’m taking my life into my hands. Bikes seem to ignore every one and every thing around them, buses have a life of their own and everyone likes to honk their horn at all times! Plus a few times people have failed to stop because they’ve been staring at the foreigner which doesn’t help!

5. The manners

Many many times this year I’ve had to remind myself that the Chinese way of doing things isn’t wrong, it’s just different. So, when someone is spitting on the floor of a restaurant or standing in my personal space their not being rude, it’s just a different. This can get frustrating sometimes however. This week the 42 crew went to a water park in Beijing and experienced the Chinese system of queuing for an extended period of time. I say ‘system of queuing’, but from what I could tell there was none. People pushed in front of us and didn’t seem to understand that if they waited in an orderly fashion at the top of the ride they’d all get their turn. After putting up with this all day by the end we were fed up and took a stand at the top of the stairs. Using Julian’s arm and body we forced everyone behind us to wait until the 20 or so people in front of us had gone before moving ahead. Even then they tried to break his grip and push past us. Eventually the backlog cleared and Julian took a step forward. His space was immediately filled with roughly 15 people crammed together. As a British person, the Chinese ‘system’ of queuing is intensely frustrating.

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Excellent pollution comparison photo’s from Izzie. We use the tower blocks as reference points for how bad the air is.
As legendary TEFL teacher Michael Knapp once said: China is a polychronic society, and there will be things we find odd simply because we’re not from the same culture. It’s not wrong, it’s just different.

All good things…

So my first teaching year in China is coming to an end already. I’ve got around 3 more weeks teaching before I head to South Korea and then home for a break, however I’ve started to say goodbye to one class already: Senior 2 Class 13. This class were a little different to the rest of those I taught, they were preparing to study abroad for university and to go live in countries such as Australia, Canada and the UK. This meant that whilst my main responsibility was to help them pass their IELTs or TOEFL tests, I also taught them Western culture and customs.

IMG_2414.JPGSteve, Berry, Bronson, Jack, Spencer, Rico, Gloria, Mary, Margo, Kris, Anna and Deloris.

My classes with them can be divided into roughly 3 different stages. When I first started, I had to focus on the speaking tests they were preparing to take. I did this mainly by giving them lots of practice questions and slowly reducing their thinking times. Since I didn’t start 1-1 tutoring with them until after February, I had to rely on them pairing up. I also used written exams to check their understanding of sentence structure and grammar. This first stage was probably the most boring for me – I was repeating a lot of information as they kept making the same mistakes. However, once they’d warmed up (they were so quiet at first), and increased their ability to think quickly in English I could move on to more interesting things!

Margo and Kris: 2 excellent students with bright futures in Australia.

After Spring Festival I decided to mix things up a bit. Their written work had shown me that they were much better at answering speaking test questions and rather than repeat the same exercises over and over again, I did some more interesting things. By this point the numbers in the class had shrunk greatly – if the students had got a good enough grade on their tests they were spending their time on extra-curriculars rather than in my lesson. This meant that I could get to know those who remained better and after these lessons I had some great stories about my students.

Funny moments from senior 2 special:

  • One student who genuinely didn’t believe Aboriginal Australians existed – even after I showed them a picture.
  • One student whose heroes are Mao, Churchill and Stalin – diverse!
  • One student whose heroes are Elvis, Martin Luther King, and Mao.
  • One student who learnt how to make snarky comments. When I asked them to finish the sentence “Success is…”, he replied “A WORD”! I’ve never been so proud!
  • The ongoing saga of one students obsession with Tim Tams, including the price, where you can buy them and his steadfast refusal to believe anything I said ever.

During these few weeks I more focused on getting them to express their feelings and beliefs as well as improving their group work. Some of the more interesting lessons involved getting them to argue about which charity deserved money the most, thinking about the positives and negatives of fame and getting them to debate various topics. Whilst at first some students struggled to get their point across, by the end they were looking forward to the debates and said they really enjoyed them.

For those students who were still struggling with the speaking exams we had 1-1 tutoring weekly. During these sessions I really got to know the students and I looked forward to them weekly. Thanks to these sessions I now know fully when to use articles! I was so proud too when a shy student gained confidence after seeing me privately and was able to question a very loud student in class.

Anna and Gloria: 2 of the students I tutored weekly.

For the final couple of weeks I focused on the cultural differences and settling into university life. By this point about 10 minutes of my lesson every week was taken up by random questions on a variety of topics from driving licences to the drinking age. These were probably the most informal lessons, although they were still learning things such as slang and idioms, they mainly mined me and guest teachers for information. A really successful lesson was my penultimate one which focused on settling into university and the questions they will face when they first get there. At one point a student asked me a question which made me realise just how much of a big step they were taking. They asked me how to make friends and what they should say to people to get them to like them. As I started to answer I realised that the entire class was listening and that this was a genuine concern of theirs that they’d waited to ask me.

The last lesson we just played games, but I made sure they took my WeChat so they could keep in touch! After seeing them twice a week since September it was gutting to say goodbye and I was  genuinely upset when I left. It might have been a rocky and quiet start, and 2 of the students stormed out in a huff at one point, but my evening classes with them were a highlight of my week. I know all good things must come to an end, but I wasn’t ready to say goodbye so soon!

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Messing around with Rico, Margo and Kris 🙂