About my Classes

Ok, this is an improvement. One of the other folks here told me about these internet cards you can buy that work like a calling card but it connects you to a dialup service, so I can dial up from home without having an actual account with a provider. It works like a charm… I just punch the number into my dialup software and I'm good to go! For 16 hours of access I pay $30 kuai, or about $3.75. No more internet café with wonky keyboards and Chinese software, woo hoo! The only drawback is that I still have to use Hotmail. Well, sooner or later China Telecom will get me set up. In the meantime I can write in Word and just paste into Hotmail, so at least I don't have to compose in Hotmail over the web. Plus I will have a record of what I write, which I haven't had to this point.

OK, my classes. I know I've told a couple of you about my classes, so bear with me if you've heard this before. I am teaching oral English exclusively, I didn't end up with the computer courses I heard I would. That's ok, there's less prep to do outside of class, but it's so open-ended it can be difficult to come up with a good lesson plan, and how do you measure the work? Right now I have four classes of second-year college students. My students are all majors in teaching Chinese as a foreign language. I think to some degree (if not to the whole degree) college students are assigned to a school and given a major based on their performance in the national college entrance exam -- I don't think they have much choice in the matter. However, they are all fortunate to be in college and not filling potholes. I'm still sketchy on the details, so I could be wrong about how this works. I'll try to find out more at some point.

Anyway, in each class there is a range of English speaking ability, although it seems to be a bit better than I thought it was after the first week. There are a few whose English is pretty good, and a few whose English is pretty bad, and the average seems to be that the English is OK. I have to speak a bit slowly and clearly to make myself understood, but part of that is that they hear so many kinds of English they are going to have to get used to MY English. A lot of them have had British or Australian teachers, so I sound very different to them. My biggest challenge is to make sure I reach the less well-prepared students while still challenging the more advanced students, and keeping the class from being too boring. They have had teachers in the past who like to play a lot of games, whereas I am sort of being a regular teacher (which is still a lot more informal than a Chinese teacher). However, I am going to try to come up with some activities that are fun AND educational! What a concept. Call PBS.

My favorite class story so far came when I was talking to this one poor fellow during introductions, and I asked him "Tell me a little about yourself." He looked around for help, kind of panicky, so I said "I want to know something about you." He still was completely puzzled, so using appropriate gestures (y'know, `me Tarzan, you Jane') to illustrate my point, I said "Tell me about you." After thinking for a second or two, a light bulb went on, his eyes brightened up and he declared, "I am BOY!" Of course the whole class cracked up. This is an illustration of the low end of the spectrum I have to work with, hoo boy. And this is second-year English!

I will also be getting assigned two or three classes of first-year students. The school is still `recruiting' them. I heard from someone that these are kids who are just getting out of military service. There is a party on the 28th to welcome them to Shi Da Xue, and I've been asked to attend. I've also been asked to sing and dance, a suggestion I politely nixed. However, there will be traditional Yunnan dancing, and I asked if I could learn that. Evidently it's not too easy. We'll see. Singing is very big here, and all my classes want me to sing for them. I told them that later in the year I would sing for them, once I know them a little better.

The English names they have can also be very interesting. I have plenty of Mary, Alice, Jenny, Gary etc., but I also have a variety of fruits, like Apple and Orange. I then have Cherrie, Hawit, Mini Jackly, Unicorn, Phenix, Natachar, and my personal favorite, Kinky. I haven't discussed that with her yet.

The students all seem to be giving me the benefit of the doubt at this point, but who knows how long the honeymoon will last?

Next installment:
1) Can I go a whole year without having to poop at work?
2) Where the f**k is all the underwear I packed?!?

Stay tuned...

- A