Returning to Brexit Britain, indeed Brexit Blackburn, I was interested to see what had changed, and what would be different. Having been back for over a month, the short answer is not much. Yes, Blackburn has a new bus station, and the road layout has been altered in parts of the town centre, but it’s still Blackburn with the same problems, people and weather.
Thus far, summer has been a wash out in both Blackburn and Beijing. China’s capital saw some particularly heavy rain showers in July, which caused flooding, and Blackburn has seen the typical wet summer we are used to in this part of the country.
Arriving home, I got off the plane in Manchester and was faced with a temperature far cooler than I was used to, compared with the 30+°c common in Beijing at this time of year. It was, to put it bluntly, cold.
Yet you slowly adapt back to the weather, the temperature and life here. I’ve been trying to keep my Mandarin fresh, which mixed results. I’ve been meeting people I haven’t seen for a year, and I’ve been catching up with the news, local and national, and what’s been happening in this neck of the woods (not much). Driving has also been fine, and it hasn’t felt too weird to be behind the wheel again.
I have also been trying to read more. I’ve just finished an excellent book, The Sixth Extinction, by Elizabeth Kolbert about… well, about extinction and the way we are heading towards another major extinction event. Before that I read The Tyrannicide Brief about the lawyer who prosecuted Charles I. Now I’m reading Life List by Olivia Gentile, a biography about Phoebe Snetsinger, a birdwatcher in America who before she died saw over 8,000 of the 10,000+ species of birds in the world.
In addition I’ve been planning the forthcoming semester for Senior 1, the grade which I am leader of. This means syllabus planning and development, in conjunction with the Chinese English teachers and the other foreign teachers.
The summer has seen several changes to our teaching schedule. I don’t have a timetable yet for the days I will be teaching, but the grades I will be teaching has changed a couple times over the past few weeks, as two new teachers dropped out from coming to the school. We have fallen from 14 to 12 teachers for the next academic year.
Originally, I was going to teach five Junior 2 classes (aged 13-14), six Senior 1 classes (15-16), two EDP 9 classes (14-15, but at same level as Senior 1), and five Senior 2 (16-17). This equalled 15 classes, although EDP 9 was only for the first semester.
Now things have been tweaked a little. I will be teaching three Junior 2 classes, two EDP 7 (12-13, but at same level as Junior 2), seven Senior 1 classes and three Senior 2 classes. This also equals 15 classes. EDP 9 has been ditched completely, as it was only one semester.
These changes will all be fine, and should be the final change, as I think the other five new teachers are committed. But, as anyone who has been to China knows, things are never set in stone and can frequently alter and this might be tweaked again before term begins on 1 September.
The draft syllabus is done, always available to be amended, and I will send it around for ‘ideas’ and ‘thoughts’ soon. I also have to plan the first couple of classes. Surprise, surprise, though, the only Chinese liaison teacher who has yet to be announced is the one for the grade I am in charge of, Senior 1. This means, for short term at least, I have more to do myself. Senior 1 is also the biggest grade, in terms of number of classes, in the school this year.
After the saga that was Apartment Gate (I was going to call it flat gate, but people might have thought I was actually talking about a gate which was flat), where myself and another teacher asked for the biggest apartment on our floor next year, and which was met with some chagrin from some colleagues, now our teacher numbers are down, the flat in question, no. 810, will remain a common room.
That means that myself and the teacher I’m sharing with, will likely get my old flat, 805. I will move into the smaller room, and the other teacher will take my room, the bigger one. Aparently, according to Kate, who sorts out our accommodation, the air conditioning in my new room is not working properly. This has been reported to the school authorities but, as with everything in China, it is not a simple act to get it fixed. Four signatures from the school leaders are required and this being the summer they may not be about. Kate assured me it won’t be that warm in August when we return, but I’m not so sure. It was warm last September when we arrived….
For my birthday, however, I got a cool bag. It is like a hot water bottle, except you put it in the freezer for a couple of hours and then use it to cool you down. I will, I suspect, make good use of that. I’ll also be checking what I can do to cool my room down. Opening the window would be the most logical, except if it is smoggy then that isn’t an option.
Still, the room is small so hopefully won’t be too hot, and, as a recent article in The Observer pointed out, with climate change and the world warming up, there is a real danger that more people will use air conditioners which will only make things worse. So, you know, with a faulty air con unit, I’m doing my bit for the environment.