Back in May, following the first screening of our film, I emailed the President of the Students’ Union, who I know pretty well (she is a Senior 2 student), and explained the ‘theme’ of the film. Basically, I said that it was our swansong and that we are all leaving next year (this is not strictly speaking true; two teachers have now decided to stay, though I didn’t know this at the time). I gave her my WeChat, which may have been a bit controversial since technically we are not supposed to give students our WeChat (WeChat is a messaging service here in China, similar to Whatsapp, but it can do far more things). However, I figured that a) I don’t actually teach her – so she is not my student – and b) soon I would be leaving anyway.
The President then put my WeChat onto a group she has, and suddenly friend requests started to appear. All from Senior 2 students, mostly from students I taught either last year, in Senior 1, or the first semester of this year. News quickly spread across WeChat that I was leaving. At first, I only had about three or four requests, from people in the same class as her. But then, in about half an hour, I got a steady stream of requests, four, five, six, until I had about 40 new friends, all of them students.
Whilst it was difficult to keep track and explain the situation to everyone, it was somewhat amusing that the news started to get a life of its own. Several people asked me if I was going back home to London. I explained, no, I would be in Beijing next year, at a university two subway stops away from school. This placated them a little, but I guess some were still disappointed. That’s not me saying I’m the best teacher in the world or being cocky or anything, but that they liked the foreign teacher classes because these classes are different, and we give them more freedom to do things – and maybe they are more fun too. So they enjoy them, and if they have fun in the class, they associate that with you as the foreign teacher.
It was gratifying to read some of the comments from the students who said they would miss me. And also, just to receive that number of requests from students who wanted to stay in touch; that was nice too. With my light timetable next year, and with some of them also having light timetables (for those not doing gaokao), there will still be time to meet even after I leave.
Still, it was evidence enough that news can spread like wildfire across social media. The following morning, there were still a trickle of requests, but things had died down. Students got back to doing work and… well, being students. And I had my Chinese to learn for my class.
At our third and final screening of the film, it was full almost exclusively of Senior 2 students. Senior 1 are away on a trip and Juniors were in class. The Students’ Union had done a great job publicising it – they even made a trailer for the film which they put on there.
I gave a short speech at the start, basically thanking them for coming. This got a round of applause. At the end of the film, it also got a round of applause. The dancing scenes received many laughs; overall I think it was popular. It was a nice farewell to many of the students and gratifying that so many came to watch it.