Week 2.1

This week has been a bit odd. On Tuesday, my classes were way down on numbers – I had four students in the first class, then ten, then six. Yesterday, I had full classes. We – me and the other teacher I share the teaching with on a Tuesday and Friday – decided to combine the classes on Tuesday as she was way down too. Yesterday, I did an intro lesson with my first two classes (there were completely new students in one, and only three who’d been in my Tuesday class last week), but in the third class, there were only about four new students, and the rest were the same as last week, so I played games with them.

In that last class, I had 35 students. I sent four next door, to the other teacher, as she had more room. After class, they came back to my room and asked if they could be part of my class again. I said I’d have to see if I could get a bigger room if they did, but that I didn’t mind. They said the other teacher was a little strict…. It’s nice to know they would prefer me, but equally I don’t know the other teacher’s style. Some of my colleagues have told me she’s a bit strict too, so that supports the students’ ideas, but I told them to think about it and contact me if they want to come back into my class.

Earlier, in my second class, a student from Shenyang province seemed to enjoy the class (the province is south of Beijing, and north of Shanghai – it has the city of Qingdao in it). Anyway, he was very pleased to have a foreign teacher. He said he was very excited, very happy and his dream had come true (he had a dream of talking with an English nature speaker since Junior high school). It was nice to hear and he is very kind to say that…. My class is fun and I am very patient (apparently!). I don’t know if the enrolment system has been fixed or not, but it’s nice all the same to get compliments.

Sometimes, you wonder whether this is all worth it. Do you actually make a difference and influence – or help – people? Do students learn anything from my class? They aren’t really supposed to learn. You’re less of a teacher and more facilitator, in these positions, encouraging students to speak English. At RDFZ, yes, I had lots of good students and I know that sometimes all our lessons were to them a break and a bit of fun – nothing serious – and I was totally cool with that. Still, sometimes you questioned, given the attitude of some at the school, what our purpose was. But hearing that student talk about how his dreams had come true, just by meeting a native English speaker, then maybe it is worth it. Maybe it does matter….

Next week I’ll start my classes properly, and see what happens. If my Tuesday classes are still so small, then I’ll figure out a way of teaching them, but I’ll likely do something a bit different.

Last year I taught Obama, Villager and Clear Love (all students at RDFZ), though there was no Trump. This year, the most unusual English names I’ve had so far are Scarlett (who is male), Lucifer, and Mountain Chicken. I am not sure if this is a literal translation or not, but it’s one of the more unusual English names I’ve come across.

Sunday night, I don’t usually have any classes. However, a colleague is away this week (I don’t think it’s officially sanctioned), and he teaches the MBA students on a Sunday night. He asked me to cover. He said he had a ppt and worksheets, but mostly that they were doing presentations. He also said the first class was stronger than the second. The first class was between 6.30-8.20pm, and the second between 8.30-10.20pm. I should have known it wasn’t going to be straightforward. Of course, first the register was wrong. For the first class, my colleague had written the details for the second and vice versa. Then, when I loaded the ppt, I found out that they had already done it all, and had the worksheet.

I then just got them to plan their presentation (thinking up a product to sell), and then had them present it. This was better, though one student seemed a little miffed about the confusion. I pointed out that it was all I’d been given which seemed to placate her.

Then the second class…. I went through the slides quickly and explained again that this was the ppt I’d been given, before getting them to discuss their presentations in groups. This was better, and the class was more sociable. They also loved the fact the lesson finished very early (the previous class I finished about twenty minutes early).

In all I was a little irritated that the ppt was a wrong one. The students were understanding but it isn’t great when you rock up and they say they’ve already done it. There is some leeway (and legitimacy) in blaming the other guy – after all, they are their regular teacher and the one who is responsible for them ultimately. They are also the one who gave me, essentially a dud ppt, though. I was so so glad the second class was a lot better (more jovial, more smiley, even though they were supposedly weaker), than the first.

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