I had written a different version of this, but then the result changed and so I scrapped it! I had a few ‘waifs and strays’ after the enrolment upheaval here. Some students were not on my printed register, but still turned up to class. I asked my manager if they could be added to my register, but the university said no. So I told them they were assigned to another class (which they had been, but had not checked their new timetable), and that I was no longer there teacher.
Any other student, I wouldn’t have minded so much, but one of them was the student who told me my class was a dream come true for him…. He was pretty angry and sent my manager a very, very long message (all in Chinese) about why he should be in my class. It didn’t do much good, and he is resigned to go to the other class. Friday was his first class with the new teacher, and he’d told me he was going to the other class, but then appeared at my classroom door. I let him in, a little confused why he was there, but after he told me, ironic, after all the big palaver about timetables, his Chinese teacher was sick.
Now, I teach alongside another foreign teacher who also happened to be off sick on Friday and so I presumed (incorrectly, it turns out), he went to her class. I told him that was the wrong class, but then clarified that his Chinese teacher was also sick. I think he’s cool with it now, or if not cool, then accepting of the situation. Interesting, and something I didn’t realise until part way through class, in my first class on Friday, I had two extra students. They were there because their teacher was sick, and had come with their friend. That was fine, and I got chatting with one of them after the class and asking her about her Chinese English classes (what I didn’t know was that not all freshers have foreign teachers, only something like 20 out of 90 classes have them). She said her class is very quiet, and many people sleep in class (typical Chinese classroom). In my class it was much more active (she said). Another student was in my first class, missed two weeks, due to the timetable confusion, and is now back. His roommates were also formerly my students and now have Chinese English teachers. He said they are envious of him for still having my classes. I don’t say this to show off; I think any of the response would be the same about any of the foreign teachers here. It is a very different class to the Chinese teachers’ classes. At RDFZ, the younger teachers certainly would sometimes watch our classes for ideas, and some are innovative, and try and incorporate different styles of teaching, but it’s difficult with the material and system they work within.
Several students from RDFZ have asked me for references these past few months. That’s fine, I don’t mind. It has been a little frustrating at times, as some have required more specific demands than others, but I think the reference cycle is over now as they apply for university, with deadlines approaching. I had a message from a student last Friday. This is volleyball girl, and she wanted me to sign her reference. On that day. She had forgotten the deadline was approaching. She needed it signing by 4pm. She remembered I was teaching and asked when I would be free, and she’d come to my campus if I liked. I said I was at the other campus, in the sticks, on the outskirts of the city. It is served by the subway but it takes a while to get out here. When she did, the guards on the gate may not let her in either. As it happened, luckily for her I had the afternoon off so I was able to meet her outside school and sign the reference. I’m happy to sign these things, and even write them, but more time would be appreciated! As Marty McFly says in Back to the Future Part III, ‘Why do we have to cut these things, so damn close?!’