The Observation

I was observed several times when I was at RDFZ. I can’t say I’m a fan – especially in my first one – but it gets easier, and when you realise that foreign teachers teach in a different style to our own, it makes things a little easier.

On Monday night, at about 20:00, I had a WeChat message from our Chinese liaison teacher asking to observe one of my classes the following day (yesterday). She did not specify which one class, but in typical Chinese style, it was pretty short notice.

The lesson was an untested one, and yet it wasn’t. It was about storytelling. I taught a class about this topic last year to Senior 2, so as ever I used part of that class for my own lesson. But this was my first teaching day of the week and so, if the class was hit and miss, then it would be there to see. I have group chats for all my classes, so I mentioned to my three Tuesday classes that there may be an observation the next day, and that it would be good if all students could arrive on time.

The first class came and went. The lesson went okay. In the second, the teacher arrived. Now, that was both good and bad. Good insofar as I could test the lesson with the first class and see if any changes had to be made (I made a few minor edits to my ppt), but also bad because this was the lesson just before lunch. I usually forgo the break and end the class ten minutes early. I could not do this today, which would mean joining the massive lunch queue with everyone else and have a more limited selection of food available.

The teacher sat at the back of the room, mostly out of my eyesight, so I just ignored them and got on with the lesson. As it was, everyone performed well, and put on a good show. One student did ask me if we were going to finish early. I said no, and they said they understood, because there was another teacher in the classroom. After the class, the teacher observing simply said that the students seemed engaged and enjoyed the class, which was good. She mentioned the textbook – I get the students to do the listening for homework and then go through the answers at the start of class. She asked if they know that the exam will involve the listening activities from the book. I said yes, and then she departed. I got to the lunch queue, which was massive, as students descend on the cafeteria, but eventually I found some food and settled in with the other foreign teachers, describing my observation lesson.

In hindsight, it was good that that class was observed as the last class of the day was less good. It wasn’t bad but just wasn’t as flowing as the previous one. It was raining and raining quite hard. It continued to rain throughout the evening. It rarely rains in Beijing, and there was a fascination with the rain from my students. I think partly because they were inappropriately dressed for rain….

As well as the rain, the weather has been up and down recently. Last week the air was terrible (the days of wearing a pollution mask were common), but quite warm temperature wise. On Monday, the week started cloudy – but with clear air – and cool. Very cool. A lot cooler than previous few days. The last vestiges of winter’s icy grip, clinging on.

Of course, this is also the season of cherry blossom and many people are out taking photos of them. I saw some in Yuanmingyuan Park – the Old Summer Palace – a week or so ago, but the brightly coloured blossom was plastic! The real stuff was a lot lighter, but now, well, now the blossom is coming out bright and colourful.

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