Last week was both good and bad. Bad because on Friday, my laptop failed me, and good because my lesson went extremely well, a lot better than I thought it would. The lesson was about advertising, and involved the class splitting into groups and me giving each group a random product (e.g. an iron). They then had to make an advert for it, and perform it in front of the class. The class would then take a vote as to which product they would buy. They all seemed to enjoy it and all did what was required. Some of their answers were very good, given they had only a limited time in class to prepare. They even used their own props (one group created their own iron out of paper).
My laptop failing was less fun. I’d had a few minor issues with it for a while, but this culminated in the fact it did not work, when I turned it on just before class, at about 07:50 on Friday morning. Luckily, I’d saved the lesson on a USB, so I ran it off that, on the computer in the classroom. There are about ten weeks left of the semester; I can use my old laptop until I return home and try and get it fixed.
This week I’ve only had one lesson, on Tuesday, because Thursday and Friday is sports day. My class on Tuesday again went very well – they were doing an improvisation activity which I hadn’t had time to do a couple of weeks ago, when I did improvisation with them for the first time. They enjoy doing this, and it gives them opportunities to speak, which is what the class is all about.
This is the time of year when foreign teachers start thinking about the future. What to do next – should you stay or should you go? For me, this is no exception. I’m pretty sure that next year will be my last here, but what of that – where to spend my final year? The obvious answer would be perhaps stay here. And there are several reasons to do so. To begin with, I’ve been told (I suspect partly based on my observation) that if I stay, next year I would only teach the English majors (at the moment I teach non-English majors). It would be eight hours – four hours on an outline of Britain and America, and four on general English. Given that this is my first year here, I think it is good that they recognise my teaching ability, especially since there are people here who have been here longer than I have – I am the newbie! I asked for a pay rise of three or four thousand to take this position. After a few days of silence, I was told that there would be a new position, in teaching English major students, which would be created in 2019, and that the pay would be similar to what I’d asked for. For next year, however, they could not increase the salary.
On the other hand, I had an interview recently at Renmin University, close to my old stomping ground (I used to teach at the affiliated high school next door). The interview was quite quick, which is typical of the interviews I’ve had here. They explained that foreign teachers teach the non-English majors, in four areas – American culture; public speaking; oral English, and advanced writing. It would be 12 hours a week, plus two office hours and one hour spent in the writing workshop. It seemed more structured, and more organised than here. In addition, foreign teachers teach a class of 30-40 minutes, which is recorded and put online for other universities to use.
The pay is considerably more than here (over double), and I know the area well. Also, the university is probably the third best in the country, after Peking University and Tsinghua University. Accommodation is an issue – they offer it, though I’d have to pay for it (but the department gives teachers money for the rent). There is no kitchen, though you do get a fridge. This is not so bad, because I rarely cook, I have a hot plate, and there are many restaurants on the Renmin campus.
When my current university told me about the major students, I admit I was tempted. This year, one of the teachers teaches the majors and non-majors. They also said that they would try and schedule classes for two half days a week. The position would only be teaching majors. If the new position was starting in September, I would really be considering it. It’s good that they are creating this new role, and giving it a pay rise. If I was planning to stick around that long, I’d also think about it. But, whilst anything could happen next year, I can’t really just wait around for this to be created. Renmin seems to offer much more in terms of experience (I learnt about teaching writing on my CELTA, but I’ve done relatively little of it since then), in a university which is recognised across China and internationally. I will not have as much free time as I do now, which is also something to consider, and moving my stuff in the summer would also come with associated hassles. But, I think, the benefits outweigh the negatives, all things considered.
I went to watch the film Annihilation yesterday. This is sort of science fiction-horror. It stars Natalie Portman as a scientist who, along with four other women, go into this ‘shimmer’ which has appeared in America. I try and go to the cinema during the day, on a weekday, because there are usually fewer people about. Yet, I was not expecting to be the only one in there, as I was, yesterday. That’s like being back in the UK, when I go to watch a horror film at 15:00, and I’m the only one watching the film. Actually, someone else did come in but then quickly left when the film started. I think they got the wrong screen. The film was in English with Chinese subtitles. This is usually the case with Hollywood films, although recently I saw Pacific Rim: Uprising, which was a co-production with a Chinese company I think. There were Chinese characters in the film, speaking Chinese. Those bits were not subtitled in English. Some of them were quite substantial sections. I picked up little bits, but my Chinese is not that good. However, I could work out the gist of scene, and understood the rest of the film, so it wasn’t too bad.