‘We’re in the endgame now’

That has both literal and metaphorical meaning. Avengers: Endgame was released in China last week, before the UK or US. I will not say how many times I have seen the film, only that it is more than once. I do not actually mind spoilers, but I know a lot of people do, and I am not going to spoil it here, other than saying it is very, very good. The last hour, in particular, was pretty epic, but the whole film was a lot of fun, and something of an emotional rollercoaster. The film reflects the culmination of the first ten years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the curtailment of various themes which have run through previous films (the title above is from Avengers: Infinity War). It is also probably going to be one of the best films of the year, and maybe even one of the best films (or at least superhero films) of all time (in my humble opinion).

Metaphorically speaking, it is now May. I only have about eight weeks of class left. I went to class on Monday, like I always do, and waiting outside the classroom was a Chinese English teacher who I know by sight, but not by name. She introduced herself and asked if she could observe my class. Apparently, her boss had suggested teachers watch other teachers’ classes, and she had chosen mine (I do not know why). Whilst I do not particularly like observation lessons any time (who does?), it is especially annoying when teachers just turn up and ask if they can watch. I have turned people away before. They were not English teachers, however, and this one was, so I reluctantly agreed.

I also like to warn the students in advance that there will be another teacher in the classroom, and that they should be on time etc. Anyway, I ploughed on with the class. The theme was a variation of the balloon debate, except it was not a debate. For those not in the know, the balloon debate is a (reasonably) common activity where students debate different characters who should be saved in a hot air balloon (or, conversely, who should be thrown out of the balloon). Basically, students have to weigh up the positives and negatives of each person. My version is where students get into groups and are told that a meteorite is heading towards the earth and it will destroy it. There is a rocket leaving for another planet and an empty seat on board. Each group gets a different job (e.g. soldier, doctor and so on), and they have to write a speech and then the class votes on who should be saved.

I did this lesson last year, and a student started crying (through nerves). Luckily that did not happen this year. In fact, the lesson went particularly well, a lot better than I thought it would. The winning job was actually pop singer (though it might have helped that the student who was giving the speech did a little song as part of it; the class loves stuff like that).

After the class, the teacher came up to me and said she had enjoyed it a lot. She was only going to stay for the first bit (the class is split into two 45-minute slots with a ten-minute break in between), but was so engaged and interested in it, she stayed, which was a nice thing to say. She also noted that the students seemed to like the lesson as well and that those who were sat in front of her – a group of four – had divvied up the roles for each of them when they were preparing their speech. I just hope she does not encourage more people to come each week to watch! She also commented that the activity I did after the speeches (we had about fifteen minutes left) was good because I had selected students to tell the class their answers who had not given speeches earlier in the lesson. This was not a conscious plan on my part, I was not aware I had actually done that; I just randomly picked students, haha!

In my second class, another teacher turned up. This caused problems because I usually dismiss the class early. We forego the break and work through it, but we finish class early as a result. The second teacher only stayed until break time, however, so in the end it did not matter. The second class is, as a whole, weaker than the first. But they did what they needed to do, and made a reasonable impression, I think.

It is a holiday today until 4 May, though I have elected not to travel. I was considering returning to Japan – given the fact I do not know when I will next be in this neck of the woods – but Japan also has some public holidays at this time, so places may be pretty busy. As it is, I will stay here and plan lessons for the rest of the semester (or try to). I will also try and sort through my stuff and decide what I want to keep and what I want to get rid of!


As an English teacher with a reasonable contact list of Chinese English teachers, sometimes I get asked by them (usually those from RDFZ) about English. It varies on whether I can answer these questions or not; it really depends on the question! I do not, inherently, mind helping them although it does depend on how much work I need to do. Usually, the teachers contact me, randomly out of the blue, after I last spoke to them months ago. Often messages will begin, “Hi Mark. How are you?”, then there is a longish period of time when there is silence, before eventually the actual message comes through. Today, a teacher who I did not know that well, sent me a voice message whilst I was at the gym. Given the fact that at the time I was on the treadmill, I ignored it until I had finished. The teacher explained that one of their colleagues was doing a demonstration lesson, where the whole faculty come and sit at the back of class and observe their class. I sat in on a couple at RDFZ and they are always awkward and also showy. By that, I mean that they do activities which they do not usually do.

The message was that this teacher was using a short passage in their lesson and that they could not find a recording of it, and because the lesson was a listening lesson, would I read out the text and record it, and then send it to them. It was only a paragraph, and would not take me very long, so I agreed. A few weeks ago, another teacher who I know far better, asked me what was a relatively simple English question, one which she would already know. I responded with a voice message, as it is easier than typing. What I did not realise is that she played the message to the students in class (she told me later). It is just a good thing I did not say anything inappropriate or swear in the message!

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