It’s Saturday, and it feels like I’ve been here a month instead of 8 days. The days have been so jam-packed that it feels like a lot of time has gone by, and it’s funny thinking that I’ll be here another 9 months after this one ends. This week, I taught 22 classes of Junior 1 students, who are 12-13 years old. There are 6,000 Junior students in the school, and five Americans teach them their oral English classes–a guy named Rodney, who has lived here quite awhile with his family, two Michiganders named Brad and Stacey, a Californian named Elijah, and then me.
Brad, Stacey, Elijah, and I are around the same age, so we’ve been figuring out this place together quite a bit. Our most notable (and boring) excursion was to the department of health and whatever else, where they had to verify that we weren’t bringing in any diseases to China. We were there a few hours while our bosses argued with the people over our medical papers, and a lot of us had to get some things tested again. I think my favorite thing that happened as “the last straw” in that ordeal was when the guy came over to Stacey, pointed at her passport picture that was attached to her visa application, and told her that her hair was too big. So because she has curly hair, she had to take the picture again. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry for her, so we all just laughed.
I enjoyed teaching my classes this week, but Tuesday was a long, tiring day–I had seven 40 minute classes to teach that day, which was our first day of teaching. We don’t teach on Mondays, so we cram the 22 classes into 4 days. The walks to and from class involve weaving through crowds of uniform-clad students, many of whom stop to giggle and bow to me, or just bounce by waving and yelling “Hello, teacher!” Some of them stop to ask me where I’m from, and how tall I am, and if I like LeBron James. I really need to remember to just convert my height to the metric system, because I say “6 feet tall” and they have no idea what to make of it.
I mostly have a blast teaching–I love it, and while there are students who talk in class and try to slip a lot of Chinese by me, I still enjoy them. I have to crack down on them a lot though in these first few weeks, or they’ll be way out of hand later. The problem is, they always laugh at the students who I call on to practice speaking, and I don’t like that at all. So I usually move around in class a lot and stand next to the troublemakers while I listen to the students I’ve just called on. When they really won’t be quiet, I reach out and bang on their desks, and then they usually zip it. But besides some talking in class and hesitance to participate in class, the students have been great. They’re hilarious, and sometimes I have to work really hard to keep a straight face when I have them up at the blackboard writing an answer or speaking a dialog.
One of the greatest enjoyments for me is finding out their English names, ones that either their Chinese English teachers have given them or that they’ve given themselves. I’ve had students named Cinderella, Snow White, Brain, Kobe Bryant, Blade Runner David Scott (one name, yes), Sword, Cloudy, Gum, and Seven. Oh, and yesterday, I had a kid named…God. No kidding. I’m going to have to tell him that he needs to find a different English name. I had a very awkward/hilarious moment when I called on him in class, because he was up at the board writing an answer, and I glanced at his name card as I said thank you and stopped just short of saying “thank you, God.” I’m going to give him a new name ASAP.
I usually save the last five minutes of class for the students to ask me questions about myself, or my country, or hobbies, or whatever they can think of. It makes them speak more, and it’s also really amusing for me. Some of the most common questions are these: do you speak Chinese? Do you have a husband? Do you like Michael Jackson/Lady Gaga? What’s your favorite sport? What’s your phone number? What’s your favorite food? When they ask me if I speak Chinese, I answer in Chinese that I don’t speak it very well, and then their faces light up and the start yelling and clapping for me. But then I have to say that we speak English in this class…not Chinese. I’m kind of amazed that they know who Lady Gaga is.
One of the most hilarious questions I got was this: “do you like Chinese boys or American boys?” The whole class laughed at that one, and the question-asker put his head on the table, laughing and red with embarrassment. Another one was from a little girl named Hilary–she asked me, “do you like Hilary?” “You mean Hilary Clinton?” “Yes.” “Um…well…sure.”
I haven’t taken a many more pictures yet, but hopefully more will be forthcoming shortly!
Also, I haven’t figured out a creative or tasteful way to say this, but I have now partaken of donkey meat. And it was very good. That’s all. 🙂