Last week after Friday’s classes, I was elated: the classroom part of teaching here is finally over. It was a hard week of review–hard because the students didn’t seem to realize I was doing it for their benefit and didn’t pay extra attention–but it was tempered with the happy thought that we were almost finished. There were moments during that week, however, where I was able to feel a tinge of sadness that I would be leaving some of these kids who have become a source of some joy to me.
Some classes are really fun to teach, and I am a different person when I am with them than when I am with a terrible class. The good classes are the ones who pay attention and actually love learning, the bad ones hate being told anything. I am able to be freer and joke more with the good classes, because I know that I have their respect, but with the bad classes, I can’t show much of that side of me, because if I loosen up much at all they walk all over me, and don’t hesitate to show their disrespect.
By my last class on Friday, I had worked up so much energy in the sheer anticipation of almost being done, that I was a far quirkier teacher than I usually am, and had them in stitches the whole class period. It was kind of like an out of body experience, to be honest. I’m pretty sure they couldn’t believe how much energy I had, because I’m usually not that chipper with them on Friday at 4:25 pm.
This past week, I’ve been giving the final oral exams to my students. I have written 3 tests so that the students can’t listen in on the previous student and copy their answers (cheating is unbelievably rampant). Each student has 2-3 minutes to answer my questions, correctly pronounce some sentences, use two vocabulary words correctly in a sentence, and describe a picture. That’s it. It’s a short test, but that’s necessary in order to get through all the kids. I got through something like 325 kids this week, and that’s not quite half of them. Testing is easier than teaching in the classroom–I can save my voice and some energy, but it’s still draining to do 3 class periods in a row. I am grateful to sit down though and do more listening that speaking so that I can really gauge each student’s progress.
In the Oral English teachers’ classes at this school, only 20 points of their final grade is obtained. The Chinese English teachers’ classes make up 80 percent of their grade, which is probably another reason why we don’t matter that much to the administration or students. 10 points of the final grade is for class behavior and participation, and 10 points is for the actual exam. By this time in the year, for most students, I can take one look at their faces and know exactly what behavior score they should get. Last semester, it wasn’t as easy to remember, so I was slightly more generous in giving them the benefit of the doubt. It may have satisfied my sense of justice and dignity to give low behavioral scores to the students with awful attitudes and behavior in class, but it felt even better to give high marks to those who deserved them. Some students have improved a lot this semester, and their grades show it.
Next week, we will finish the exams, and if any students are absent and miss the exam, then we have another week of contract left for them to make it up. I am hoping that I can finish all of the testing next week so that we will have a free week to just relax, pack, and say goodbye to all of our favorite people and places in the city. Only three more weekends left in China. I can hardly believe it.