So I have successfully completed my first full week of the new semester. And what a week it’s been. This semester is one of my busiest, with class everyday (last semester I had class only 3 days a week) and Chinese class 4 days a week. We’ve also had dinner after dinner, special events and organizational things. Here’s a little peek into the week of an English teacher in China.
Getting New Assistants
The school needs us teachers to submit everything (teaching plans, course description, grades) into their computer system. Only problem is, the system is all in Chinese. So every year we have assistants to help us. Autumn, the Chinese teacher that works with us foreign teachers, decided to ask the juniors for volunteers. She thought that she would have to assign people to the job, but after asking it turns out she got about 15 volunteers for six spots. It’s an unpaid glorified data entry job, and yet, the students saw it as a chance to practice their English and get to know us better.
So we held an interview, and each student got the opportunity to tell us who they were and why they would be a good assistant. Of course Ryan and I knew almost all the students, but we said we wouldn’t pick them due to previous experience, but solely on what they said in the interview. (But most of the students were unknown to the other foreign teachers who are all new this year.) After they spoke about themselves the foreign teachers conferred, fought a little over the best students, and came to a happy resolution. I chose Fran, a student that was in our Moo-Cow video. (You only see her shadow at the end, as the rest of her part ended on the cutting room floor.)
I have a pretty sweet class schedule as I am teaching ALL of my favorite students. (My favorite students include two classes of seniors who I taught when I first came here, and two classes of sophomores I taught last year.) So the first of every class was more like a happy reunion than a serious class. I heard a lot of gossip, got a few special gifts, and the first classes were more fun than teaching.
We had to celebrate not just one, but TWO foreign teacher birthdays. Both Iain (from Scotland) and Courtney (from the US) turned a year older so we went out to eat to celebrate.
Office Hours and and Amazing Surprise
I usually start my office hours a few weeks into the semester. But even on the first day of classes I was getting requests, so I figured what the hell and started them in week one. (Office hours is just a time in which I sit in my office and any student came come and talk. It’s not a class, just spontaneous conversation, and a chance for students to meet new people. Last year a number of friendships were made through my office hours which made me very happy.)
I decided to celebrate the inaugural office hours by having a little tea party. I brought in my Hello Kitty tea pot, some Earl Grey tea and cookies. About 8 students came (which is the sweet spot, any more than 10 becomes too big) and one of my students, Lydia, had a “small” gift for me.
It was a handmade book, written, designed, and handmade all by herself.
I taught Lydia writing 2 years ago, and she was a star student. Even outside of class she would share stories with me that she wrote for other classes or on her own. Last year, in Ryan’s ‘Western Culture’ class she wrote a story for her final project. This summer she finished the story and spent 2 weeks creating this books.
Of course I read it as soon as I got home, and I have to say I am beyond impressed. The story is amazing. It’s about a Chinese girl named Sherry who gets a free one-way plane ticket to America from her dad, with $100 and an address of a friend. Sherry has to find her way to the friends house, and then her challenge is to make her own way back to China.
The friend is Uncle Sam, a “middle-aged fat man with a big nose, big eyes and a handlebar mustache.” Uncle Sam runs a Chinese restaurant and Sherry is not the only boarder staying at his place. There are other young people, all with unique personalities, and back stories that slowly emerge. As Sherry tries to figure out how to raise enough money to get back to China she has all sorts of encounters with oddballs, and also learns about AmericanÂ culture. (Remember, this was originally written for Ryan’s culture class.)
It was an amazing gift and I was honored by it. The other students at office hours were sophomores, and just started my writing class. “Use Becky’s class as an opportunity to be creative,” she told them. “In the future you might not be able to, but you can now.” As we were walking out together I was thanking her profusely, she said that it was not just a gift for me, but she had so much fun making it, that it was a good experience for her as well. Amazing.
So one week down, 15 more to go. I wonder what this semester will bring?