The thermometer is still hovering near 100, but I finally have to face the facts, that my summer is officially over. Tomorrow begins the first day of the 2012-13 school year. And I’m having a hard time realizing that the fun is over. Can you blame me? In the past three months, I went back to America, took a few trips to Shanghai, spent a month learning Chinese in Kunming and made a ton of new friends, both chinese and foreign. It has been without a doubt, the best holiday I’ve had in China.
But all good things must come to an end.
And of course I’m looking forward to seeing my darling students again, I really am, but for the first time in my 3 years I am not looking forward to the start of the semester. Why? Because of my schedule.
I’ve hinted at it slightly on this blog, but last year we got a new dean in the international office and she has changed the previously awesome job into a real chore. Because of her (and a lazy office worker), we lost a few good teachers who might have stayed and lost at least 4 possible teachers who wanted to come here. (They wrote and wrote and wrote, but never heard back from the office, despite the fact the school desperately needs teachers.)
So instead of the necessary 6 teachers, we only have 4. So now 4 will do the work of 6. And because I’m the top teacher, they have decided to heap a bulk of the extra work on me. They’ve done this by giving me extra classes and overstuffing other classes.
Normally, each class is 30 students. But to save space, they have decided to pack each of my classes with 60 students. In a lecture class it sucks, but it’s do-able. 60 students are less attentive than 30, but its just lecturing anyway. But they also changed my writing class from 30 to 60 students per class, then gave me all 3 classes.
Writing class takes a heap of after class time to read and grade each assignment. Last year I had 120 students and all the extra work almost killed me. Now I have close to 200 students, and I consider it unfathomable to try to read 200 writing assignments every week. There is not enough hours in the day to be able to read and grade 200 students work, and my head teacher knows it. I told her that if they were unable to change it then I would be unable to teach them writing. Instead it would be more like a culture/speaking class. She actually agreed with me, knowing they were asking the impossible but unable to do anything about it.
As a writer, teaching writing is a lot of hard work, but totally worth it in my mind. My class focuses on creative writing and I really like watching my students change from “not having any ideas,” to writing through the break period and staying after class an extra 15 minutes because they just can’t stop. Not every students blossoms, but just enough do that it is really exciting to watch. But I will have to give that up this semester and teach the class differently.
And just to add a little salt to the wounds, every monday I have 10 hours of class straight. From 8am to 9pm with only a lunch and dinner break. Teaching class is exhausting, and after 4 hours I’m usually beat. I think 6 hours is the most I’ve taught in a day and it was very, very tiring. So we’ll see how I fare with a 10 hour day. (In fact, my boss thinks it is impossible for any teacher to do, but she’s not in charge of the scheduling and is unable to change it.) For the next month, with temps in the nineties, 60 students in a classroom and no air conditioners, heat exhaustion is an actual worry for me.
There is a silver lining though. Thanks to the 10-hour day from hell I only work 3 consecutive days, I have a 4-day weekend. So they’ll be a lot of free time. My feet are beginning to itch, and I’ll have some time to do a little wandering. I’ve got a few local trips up my sleeve and might be going farther afield to places like Beijing. We’ll see.
This is the start of my 4th year in China, and no matter where I go, or what I do I know that if it is anything like the past three years, it will at least be interesting!