All The Blank Faces

All The Blank Faces

I’ve been teaching in my current job 4 weeks now, and generally it’s going ok. This can’t be said for some of my students though! I’ve said it once, and I’m going to keep saying it until I finish working here; but sometimes it feels like I’m teaching rocks.

Honestly, it’s like trying to get blood out of a stone with some of these kids. With the exception of two great classes, most of the time when I’m teaching, all I see is a wall of blank, emotionless faces.

It’s pretty hard to get my students motivated to do anything.

“OK STUDENTS, WHICHEVER TEAM WINS THIS GAME WILL GET NO HOMEWORK!!!”

Nothing…..

No excitement whatsoever occurs. Faces are still blank.

They must really enjoy homework if that’s the case!

So yeah, some students just are very unmotivated to participate in class.

Unlike the rest of the world, Chinese students aren’t encouraged to think creatively and outside the box. They are made to remember large volumes of texts and that’s it. So when I get them to do an activity that needs them to think individually and be creative; a lot of them just can’t do it.

‘wo bu hui….wo bu hui” 我不会。 They keep repeating to me “I can’t do it”. I say to them “You can do it! You just need to think about it more”.

For this particular task, we were studying personality words like timid, hard working….. After learning the words, I asked a few students to come up to the top of the class where i would give them a word and they have to act it out. They cannot speak, so they have to use their bodies to explain their word. Then the other students need to guess what word they have.

Easy peasy. They don’t even have to speak! Wrong. Most of them couldn’t do it. Give them an easy one ‘funny’. In my mind for this one, you simply pretend to laugh. But for them, they are getting nervous just thinking about how to do it. They are thinking and thinking about how to do it, until they ask for another one.

“Another one?? How will you do the others  when you can’t even do funny??”

So that activity was too difficult for them. I explained to them that you need to be more creative in class. In my class, speaking is key, but in order to speak they need to be able to think of things to say.

Then there are students that can’t speak whatsoever. ‘Hello” is the most they can say. It’s difficult trying to teach students with such a different level in each class, so I’m trying to teach basic English, more advanced English, plus for the students to be more creative in class.

But anyway, I don’t really expect to teach the students much English. Their English is just too basic, and a lot of them aren’t interested in learning it. All I care about is them trying in class. I told them “I don’t mind if your English is wrong, just try. That’s all I want. Even if you say one sentence… that’s great. You tried”. Thing is, many don’t want to try.

So when I’m trying my hardest to engage the students and all I see is a wall of emotionless faces, it really demotivates me to try and teach them. I try very hard to get them interested and they just stare up at me. Sometimes I feel I need to be a comedian in order to get anything out of them!

I have two classes and they are great, so I don’t mind teaching those. They are a little older and they generally seem more interested. So those classes are great. But overall, I really don’t think I could stay another year here trying to teach robots.

再见

爱玲 Aisling

 

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My Class Routine In Uni

With having such a strict teacher teaching me, I stress out a lot over my reading and writing class. You need to preview, you need to review, and you need to listen to the teacher in class.

I hate stress in my life, and with your teacher asking you questions and surrounded by other students… I definitely don’t enjoy the attention!

So with our strict teacher, our class routine usually goes like this:

Monday: She usually reads a short story to everyone. After this, she asks every student a question about the story, like “Where were the people?’ ‘How were they feeling?’ Was it A or B that said blah blah blah?” I try my best; listening and writing as she reads. But there gets to a point where she is just talking too fast, and I don’t understand all the words, so then I become lost!

After this, she spends the rest of the class on doing exercises from the previous chapter in our book. If you don’t know the answer, she will wait until you figure it out. She doesn’t let you off! For me, I need to prepare this in advance; usually by having it already done. There are words I don’t know so I need to look them up. Then I need time to analyse the sentence and pick the right word. During this whole class she spends the time doing every single exercise in the book! So that’s usually our Monday class!

On Tuesday, again she reads a short story, however this time it’s usually one found in our book. Again, I prepare the night before; reading the story, writing down the new words, and even copying key points from the story into my notebook. (She makes us close our books when she is reading out loud). Then she asks us questions about the story. Thankfully I’ve already prepared so I’m a little more confident about this listening task!

Finally she starts on a new chapter of our book. This contains 40 new words and a long story with the new words in it. Before, she used to go through each word and tell us the meaning and how to use it. (All this in Chinese I might add). However now, she makes US tell her the meaning! I mean it’s so difficult, sometimes the word is quite tricky to explain it’s meaning. So a lot of times people don’t explain it right.

After this, we have a quick review and then she makes us close the books and she asks us to make a sentence out of a word she gives us. She gives it to us in Chinese, so you need to try and remember what it means! Our secret is to take a picture of all the words and we can secretly look through the list while she is asking the other students! Shhh!

Finishing this, she starts analysing the story, sentence by sentence. She asks us to shorten the sentence to it’s basic core. Like ‘There is a young man called LinWei and he is looking for a sales job in the city’ The answer she would want is ‘ a man, looking for a job.’ We usually get half the story done on this day!

Wednesday is the same as Tuesday, however we then start on the next set of 20 words and the next part of the story.

Thursday: She begins by reading the whole story which we have been studying, and she reads out a sentence with a words that’s missing. We then need to shout out the word that needs to be inserted, like ‘Before he felt confident, but now he began to ….. his ability.’ We would need to shout out the Chinese word ‘huaiyi’ which means ‘doubt’ At the same time she is keeping an eye on everybody in the classroom! If she doesn’t see anyone answering her, she will say ‘Oh I see Nangong hasn’t answered any yet!’ When she sees someone not answering, she actually moves closer to them, to put more pressure for an answer from them!!

So today, I actually did a good job with this part! I was able to answer some, while others weren’t able to. I read the story about 6/7 times before hand so I suppose that helped a lot!

After reading the story, she moves onto teaching some words which may be more difficult, and then doing the grammar. We then need to give her a sentence with the grammar. She wants to make sure that we know how to use the grammar correctly.

So my whole semester goes like this with her! I really feel like I’m learning things with her, but I just get so stressed. So my way of trying to tackle the stress is to prepare. Prepare prepare and prepare even more! I feel like I’m ready for the class now, instead of going with absolutely nothing done. I like the feeling of knowing that this is done, I know these words.  I don’t need to worry as much!

With our second teacher, it’s time to relax! She is a much easier teacher, and the classroom is much more upbeat! What I like about this teacher is that she gives each of us a word/ sentence and we need to explain what it is to the other students. For example one time I was given ‘build a snowman’ and I said ‘When it’s snowing, you make this thing….’ People have to guess what is on your card. I enjoy this because it gets you talking and you have to make it up on the spot.

We usually do some listening and some discussions on different topics. One time we discussed ‘Is it better to have a stable job or a non-stable job when you are 30?’ She puts us into groups and we should discuss why it’s good/bad.

So I work hard in the first class and then I’m rewarded by having a relaxing class afterwards!

再见

爱玲

 

Job Hunting

With my fiancé soon to finish working with his current employer, and like myself , he will also be unemployed. As much as I love not working; I can study MUCH more….I really don’t like the feeling of knowing absolutely nothing is going into my bank account. We’ve really cut down on spending, but we can’t survive here without working.  There are a few people we know here who don’t work, and I have no idea how they are doing it! Please let me in on your secret on not working in China!

But anyway, unfortunately we aren’t the lucky ones who can afford to not work. Thankfully I’m not a big spender in general, but even getting my 7yuan Coco drink (€0.94cent) makes me cringe!

So we’ve heard recently that a girl from our Chinese class is leaving in a few weeks, and she has classes that her school she works for wants to move to other teachers. We decided to meet up with the lady in charge and she told us more about the schedule and what not.

What we love about the job is that it’s only 10 minutes by cycling to reach the school. Very handy! Plus it’s a small school, so the emphasis is on giving the students a good education,  They are not obsessed with money like my previous employer was. But there are a few things which have made us doubt wanting to work there.

The schedule is all over the place, so I would have no idea how they would arrange it for 2 teachers to teach the classes. The schedule is really only suited for person. Plus our friend works 6 days a week…. I definitely do not want that!

The pay isn’t standard with many other places; sure if I didn’t have much experience, I’d accept their hourly rate, but as I’ve 3.5 years experience, I’d like to earn a little higher than what they are offering.

Another issue is with their teaching times. Ideally they want someone who will work until next February. However our visa expires in the middle of January. So we were looking at options on how to tackle this. One option is to stay another semester at the Uni, then we could commit to teaching with them for two full semesters. I know I know, with our history of constantly changing our plans here in China, I wouldn’t be surprised if we are still here in another 10 years!! Every year it’s ‘Oh we’ll just stay one more year…….and another year….and another…’ 

But, that just goes to show how comfortable you can get here. As every foreigner in China knows all too well!

Finally, every month they take money out of teachers wages, and then at the end of the contract they give it back. I understand this, but it’s quite a lot of money they take out! So if you have to leave unexpectedly… boom…. that money you have earned is now gone. So I don’t really like that aspect of the job.

So anyway… at the moment we don’t really know what to do. It feels like we are are adapting for the school, whereas the school should be adapting for us.

We’ll think about it more and discuss with the owner… if we are willing to adapt to her needs, then surely she should be able to adapt to ours….well, that’s what I’m hoping!

再见

爱玲

Everything Is Up In The Air

Since coming back from holidays, it seems like everything is up in the air at the moment. With thinking about weddings and everything that that entails, visa worries, home issues, money problems, both of us thinking about courses to do… agghh, it seems it’s all getting too much!

Thankfully, at least we have put our moving apartment on hold. We really didn’t want to worry about where to live. I’m pretty glad we decided not to move. It was just another added pressure that we didn’t need at the moment. Of course I’m still going to grumble about our crap sofa, the increase of rent, oh and no door to our bedroom…. but apart from those issues I really don’t mind staying a little while longer. We’ll just try harder not to hoard any more things.

Work on the other hand has really started to annoy me… to the point of wanting to quit. I love my students and their parents, but I really just don’t want to work for the company anymore. I don’t agree on their changes, and one thing that has really annoyed me is that they have changed which books they use for teaching.

I hate the new books that we are now forced to use. The content is bad, the layout is even worse…. in one section the students learn how to make a fruit kebab…. really??? Are the parents really going to be happy with me spending 20 minutes teaching them how to stick fruit onto a stick??? If I was a parent, I definitely wouldn’t want my child learning this. Fair enough if it’s a public school and the parents don’t pay much money, yeah I understand…it would be a fun activity. But they fork out tonnes of money for us to teach their child English that they need for their future…. I really don’t want to be wasting my class time teaching them such a useless activity.

After 3+ years of teaching, I’d like to say that I’m a good teacher. I think out of my time with the company, only 1 parent complained; and that was when I just started working there. I’d like to say my students like me and enjoy the class! I hope anyway!

So anyway, with the old books we were using, the students learned quickly and they were clear and concise. Now with these new ones, I really feel like I’m not teaching my students anything. And that’s what annoys me; I know I can teach them well IF I have good, available resources that I can use. If not, I can try and teach them as well as I can, but if the books’ contents aren’t good and are not well laid out, well, it’s just that much harder.  Plus the class will be slower.

Aw so I’m in a pickle of what to do. I really do need the money though. I can’t exactly live in China and not work… how so many people do it here I have no idea!

So theres one problem of many! But hopefully everything will sort itself out in the end. At least my visa isn’t connected to my company so I can leave whenever I want. I’m not tied to them.

You know what….I think the best thing to do is just run away back to El Nido and forget about all the worries! Yeah, that’s the best plan!

再见

爱玲

Wanting To Leave

For the past few weeks I’ve had this nagging feeling of just wanting to leave. Get away from China, leave work, leave school, not have to deal with everything ‘China’ and just go back home to my family… drink tea and be surrounded by Irish people.

A few things have made me feel like this. The first one is definitely the weather. Right now the PM2.5 in Chengdu is apparently 500. I’m just so fed up of this pollution. We’re stuck in all day with our air purifier on full blast afraid to go outside because it’s so bad. You wake up and it’s smoggy and dull… then that’s it for the whole day. The next day, wake up and it’s smoggy and dull. Everyday is the exact same…slowly killing us if we venture outside. I’m perplexed at how people can have babies and raise them in this horrific weather. Just throw a mask on them and they are good to go. I’d never put my child through that.

I don’t think we’ve seen the sun for the past 2 weeks.

img_0040

You want to die faster? Come to Chengdu!

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It’s only Hazardous

 

So yeah, that’s one reason why I just want to get up and go.

The next is with the company I work for. I’ve only signed a full time contract in December, then all of a sudden they tell us ‘Oh we are starting a new thing; the classes are only going to be 40 minutes or 80 minutes long and we are going to group students as 1-1 groups or 4-1 groups. No 2 or 3 group students.

So that means for me, I’ll have 4 students in a class or just me and 1 student, and no 1 hour classes. Because they will be 40 minutes long I’ll have to add more classes to fill my hours. 40 minutes, what the hell are you going to get done for 40 minutes??!!You can just about get something done for 45.

Then, they are going to increase the price for 1-1 groups, apparently by a lot of money, so this will make the parents choose 4-1 classes.

When I first started working with the company it was good to work for. Their motto was ‘We are like a family’… and it did feel like that for a while. Then they started getting greedy…

‘Oh we need MORE campuses!!’

‘We need to infiltrate EVERY city in China!’

‘We need MORE students!!’

‘We need to be the BEST IN CHINA!!’

‘We need MONEY MONEY MONEY!!!!’

So the company is getting bigger and bigger and wanting more and more money.. and ultimately they are loosing sight on the most important thing; giving good education to their students.

Now, the parents will get angry because we’re not teaching them enough in the time given, they won’t learn as quickly because they have to contend with another 3 students in their class, and finally because they are being forced to pay a lot more money.

I really love teaching my students, and all of their parents are lovely, but I really do feel sorry for them having to put up with all these changes. I know my students parents are well off (if they can afford to pay such high prices for the courses) but still, if they pay such a high price, then they need to get a good deal with it.

I’m just so annoyed at the fact that the company can change all this and just expect us teachers to put up with it. It’s us and our PA’s that will get the brunt of the parents anger, simply because we won’t be able to teach their children as well as before.

Also, us teachers have no input whatsoever in their activities. We have a Teacher Manager and if we have any troubles or worries we can tell them and then they tell the people higher up. The managers can give their input about what is working and what’s not working, but at the end of the day, the company doesn’t listen to any of it. My manager told me that she told the company that this new change won’t work and that they don’t support it… but of course they didn’t listen to it and they are still going ahead.

And the thing is, I still have another 11 months of work left. I’m annoyed that no one told me this was going to happen until after I signed my contract!

My campus also wants me to add an extra teaching day because I won’t be able to reach my hours teaching 3 days… You know I’d love to say to them ‘I don’t like these new changes that I didn’t even know about, you expect us to teach just 40 minutes of class, with a group of 4 students and still manage to somehow maintain the same level of teaching… and you are ripping off all the parents here… so I quit’.

The only reason why we decided to stay another year was to keep learning Chinese and so I could work more and earn more money so we can travel and that. I was happy with the way things were at work and I didn’t mind taking on more students. Now I’m just annoyed at them and I don’t want to work for them anymore.

Aghh but I’ll see how things go in the next few weeks. Maybe all these changes won’t happen. But I know there are going to be a lot of angry teachers and parents if it does.

再见

爱玲

My Resolutions For 2017

With 2016 being quite a crappy year; the attacks all over Europe,  lots of celebrity deaths (which unfortunately will become more and more common),  the shock US election, and finally with Brexit… but, the year is nearly over! Hopefully 2017 won’t be as bad!

So I’ve decided to try my hand (again) and write my 2017 Resolutions.

1. Study Chinese

This time however, I’m really going to try and give it my all. Unsure of what we will do for 2018, I’d like to study as much as possible before I leave China. Read more Chinese books for learners, listen to more TV Series/ films. Try and speak more. If I don’t speak more I’d ideally like my listening to improve. Ha so my listening will be fantastic, but I won’t be able to speak a word!

2. Loose weight.

I’m never going to be as slim as all these Chinese girls, but I’d like to loose a little weight and become fitter. I’ll continue the cycling and start going running around our community.

3. Take up a hobby.

I’ve always said ‘studying Chinese is my hobby’… but when I start getting stressed about it, then I realise its not exactly a relaxing hobby. I’m thinking of learning how to make a few dishes, as I think knowing how to cook is important… oh and life saving! I’ll admit it, I don’t like cooking. I just don’t. But it’s a part of life so I really should learn. The thing is in China it’s just much more difficult.

Firstly, we don’t have a working over. Second we don’t have any cooking utensils, say for example a pan for the oven. It’s not like I don’t want to buy these things, its just the fact that we don’t want to buy them and then end up moving and having to sell it all. Plus our apartment is becoming smaller and smaller with each thing we buy. Third, it’s difficult to get the ingredients. There are green vegetables in Walmart here and I have no idea what they are! I’d need to take a photo of each veg and send it to my Mum so she could tell me what they are.Forth, they might not have the ingredient for a certain dish.

I look forward to going back home and being able to know exactly what I’m buying and where to buy it!

(I know… number 3 is just full of excuses!)

4. Save money

I’d like to have saved some money during this year; mainly for when I go back home or go to Mexico.

5. Travel more

During 2016 we travelled in China, so in 2017 I’d like to travel more outside of it and see South East Asia, maybe New Zealand, Japan….I’d like to visit these places before I leave China anyway!

6. Figure out what to do with my life.

This is an important one. Every year that goes by… we say to ourselves ‘ok, we need to figure out what we are doing after Chengdu… are we going to move to a different city/ country? Back to Ireland or go to Mexico?’ But then it’s always ‘We’ll study a year and then decide’. I suppose the reason why I stress about life is because I feel I’m stuck in China trying to learn this language and I’m putting my life on hold just for this language that won’t bloody stick in my head.  I can’t be spending my life learning Chinese because by the time I learn it it’ll be time to settle down and maybe start a family…

Ideally my plan is to go home, do a course related to tourism, gain some work experience, then go to Mexico and learn Spanish. I’ll continue learning Chinese myself. But I’ll miss China a lot. I’ll write a post about what I’ll miss about China when I leave.

So these are my new resolutions. Let’s hope I can manage them so I’ll be happy with myself this time comes around next year!

Happy New Year To All My Followers!

再见

爱玲

Teaching My Chinese Students: An Update

Teaching My Chinese Students: An Update

Because teaching here in China has now become ‘normal’ and well, not terribly exciting, I’ve kind of neglected to write more posts about it. But I’ll write an update about how it’s going.

At the moment I have about 10 groups who I teach. Although when I go back full time It will increase. Thankfully, everyone (apart from one group) are fantastic. My youngest are aged about 6/7 I think, while my oldest is 14. My youngest are learning phonics, so for me it’s quite an easy class, plus for them they enjoy it because they don’t have to actually learn English vocab and grammar, just how to say the words.

I’ve had one student for over 2 years now I think, and she moved with me to my new campus from my old one. Her English has improved really quickly! From 2 years ago to now I really do notice her improvement. Now I’m not saying that’s all because of me… but she’s the student I’ve had the longest, so I see the most improvement in her. She’s the one that keeps calling me ‘fat’ (huh and she’s the one that talks about food in class all the time) but overall she is a great student.

My not so great group is with two boys. The two boys that I used to have got split up, so now I teach them separately, but now the oldest boy has been paired with another boy…. and unfortunately the group isn’t so good anymore.

Now my old student ‘S’ has become much more disobedient! It really annoys me because I know that his behaviour used to be good, and I enjoyed teaching him and the other student. But since ‘T’ has joined, he has affected ‘S’s behaviour in class. It’s such a pity, because I know ‘S’ is a good student; I’ve seen it. But unfortunately this other boy is effectively ruining his learning in class.

If it continues I think I might tell ‘S’ that his behaviour isn’t good anymore… shame him a bit about this fact. I know he’s a good boy underneath it all.

But anyway, I’ve recently had a 21 year old studying with me for a few weeks. She is not resigning so I only have her a few more times. She is studying to do an English test, but the way it’s going, I don’t think she will pass. Her vocabulary just isn’t good enough, plus I feel like she isn’t very motivated. haha I can say the same for myself with Chinese sometimes!

In my opinion, it’s a shame that she isn’t resigning again, she really needs extra English classes to improve. I really can’t see her studying by herself.

But she is a nice and friendly student though, and I enjoy teaching her.

Company wise, it definitely need more improvements. Especially with Chinese PA’s… they are dropping like flies in our campus. The PA that has been with us the longest has just left as she hated her job, so I’m pretty sure every other PA has only been with us for a few months.

It’s coming to the stage where I don’t even try and remember their names, as most likely they will leave soon enough. It’s pretty sad though; the company treats teachers with good pay, holidays and two days off a week, whereas PA’s aren’t paid a lot, they only get 1 day off a week, and they have to put up with a lot of crap from parents AND from teachers complaining. So I’m really not surprised that so many quit.

Unless all the PA’s decide to revolt and protest, I don’t think much will change, especially if they don’t want to ‘lose face’, a strange Chinese phenomenon.

If you have never heard of this, have a look at the link below for some information about it!

‘Losing Face’ in China

再见

爱玲