Thursday, 23 October 2008

Chatting Myself to Death

It has been a strange day today. On the one hand it has been quite stressful and hectic, and on the other, it has been very pleasant.

I say it has been fairly hectic as I have gone through six classes -- not something I am used to. What made things worse was that it was partially my fault I had six in the first place.

Johan and I devised an idea to get students chatting more in English -- something which many of them have said they want to do. We both arranged to try out our idea: to have six students sign up for a class, bring a conversation topic to get the ball rolling, and then have a relaxing "chat" with each other. Johan had his turn on Sunday, and mine was today. I really wanted to have a go at this because many students mentioned how much they liked the idea, but I really wanted to wait until our schedules were lighter. When I checked my timetable on Wednesday (we always get them the day before), I noticed only four classes and the extra chatting class for me -- perfect. Actually it wasn't perfect, because I didn't see that one of my lessons wasn't highlighted on the piece of paper (I don't even look at the other non-highlighted lessons). So at 6:10 this evening, when I was out with Kimi and Ryan, I received a call from Tina at reception:

"Chris, you have a class now, where are you?"
I replied, "No, I don't have a class now"
"Yes you do"
"No, I don't"
"Yes you do, at six o'clock"
"No I don't"
"Yes you do"

At that point I rapidly made my way back to the hotel, almost fifteen minutes late for the class. Luckily I was let off considering it wasn't highlighted on my sheet, and the two students that attended didn't mind at all (or if they did the certainly didn't show it).

To add insult to injury, one of the teachers, Paul, asked if he could exchange a day off with me because his girlfriend was coming down from Hangzhou. He really didn't want to leave her in his apartment all day. I sympathised with him and said I'd do it. But this also means that I am working again tomorrow, taking my working week for this week from six days to seven -- without a day off. What am I doing to myself??

Apart from that, the rest of my day has actually been very pleasurable. In my first class a student, Purple (yes, I know), kept saying very nice things to me. One thing that I really felt meant something was when she said how comfortable and confident she feels when speaking English in my class. When I started this job I was worried I couldn't match the kind of personalities of the other teachers at Web, some were so lively and funny, I couldn't be like that. But comments like Purple's today remind me that being myself is important. I am me, and that is OK.

Also, later in the day, my chat with the six students that signed up was very enjoyable. All of them were in my list of favourite students, a huge bonus for sure. We talked about a variety of topics from religion to movies, and crime to ghosts. It really felt worthwhile, and before any of us knew it, one hour had past. Brilliant.

Yesterday, I mentioned that Web will be hosting a Halloween party (58 RMB per person). I saw that posters had been put up all around the centre to advertise the event. I am fairly embarrassed to be associated with this "most authentic American Halloween". Why oh why oh why didn't they run the English past one of the teachers first, or even ask one of us to write it? Again, I am baffled.

Numerous copies of this poster are pinned up all around the "English Training Centre"

The English text from the poster (click to enlarge)


Elwin said...

Certainly you're a good teacher, Chris, I've heard many of my classmates said (and I totally agree) that we always have good feeling in practising English in your class. So don't worry about your teacher personalities, all the comments I hear about you are positive.

Chris said...

Thank you for saying that Elwin, it really means a lot to me. I'm always glad to have you in my class too!

大眼睛熊 said...

Ohh.. Poor thing!! I promise next week will be better,much better!! :D
Btw,i overheard u having a class a few days ago,it was very interesting,too bad i couldnt join in.

Anonymous said...

Hi chris,

I too experienced self doubt many times during my teaching in China. But you know what? We are not teachers but entertainers in China, it's all about money and numbers on seats.

To reiterate, at my last middle school they couldn't get any native speakers despite the fact I offered them help with recruitment!!

People get what they deserve. Put out a good package of salary, nice apartment, health insurance, holidays and so on, and people will find working in China rewarding. As it is, working as a teacher there is mostly like a kind of glorified volunteer. I'd like to come back to work in China, but just not as a teacher. It's too frustrating.

I admire your patience.

Besides teaching, hows everything else?


Chris said...

I know exactly how you feel Alex. Teaching in China can be really frustrating sometimes. I find that Web is quite secure and everything is clearly stated in the contract. There have been few nasty surprises since I started here (unlike my previous company in Hangzhou).

Everything else is going pretty well at the moment thanks. I'm preparing to come back home to the UK in December for one month. It'll be nice to clear my head and think about what I'm going to do next year. I hope you can make a decision about your future soon too!

Mabel Poon said...

U said: "When I started this job I was worried I couldn't match the kind of personalities of the other teachers at Web, some were so lively and funny, I couldn't be like that." Hey! Be more confident! I think u're interesting enough to be a teacher!

Chris said...

Thank you for saying that Mabel :0)