Before I start writing my entry for today, I just want to reiterate my thanks to the people who left me advice in my previous post. Each comment has genuinely been of help, and I will obviously keep you all posted on the events that unfold....eventually.
I was back at work today, five classes again. It seems the credit crunch has only hit the shoe factories, as there are new students forking out thousands of RMB for English classes every day. Since I was away for over a month I don't seem to recognise a large proportion of the faces now. It is another disadvantage of working in the "training centre" business: the incredibly rapid turnover of students and teachers. In less than one year I have seen eight or nine colleagues leave; the job just isn't designed for long-term employment. I have made some good friends at Web, but most of the people I teach are temporary passengers in the mechanics of factory-farmed English lessons.
Today I had three salon classes (which are aimed at group-work activities). Each of them were frustrating, very frustrating. The first was a beginner class. It was a simple topic: fairy tales. The start of the lesson was OK, I explained "Little Red Riding Hood". Easy enough I thought. Next, I asked them to tell me about a very famous Chinese fairy tale: "Niu Lang and Zhi Nu". Of the seven students present, none of them could explain to me the story. In fact, I knew it better than all of them. Can you imagine not being able to summarise "Jack and the Beanstalk", or "Goldilocks and the Three Bears"?
I wanted them to tell a story in simple English. I wrote the first sentence and the last sentence of the story, and one-by-one we would go round the classroom adding new sentences until we got to the end. It was simple enough, very easy I thought. But I was wrong. Apart from one young man in the class, they couldn't do it. I was beginning to get a little annoyed as I waited in silence for the next student to reply. I wasn't backing down this time, and after a short while he piped up, "It's too hard to think in English". I knew this wasn't true, I wasn't asking for Shakespeare, so I asked him to just tell me in Chinese, we could easily translate it -- nothing. Not even in Chinese could he think of a simple continuation to the story. They were completely bereft of any kind of creativity, it was astonishing to see.
I have often doubted my own abilities with regards to explaining things, but now I have been given proof that even if I was speaking Chinese I would not get answers to many of my requests. It seems that using one's imagination is an incredibly difficult task for my Web students (a lot of them anyway). Is it the education system's fault? Have they relied on their logical left-side of the brain for all the mathematics and business related activities for too long? Has their creative right-side of the brain completely given up and gone on a permanent holiday to the Maldives? I do not know. But it's bloody hard getting anything other than "nothing" if I ask a "What do you think...?" question.
I won't go into detail with my following salons, but suffice to say, then next higher level class was equally as disappointing. I was asking for advice for simple problems like, "I can't sleep at night" etc. Again, I got the bare minimum. It was another painful hour. My final salon was different, it was better, but it was just too difficult for them. If they cannot understand the English on the handouts then I don't know what to do.
In other news, Kimi is on the verge of buying a car after passing most of her driving test (the final part of three is next week). She is in the lucky position of having her mother pay 100,000 RMB (about £10,000) for a brand new motor. We have been looking at small cars, which have all noticeably copied the design of the new Mini:
One thing that isn't cheaper in China is the automobile. An example of this is the Mini Cooper itself. To buy a second-hand new model -- barely driven -- can cost 340,000 RMB (£34,000). To buy the same Mini brand new from the UK costs just £13,000 (130,000 RMB). Why the price difference is so extreme I have no idea. It makes me really wonder at the amount of money so many Wenzhounese are making when they can afford these huge Porsche 4x4 cars -- all brand new of course, they wouldn't be seen dead with a second hand model I'm sure.