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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Highschool Grounding

The weekly schedule is as followed: Mondays & Tuesdays: Day off (it’s our weekend, because on the actual weekends the students take their English classes at our school, giving us the 2 busiest teaching days of the week, being Saturdays and Sundays). Wednesday and Thursday we go to the local high school where we give English classes, in ‘lecture’ form. Meaning: standing in front of each class, consisting of 60 pupils and talking about whatever we want, for 45 minutes per class. Friday, Saturday and Sundays we’re back at our own school again, in the smaller, cleaner and more intimate classroom settings, where each class lasts 1 hour and we teach from a text book and have a Chinese assistant on hand.

It's the end of the first week, after having the highschool classes on my schedule.
So, I really need to get this off my chest.

I was told beforehand how awful going to this school is going to be. Most of the other teachers hate going there, because it’s more ‘entertaining’ the students instead of actually teaching them. It’s like you’re a guest-speaker. Also I was told it’s unappreciated, unrewarding and dissatisfying. The students are piled into tiny classrooms and they aren’t really interested in what you’re saying. I was told of its intensity because of the fact that you’re talking non-stop almost, without any proper break in between and straining your voice AND it’s a time-consuming job because you’ve got less hours to plan your other English classes.

Okay… Can you imagine how hard it was for me to turn-off to all of this negative shit (once again) and to enter this experience without pre-judging or without expecting it to be so awful. Man, it took a lot...

Wednesday the 9th. First day, first impressions: when I walked into the school and saw the set-up of the classrooms and realized “what I was up against”… I didn’t feel threatened at all! To be perfectly honest, I was reminded of India. I saw the classrooms, the hallways, the students and the benches and I felt suddenly ‘down-to-earth. I felt at home, instantly. The first class I observed Matts lesson and the second and third class it was me, alone, with 60 kids and their teachers sitting at the back of the class observing my every move.

I felt I had touched base with real China and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. These kids, they show 'respect' when you walk into the class. They stand, they applaud. When they’re spoken to, they stand up… Throughout the lesson though, they tend to start tuning-out to what you’re saying and they slump, they slouch, they become disinterested and some really do fall asleep (huummmm, was this because of me... or was it just their exhaustion taking-over?). I soon realized what was going on. These high school kids work so hard, it’s unreal. They start their classes at 7am and don’t finish until 9pm, for 6 days a week!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I couldn’t believe it… And of course, knowing this, I understood why they would want to use my class as a time-out and a reason to sleep… A time to do nothing and relax – because that’s the only chance they get! Man… these are probably the hardest working high school kids you’ll find… and STILL they smile when I try to make them laugh.

I felt so disgusted almost, when I started thinking of the high school kids back in Ireland (or anywhere else in the west) – how they complain that they have to go to school at all! 9am till 4pm!!! Man oh man. When I shared this news with these Chinese students, you should have heard their disbelief at the injustice in the world… Poor kids… I guess the fact that they're being worked so hard, not only in Jinzhou but all of China, is one of the reasons for China to now be one of the strongest economies in the world… Such a strong achievement and status-oriented way of life gives the country strong and stable foundations when it comes to the prosperous future China is already creating. Man… what an eye-opener…

So, bringing this first day at high school, back to this present day: I can only say that my time there, will be rewarding - no matter how miniscule that reward may be and regardless of what others say. It’ll be a learning experience for me. Also I've found it to be extremely grounding. It brings the balance into teaching those who ‘have it all’ to teaching those who hope to one day ‘have it all’…
And, on Wednesday, at the end of my last class one of the students raised her hand, stood up and said: “Welcome to China”…

To round this up for now: I then had a dream that night of an Indian student. She was standing in front of me, reassuring me to enjoy China as much as possible because India will always be waiting for me and welcoming when the time come round again.

What a daze!

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