Relay races and 400 metre runs seem boring in comparison
10.10.2011 - 14.10.2011 29 °C
Hello all! Everything is chugging along like normal over here in Guangzhou. Though I don't think normal is actually a good word to describe the every day happenings here. All the teachers just finished a stretch of 7 days in a row teaching, because we had to work Saturday and Sunday to make up for the 'holiday' that the government kindly gave us. I never quite see the logic in that.
I taught quite a hard lesson this past week. It went a little bit over the students heads, but when they actually understood it- it was worth it! I decided that they should learn some popular slang phrases that we use in the west, such as 'Your in the doghouse' 'Go bananas' and 'Hit the road!'. 'Hit the road' is a great one to teach because you can really pick on the students and ask them 'were you just sleeping in my class' (although they obviously weren't) and they say 'no!' and I look at the rest of the class 'Class- was he just sleeping?' (and I nod my head for them to say yes!), this takes a second until they pick up on the fact I'm joking around, and then I insist that the sleeper stands up and 'Hits the road!'. It gets the class to pay attention, and they think its hilarious, I guess because they aren't used to interaction in the classroom.
'An arm and a leg' is also fun to teach because you ask a students how much his pen costs, and whisper to him that its 100 Yuan, and then I yell 'WHAT!!! 100 YUAN! I don't have 100 Yuan!' and I pretend to cut off my arm and my leg to give to him because its so expensive.
Trust me, when you teach the same lesson 22 times, you really start to get a routine for exactly what you say and when!!!
At the end of the class they use the slang to write sentences. My favourite so far has been 'My mother is an arm and a leg : My mother is expensive'. I have a feeling they must have meant that their mother has a lot of money. But they didn't quite get there...
As this was a pretty demanding lesson on our voices, we (Roger and I, because we both teach English Corner together) decided that for English corner we'd make a scavenger hunt. Best idea ever. All 70 or so students turned up, we got them in pairs, and off they went in all directions. We told them there was a candy prize for the winner, so all we could see were students sprinting everywhere. We made sure to mix up the clues so they really had run around. Quite funny actually. Meanwhile, we sat and relaxed and acted as the human dictionaries.
At the end of the week we had the annual Morning Exercise dance competition. Well- we started to, until the rain came. They have been practicing all free hours of every day in preparation for this event. The "class teachers", or home room teachers, really take it very seriously as they believe the class' ranking totally reflects on their management skills here. I always feel sorry for the teachers who get given the 'lower level' classes- surely they can't compete fairly in a maths competition against the 'key classes'! (The students are all streamed according to ability here, by the way).
Although they stream by ability, they take no consideration into mental health here. In one of my classes, there is a boy who doesn't respond to me at all. I asked a teacher about this, thinking he might have a mental disability, and sure enough she tries to explain that he has an absolutely brilliant IQ, but he does not have any social skills. 'A freak' she calls him, laughing a little bit. These are examples of the ways I find China extremely difficult. There is not ANY awareness when it comes to learning difficulties or any sort of mental handicaps. Instead, the teachers will be part of the 'bullying' side, pushing for them to change. This specific student, I'm sure, has aspergers or some form of autism. It's just a shame he's not in a community that came be supporting of this.
I also have the same problem with the culture when it comes to bullying. Last year, in my private tuitions, I'd ask my fellow teachers how they would choose to deal with a students bullying another student. They laugh and say 'of course! we'd make fun of him too!'. I was actually shocked when I first heard this, I thought they were joking. But they aren't. 'We need the other students to like us so they will behave in class' is their reason.
I'm sure these aspects of the culture will change over time, but it doesn't seem to be changing very fast at the moment! I had some clothes from last year from my house mate that are way too small on me, so I was giving them to a chinese girl friend here. Her boyfriend is also a close friend here, and when he saw them he says 'Oh but I dont think these will be suitable because they will be a large'. If you can't laugh at this- then never come to China!!! I met a Russian girl this weekend, whose nickname is pixy because she is SO tiny. Even she gets these comments that she is 'so big' and an 'XL' size. It's crazy ridiculous. This causes some problems within the society though, because many many Chinese girls here starve themselves to be stick thin. They think its the only way to be. Even when they are super super tiny, they still think they are fat and need to lose weight. This happens, also, in western countries. But it really is very extreme here. For example, I got handed a magazine in Xiaohuangpu the other day. It's all in Chinese, but you don't need to know too much to understand that it was an entire magazine on promoting cosmetic surgery- Flatter stomachs is a popular surgery, but more popular is a nose job to make their noses 'higher', like what they see on western people, and eye lid jobs to make their eyes rounder.
This week we are teaching a Halloween lesson. We've spent ages preparing a handout for the students. We don't normally do this because we do have kinda 1,500 students each and that is a lot of paper, but sometimes it needs to be done for the sake of the lesson. So we've never ever had any problems printing sets of 50 papers, so we thought printing 100 would be no issue at all. When we explain that we need 100 printed now (because the class started in 40 minutes) and then 500 printed for this afternoon and tomorrow's lessons, they freaked. 'Not ok' 'can't do it'.
So it IS ok to print two sets of 50 copies, but it is NOT ok to print one set of 100. I'm absolutely positively sure that if we had went in an said we need 99 copies now, it would have been no issue at all. Or instead of saying '500 copies' for this afternoon. We should have said we need 5 sets of 100 copies. Then they'd do it no problem. To resolve the situation, we had to get two different teachers in to help, and eventually my supervisor had to come and sign off the printing. This is not a normal procedure. It's never been done before. I'm just dreading having to go in next week and ask for another 800!!! Wish me luck...
Anyways... sometimes the cultural differences aren't just frustrating. They are also hilarious. Apparently at the annual 3 day school sports competitions last year, along with the normal relay races and badminton competitions, the teachers had a 'very special event'. They put two teachers in the middle of a circle of ducks (yes, real ducks) and they compete to see who can catch the most ducks. That would really be an experience to watch!!
Thankfully, we had a nice weekend in Guangzhou where we went for our second Hash run (to clarify, this isn't a drug run! It's an international running club called 'hash house harriers' where you meet on a weekly bases to do sort of hare and hound type run, and you follow different symbols, laid by the hares with flour, through countryside and mountains). This time it was about 15 KM (including the two mile detour we did around a village when we thought we were finished but we actually still had another 2 mountains and 4 miles to go). It was more difficult to navigate, and I've been left with scratches all over my arms and my legs because a section of the run was through 6 foot tall thick undergrowth. The run ended in this really quaint village. It was like we were running in a town from 400 years ago. After we had finished, and we managed to locate all the lost people in the dark, we all went to the local restaurant. Of course, this means I had rice because the 15 dishes that came out before were all meat. Expect I was smart to order my favourite cucumber dish to sneak in with all the meat dishes... it's crushed fresh cucumber with chopped up garlic, soy sauce, a little sugar, coriander/cilantro, vinegar and sometimes chillies. Yummm