& Internal guilt vs. Shame
22.02.2012 - 27.02.2012 20 °C
At the Guangzhou Brigth Filial Piety Temple
Apparently over the holiday season over 3,000 eggs were removed from supermarkets in Guangzhou because they were fake. When this news broke to me, I wasn't surprised. But it definitely took China's 'fake market' to a whole new level. Have I been eaten these fake eggs? Apparently the yolks bounce 'two or three times', and were abnormally large... so surely I'd know, right? I'm not sure I understand how this can even be profitable, but I can say that eggs have permanently been removed from my shopping list.
One of our colourful stir-fry's we eat for lunch- no eggs!
Ingenious way to hold his umbrella over his food stall (check out the rope)
Apart from fake eggs, I've had a decent few weeks. I was sad and surprised to go into the office last Monday to find that Zhan, a colleague, had put his resignation in that morning to return to Hunan province the next day to be with his family. I was more surprised when he told me he had found a job that same day back in Hunan and he was starting on Wednesday. I was even MORE surprised to find on Tuesday morning that they had two teachers interviewing and doing demo classes for Zhan's job, and that one was hired the same day and they started on Wednesday. Things move FAST here. What would've taken at least a few weeks, if not months, in other countries, is accomplished within hours or days here.
Another colleague also put her resignation in over the Spring Festival. Apparently she was set up on a blind date (I'm not sure if arranged marriage is the right term) and after meeting the man for the first time, she put her resignation in that same evening to the school because she found the 'love of her life'. I am very happy for Dolphin, and also very shocked at how quickly she made her decision!
Tropical fruit! Papaya, mini mangoes, normal sized mango, and some sort of Guava (I think)
Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall, Guangzhou
Aside from new colleagues, I had a pretty successful lesson. Well, I thought it was successful until I had the students standing up and telling the class something fun/exciting/happy they did over their holiday (I have to point this out to them and ban them from saying 'I sleep all day' 'I eat food' 'I did my homework'). Most had something to say, more often than not it was 'This holiday I played computer games' or 'This holiday I watched TV', but I had one of those unimaginable, nightmare teacher moments when one student stood up and her eyes filled up with tears as she said 'This holiday I had something very very bad happen....' I tried to rescue the situation and have her sit down or go to the bathroom to freshen up, but she was caught up in the moment... bad times!
XinHua bookstore, Tiyuxilu. Why buy the books when you can sit-in and read. Now I realise why there is no 'atmosphere' to book shops here other than massive fluorescent lighting. Also an interesting note: Xinhua bookstores are the only stores that schools can buy their textbooks from, and it's run by the government. Any textbooks sold outside of this bookstore are highly taxed and far too expensive for anyone to buy.
A street in Guangzhou
Coming back from Spring Festival has also signalled the start of the ritual 'Open Classes' within the school. Every teacher has one class where all the other teachers, from the department, are invited to come and watch. It's pretty mandatory to go to for teachers that don't have classes in that lesson, and they're apparently meant to 'give teachers ideas about their own teaching' and help them to learn from others. I do see the point, and it makes total sense. The part that escapes me is the fact that they spend weeks before preparing for that specific lesson. Although they have two lessons a day- the open class lesson is always specially designed and is the only lesson taught all year that is not reciting from the book and a power point directly from the CD that comes with their textbook. Infact, the whole department gets involved planning this lesson.
When open lesson day comes, the teachers all pile in to the classroom, with as many as 30 teachers sitting on stools around the students. I always think that surely this will change the nature of the classroom any ways with so many teachers eyes on the students! The 'teacher on display' presents a well thought out, and Western style lesson than their other 9 lessons that week.
Surely, they should just have every class an opportunity for an 'open class' so teachers can be more dispersed and see real lessons, not the manufactured ones they point on for this single class, and everyone knows its manufactured, but still leaving with comments like 'Wow! Zhan Wei is such a good teacher! His students are very lucky' or 'Jiang is so creative! She has many ideas!' (ideas that ironically came from the same people when they helped plan it). Although everyone seems to recognise the difference between every day classes and open classes, they still put on a front that suggests the open class is the norm rather than the exception, and would never openly admit otherwise.
I also see it relating back to the imperial examinations, when in an effort to get Chinese citizens motivated to join the imperial system, they had massive three day long tests in order to select the best officials for the states bureaucracy. Here, it's not wrong to cheat. But it is wrong and shameful to get caught cheating, not just for you but your entire family and village. This highly competitive system, with massive pressure on the individual, encourages cheating.
While China has shame from getting caught cheating, in the west, we have internal guilt to prevent us from cheating. I often encounter this cultural difference in the classroom when I catch students cheating, passing notes, or doing homework; they will actively deny any offence and look at me like I am crazy- or just refuse to look at me or react to anything I am saying. In Chinese classes with Chinese teachers, the teachers will not stand their ground and say 'Yes- I saw you cheating' and punish them- they more than often get away with it because it will also bring shame to the class teacher that their students aren't 'performing well'. In comparison, in the west, if you are caught, you kinda have to man up to it- and it brings big consequences! (In University, if we were caught plagiarising, we'd be immediately expelled)
Such is the system that when we grade each class from 1-5 on their overall performance that period, Roger and I use this as leverage to get the students to behave and work had- and it is not uncommon for us to give below 4.5 scores. When looking back in their record books at their grades from all their classes- we are literally the only teachers who give any less than a 5! This is for the same reason- it looks bad on the teacher, not the students.
These cultural differences, deep rooted in society, make it a challenge as the society we live in has such different 'norms' than what we are used to.
At the Guangzhou Brigth Filial Piety Temple