I've spent this week watching and grading my students' final exam - a role-play set in a restaurant (a total of 45 of them!). Some of the more memorable storylines included a spy [see above], a proposal of marriage [see below], a beggar refusing to pay, food poisoning and discrimination against a lesbian couple!! I just need to hand in the paperwork and my Winter holiday begins.
Today was the final class of the week enduring my mid-term Speaking Test. I'd asked each of my 100+ students to chat to me for two minutes about "a challenge they have faced". Many simply bottled out and had written and memorised a monologue speech, often followed by them falling apart when I asked the simplest of questions in follow-up.
The most revealing chat was a student who told me about her "part-time job", standing in for other students who didn't want to attend a class. She explained that she got paid 30RMB (£3) an hour to be in a given class so that the Chinese teachers could tick off the total number of students on their list (regardless of whether or not they were the right students). She said she could earn 200-300RMB (£20-30) a week! Genius entrepreneur or sad indictment of a broken educational system? You decide.
The most confusing talk was a guy who said he had hated a job because there were just too many flies to deal with?! He told me he had walked for ages trying to find people who wanted them but they just weren't interested. It took me ages to realise he was talking about "flyers"! Sometimes I really earn my money!
A Halloween-themed English Corner at my University this week, with three teams wrapping one of their number up in a toilet roll to produce a trio of scary mummies. We also played "Guess the Monster" (not so easy in the dark) and then ran out of time before starting, "Call my Bluff". Once again, JD came along and the students kindly took it in turns to take him away somewhere for a play, to stop him getting too bored during the 1.5 hours of chat.
This week sees the last of my English Corners for this term. I go along from 6.30-8.00pm fortnightly and try to bring along a fun speaking activity to get the attendees chatting about different topics. Although for me it's part of my job, attendance is voluntary for the students. We usually see 10-20 coming along each week and meet outside the library - weather permitting. The picture shows regular "AndyChaser" who is off to pastures new at the end of this academic year.
Smoking is one of the things that annoys me most about living in China (yes, there are a few, including spitting, squat toilets, drivers not indicating, internet censorship etc). Whilst the West has finally woken up to the dangers of passive smoking and how antisocial the whole thing is, China still has a tobacco and cancer epidemic on it hands. The West coast cities - Beijing, Shanghai and the like - have successfully banned smoking in most public places, but Kunming is "far from the Emperor" and although you see more "No Smoking" signs these days, they are widely ignored. Even in the staff room at my University, supposedly educated Professors light up underneath signs forbidding smoking [see photo] and other teachers just turn a blind eye. I've asked the non-smoking staff why they say nothing and the common responses that they say nothing as they prefer to avoid confrontation and maintain relationships. Not me. Being foreign gives me a certain leeway in confronting them and politely asking them to smoke outside. I've had apologies, nervous giggles and angry grunts, but none has yet to refuse. My one-man anti-smoking campaign continues!
I was back at work today in the Yunnan University of Finance and Economics. Most of my lessons now take place in this rather magnificent looking building. This term, I have fewer lessons than before and all of are on a Monday, which reduces the amount of travelling I do a lot. My first class comprised 40 girls and 3 boys! The second class turned up 45 minutes late due to them being misinformed by their class teacher and the third class was 65 students in a classroom with 50 seats and desks. Hopefully, things will get sorted out better in due course!
Today is my first day at my new job at the Yunnan University of Finance and Economics (YUFE) - a week earlier than I though due to the University forgetting to tell me of a calendar change. It's just a 20-30 minute e-bike ride to get there, depending on traffic.
It's going to be a really busy few weeks for me with this new job, plus 11 Lattitude volunteers to be trained over 8 days, normal weekend lessons at Robert's School (soon to be handed over) and JD starting Kindergarten. Thankfully, the University have managed to arrange my classes so that I start avoid the first and last lessons of the day, allowing me to drop JD off at Kidergarten and pick him up at the end of the day (once he starts doing full days in two weeks time).
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