We interrupt this travel blog to give you this tirade.
I’m in Yan’an—more fun posts about that later—and as part of my contract hours I have this class I “teach” called English Corner. I put Teach in quotations because it’s really just a promotional class for the school I work with. I’m supposed to introduce the kids to four new words and a sentence, but it can’t feel like an actual class, it’s got to be fun. It’s lots of games and showing off the foreigner to the kids’ parents.
I dislike this.
My school informed me on Monday, that this week’s English Corner was going to be in a different place. Now that it’s warmer, English Corner will now take place outside.
In the public square.
So this week I really worked hard on what kind of games you can play with twenty and more kids outside in a public space where other people are also doing activities. I had a list of almost a dozen games, I had four words picked out, and I said “Fuck the sentence” because fucking hell, man.
When I do the EC, I have two Chinese Teachers who assist me. Now, the way I understood it as it was explained in training was that we co-teach like we do in the classroom. The Chinese Teachers teach the first part of the class—since most of these kids are beginner students to English—and I come in and we do games for the last half hour.
What I was told when I arrived in Yan’an was that I teach the entire hour and the CTs are just there as crowd control.
I start to explain the games I have in mind to my primary CT and with each one she told me the ways she wanted it modified so the kids would be easier to control or “They’re not smart enough for this” (swear to the gods, this is a sentence I hear daily) or she flat out didn’t understand what game I was doing and told me not to do it.
She wants to do a song first.
Fucking hell, fine, if I have to.
She doesn’t like the idea of 4-Square, mostly because she doesn’t understand the instructions.
Hopscotch? Too many students—a valid point, but what if it’s modified—still no.
Sharks and Minnows, took me ten minutes to explain it but I got a yes.
When I started to get the kids set up to play Sharks and Minnows, modified to Crayons and Pencils, she decided that instead of having all the students rush forward she’d just do five at a time because “easier to control.” How about you just let the five year olds run around for ten minutes? How about that.
Fine. Whatever. I’ve got enough games to get me through the rest of this fucking hour.
And I did. The kids had fun, most of the thirty or so of them that attended probably learned a word or two, and even some of the parents played for a moment.
Now, Fridays we have our staff meeting. And by that I mean I have to go to the school at two o’ clock and sit for two hours while they speak Chinese about everything that’s going to happen over the weekend.
Today, the line manager took a couple minutes from the—no doubt interesting and informative—Chinese staff meeting to ask me how I thought English Corner went.
I thought it was fine.
“You thought it was fine? Well no. No it wasn’t. Foreign teacher supposed to lead English Corner and you didn’t. See, so no. It wasn’t even a little bit okay.”
Not even a little bit okay
Not even into the third week and they wanna play this game. Fine. I put up with your “suggestions” and ways to change games because I wanted to play nice. I figured, you know the students better than I do and these “suggestions” are ways to make the games fit the students. So I put up with it.
Honeymoon’s over, buckle up.
You want me to lead English Corner, fine. We’re going to play the games I want to play and we’re going to play them how I want to play them. I don’t care if you think the kids will be too hard to control. I don’t care if you don’t think they’re smart enough to figure it out. I don’t care if you can’t figure it out. This is my fucking lesson and we’re doing it how I want.
I’m not your fucking show pony. You want a figurehead out there for the parents to ogle while you tell me what you want not only the English Corner lessons to look like but my regular lessons as well. The last teacher might’ve put up with the bullshit, but this one isn’t.
You told me it was my show and now it fucking is. And I don’t think you’re going to like it, not even a little bit.