Hello and good evening esteemed guests. I’m here to discuss a low key stress point in my life. I’m still enjoying my time in China, more now that the weather is warmer. Although last week there were a couple days it was cold enough I slept in my hoody with an extra blanket.
Now, I know I’ve mentioned English Corner before. It’s the promotional class I have to do on Wednesdays. So it’s a “class” but not a class. The focus is fun and it’s not supposed to be done like a normal class. It’s just an hour of games with a couple of vocabulary words and a sentence thrown in. When the semester started I was resigned to English Corner as one of those things I had to do.
I have come to loathe the very idea of English Corner. I hate Wednesdays for no other reason that English Corner happens to fall on that day.
Let me back up.
Up until January 21st of this year—2016—I worked in the food industry. I’ve worked in restaurant kitchens pretty much since I started working. Starting in January I made a massive career move to become a teacher. I took a month intensive to get my TEFL and before coming to China I had a grand total of nine hours in front of children floundering to teach them something. I started teaching in Yan’an at the beginning of March.
So my teaching experience is pretty much nonexistent. I am still at the stage of throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks. Google is a gift from the gods as are those out there who share their games and teaching strategies. Bless all of you, and I promise to add my experiences so that others like me have an easier go of things.
As I learned from that first English Corner, my school expects me to run this gods forsaken class with little to no input from them. And so I have. I scour the internet for fun games with large groups of small children and adapt them to fit the vocabulary. And every single goddamn Wednesday in the twenty minutes before English Corner starts my CT tells me I must be “more perfect” whatever the fuck that means.
By my count, if the kids leave laughing and smiling it’s been a good class. Hell, I’m repeating a game this week because two of the kids cried at the end of class because they wanted to play the game longer. Still I must be “more perfect” or “do better” and What The Fuck Does That Mean? I asked my CT what it is she wants to do with the class and she was quick to point out it’s Line Manager telling her these things and she is simply the messenger.
They don’t like my warm-up activities. Okay. What do you want to do?
Ohhhh Nooo. I’m the FT I’m the one who needs to come up with the warm-up. Well okay, then we’re going to do the warm-up I have planned.
But it needs to be a song and dance. How about a song.
Fine. What songs do you know?
Ohhhh Nooo, I’m the FT I need to think of a song. They are merely assistants. And don’t forget, she is only Line Manager’s messenger. Line Manager who wants us to be “more perfect”.
Okay. So what the hell does she mean by “more perfect.”
Ah, well, it took them damn near twelve classes but they finally gave me a hint as to what they want. There are, of course, other English schools in Yan’an and my CT showed me a video of their version of English Corner. There was a foreign teacher in a top hat with a goddamn cape doing fucking magic tricks teaching the kids colors.
Well that’s all well and fucking good. It’s impressive and I applaud them for their creativity.
And that is apparently what my school wants from me.
First off, clearly, to pull something like that off, there was a meeting of sort between the FT and the CTs. There was planning, forethought, and a decent amount of communication involved to make something like that happen. Half the time I can’t get my CTs to talk to me until ten minutes before the class actually starts and even then one of them spends five minutes telling me that I must be “more perfect” and if I finish telling them my plans for the class it’s as kids are watching us waiting for class to start. Usually I just go with the two games I managed to outline and hope we can stretch them long enough to fill an hour because my CTs cannot think on their feet. I’ve tried that before and it was such an unholy train wreck by the end not even I knew what was going on.
So they want some big theatrical production, but not one person in that school could be fucked to tell me that we are now on “summer time” which means English Corner and all school meetings are now starting an hour later. An annoyance at the moment since I was an hour early for everything last week, but I am quite concerned when we go back to “winter time” I will also be uninformed and then I’ll be an hour late for everything. And of course I will be reprimanded because gods forbid I be late for anything—I’ll tell you The Bank Story later—when they can’t start manage to start a 2pm meeting before 230.
Basically, they want me to build them the goddamn Great Wall with half a box of matchsticks and when I fail to deliver it’s my fault because I’m the Foreign Teacher. It is pissing me off and stressing me out because if they think I’m incompetent they can cancel my contract. Since this is my first teaching job that wouldn’t look great on a resume. And I just cannot make any of them understand that what they’re seeing in that accursed video isn’t the magic of One foreign teacher, it’s a concerted effort by everyone at that school to make their English Corner special. Aside from her Not Even A Little Bit (you thought I forgot about that bullshit) and “more perfect” comments Line Manager hasn’t asked me how to make English Corner “more perfect”. They think if we add in a song and dance at the beginning that suddenly it will be “more perfect” and I just want to slam my head against a wall. It’s not that the kids aren’t having fun, it’s that the parents don’t think it looks engaging enough. I can’t even begin to process that ass-backwards line of thinking but that’s where we are.
The only good news coming out of this is that Line Manager has volunteered me for additional training in June. So I just have to dig in and hold on until I go back to Xi’an. I’m hoping there I’ll meet one or two of the people I shared initial training with and others and they can help me work this out, because while I’ve always been quite content to forge my own path this feels more and more like it’s leading me to a cliff.