Monday, November 25, 2013

Week Thirteen of Classes

It is now the beginning of the thirteenth week of classes. There are nineteen weeks in this semester and we are fast approaching the end. Most of my classes are on one day every alternating week. This means that I see one class of students once every two weeks. I have three that meet every week. One of these is on Tuesday and the other two are on Wednesday. The two Wednesday classes also meet every other Friday.

Confused yet? It takes a while to get used to the schedule. I’m still not sure that I’m used to it. I have a copy of the schedule that I carry with my books and I also have a photo of the schedule on my phone that I often reference as I’m walking into the building. All this hasn't stopped me from walking into the wrong room on occasion.

Most of my students are good. In each class there is a range of levels. There are those who visibly tremble if I look in their general direction and whom seem completely unable to utter a single word without ten minutes of help from their neighbors and look like they’re going to cry in the process. Out of fear that the poor child may have a heart attack I’ll generally leave this person alone. Then there are those who almost who have exceptional English. They understand about 80% of what I say and they are usually understandable when they speak. Most of every class is somewhere in between. I have noticed that more than half of my best students are girls. This doesn't really mean that girls are better. There are some boys whose English is exceptional and there are several girls who can barely utter a word. Two of my classes, the ones that meet on Wednesday and every other Friday, are all tourism majors. One of these classes is only girls. The other only has two boys. I have one class who are cookery majors. I thought this class would be the most fun but they’re all afraid of me. My other classes are mostly accounting majors.

On week fifteen and sixteen most of my classes will begin finals. Only three will begin them later. Most of the finals will be oral exams. Two will be paper tests. I spent this morning prepping today’s classes for what they should expect. Most of them seemed to understand. I also spent much of this weekend designing a practice tests for my two classes that will be taking a test on paper.

There is some confusion between the school and the foreign teachers about when we will be able to leave. All of us had made plans to leave the moment we turned in our grades for the finals. Each of us thought that we would have four or five weeks off for Spring Festival. I had tentatively planned to head to South East Asia. Following what I know others have done in the past my rough plan was to go first to Nan Ning by train for two days, just long enough to get a visa for Vietnam. There is a train from Nan Ning to a small boarder town where I can catch a bus to Hanoi. I had planned to spend a about week in Vietnam, a week in Thailand and then a week in Cambodia before reentering China and heading back to Wuhan. With four to five weeks off this is perfectly doable. 

During a meeting last Thursday the school informed us that they want us to all wait two weeks for the other teachers to finish their grading and then spend a few days doing data entry marrying up all the grades into the computer. I came to the meeting late because I had a class at the time that they started. By the time I got there I could tell that there were a couple of very visibly angry people. It didn't take me long to ascertain why. While I wasn't as vocal about it, I had to agree. Sitting on my hands for two week while waiting to do data entry doesn't sound near as good to me as sitting on the beach under a palm tree looking out at the crystal clear sea rolling in on the shores while beautiful dark-skinned Asian girls in bikinis serve me Tiger beer. But then, does anything really sound that good? Like most other things in life the reality probably isn't nearly as fantastic as what I imagine it to be but that isn't the point. The point is, I don’t want to sit in Wuhan for two weeks doing nothing and I certainly don’t want to do data entry.

In the end everything will probably work itself out. In the meantime I’m actually having fun with most of my classes. The days are starting to get a little cold, another reason I want to get out of Wuhan for a bit, but it isn't too bad yet. Very soon I’ll tell you a couple of things about dumplings and a little about tea.

Oh… and coffee…. A couple three things about coffee. I shan't forget the coffee.