This last week or so has been qute hectic with teaching, outings and extra re-sit classes. I'm learning very strange things about the exam system here.
First of all, my oral classes are probably not like the other classes the students have and getting them to speak, move groups, listen to each other and do role- plays and presentations (switch off if this is too much teacher -talk) is quite a challenge, but they seem to enjoy it when they get the hang of it. The first time I tried to get two students from one group to move to the next group and so on was farcical. Think of the well known phrase about ' Can't organise a ......in a brewery'. Now I put numbers on chairs and they're getting better.
The exams.... Basically the idea seems to be that they have to pass, especially in their final year. 60% is the minimum pass mark which basically means they weren't good enough to pass but they have and will graduate. Most of my TV students are in this category and I'm now involved in the ludicrous situation of helping them with a resit of last year's exam which they'll pass anyway even if they're rubbish or don't show up. Apparently they don't know this (Hmm! she thinks, cynically) and I'm encouraging them, working them hard and drilling them so they actually do reach, or at least get near the level required to pass or think they have. Does that make sense to you? Fortunately most other students attend and work hard so will pass, really pass. Their other exams involve re-gurgitating books and students spend hours chanting books out loud all over the campus. If it's English they're reciting I sometimes stop them and ask what their reading is about. Ask a daft question! They haven't a clue, but they do have excellent memories.
I had my first experience of English corner this week and was surrounded by students firing questions at me about myself, family, England etc and was inundated with offers to show me around, help with my Chinese, cook for me.... They even laughed at my jokes, told me I was lovely, kind, beautiful.... You know, I could get used to this, but my head wouldn't get through the door. One week back in England will soon bring me back to earth.
I've had my first Chinese lesson now with a teacher in the English department. She wanted to conduct the lesson in Chinese but I hope she realised I'm not quite up to that yet as I can understand next to nothing that's said to me. By the end of the lesson I was worn out and I'll need to spend hours going over it if I'm to remember anything at all. The students have also been helping a lot and I'm not bad on food now and can, theoretically, ask for a haircut. Going to the hairdressers is my next challenge - their hair is not like mine.
So, daily life is bumbling away nicely, from 6am tannoyed music onwards and this weekend I've got dinner with some TV students at my flat tonight (they're lovely really), a picnic tomorrow weather permitting ( it's hot now) and I'm having dumplings cooked for me on Sunday. When will I get my lessons prepared? Better do that now.
Thanks for all your messages. See Tim if you want to write a letter to me as he has my address in Chinese characters or you'll find it on the VSO website. Letters seem to take about a month to get here so, if it's urgent don't bother. If you have e-mail, send me your birthday so I can send you a card with my new technological wizardry.