Life has returned to normal, after all the travel and visits, and , on the job front, I've been enjoying the chance to teach some Classroom Methodology lesons to final year students. They certainly need the practice. They were mostly taught, when at school themselves, by static teachers whose oral English was probably very poor. Nor were they given much oppportunity or encouragement to observe or teach, using new 'communicative' methods, in their teaching Practice, and it shows. My English colleague here has been doing what he can to give them some hands-on practice in a short time, and I'd also have loved to have taught them all year but, in the two remaining weeks, I'll try to cram in all the songs, games, starters and other activities I can. Watching them having a go at presenting the activities themselves is quite stunning in its lack of passion - oh, well, if they resort to slavishly following the textbook again, at least we'll have tried.
I've also observed some of the classes I teach for Oral English in their Methodology classes with a Chinese teacher, and given feedback to the students on their twenty minute teaching slots within the lesson. This was really interesting to me, though the Chinese teacher wondered what possesses me to volunteer to go to extra classes and was, I think, quite fascinated to see me in action. I was invited back, so I guess I must I must have earned some 'guanxi'. She was amazed at the class's reaction to my arrival and told me she'd heard how much the classes loved me. Ah, Weydon students. Are you listening!!!??? It'll be great to go back to the 'I hate French', 'this is boring', 'can we do something fun today' and the snogging in the playground. Can't wait!
There's also been English Corner at Number 1 Middle School, surrounded by hordes of kids aged from thirteen to nineteen, some of whom spoke better English than their teachers. In fact, I couldn't tell which were which as the teachers all looked so young. (Most people do these days ... Wonder why that is!)
My own classes have been mini 'debates' this week and they've enjoyed 'arguing'. Who said Chinese students were shy. They were my 'guests' on 'CCTV 9' and had to argue for or against 'Both spouses should share the housework equally' and smoking, amongst other things. A normally quiet girl was fantastic and, after class, I caught up with her and her partner. They were still arguing! On the issue of smoking, at a meal with students this week, and on numerous other occasions, cigarettes are only ever offered to boys. Girls just don't do it, not in public anyway. It's the same with the Bai Jiu. Boys and men get ridiculously drunk very quickly on the stuff, ending the evening shouting, playing silly kids' games and feeling ill. Sounds like fun. Beer is OK for girls, it seems, but a few sips make them tipsy. I probably lost my reputation for ever by consuming rather more than a few sips, but tipsy I wasn't.
Today, I went wandering solo through Wenshan and into the hills. How I'll miss it. Come back, time. The red soil, the fields of crops, the constant demolition of buildings and the subsequent development, the farming with buffalo carts ... so many things. I sat down in the square, to contemplate the world and read my notebook of Chinese words in 'pinyin', and was surrounded within seconds by curious onlookers. Mostly peasant farmers, possibly illiterate, looking at my pinyin and attempts at copying Chinese characters, in fascination. I mostly had no idea what they were saying but they seemed friendly enough, and a man in the crowd, who was from Kunming and looked more educated, spoke 'putonghua' so was easier to understand. He enjoyed the role of 'translator' from my halting 'putonghua' to 'Wenshanhua'. Never think, if you come to China, that Mandarin will be universally understood. If it was, I'd speak it much better by now. That's my excuse anyway. Students enjoy 'teaching' me some Chinese but it's hard to convince them I don't want all my mistakes corrected, as that's what they're used to, but it makes for dull conversations. Me, in Chinese, something like 'Do you want rice?' (or, maybe, 'you want rice') ... them repeating, in perfect Chinese 'Do you want rice?' instead of just answering me, as they've obviously understood what I meant.
I was followed, as I moved away from the crowd in the square, by a fifteen year old girl with her five year old sister who were keen for me to teach them some English, but I was worn out after a few minutes of 'How are you?', 'I'm fine, thank you' and made my excuses. So many memories, though, such a good decision to come here and so sorry it's nearly over. Future years could hold more adventures yet, I think. Life's too short for worrying about the decorating ... (Looking forward to the yellow bedroom, Tim!!!)