On one year of teaching classes at my school

And I promise that this is the last of these ‘Year in review’ posts. I hope at least that this one will be brief. I will not nominate my school by name, though anyone with half a brain could piece it together from my posts. But no one reads this blog, so I am pretty safe that those dots will never be connected. Still, one cannot be too careful, nor should one tempt fate.

So after having been teaching at this school for year, what exactly are my thoughts? Well, for the most part this is one of the things that is fine with my life here. The work is something I can do, and it is something that I can see myself doing in the long term should I establish that it is what I want to do long term. On most days I enjoy the teaching more than a bit, and on the other I can get through it. As of this writing, there was only one day were I thought to myself that I just couldn’t do it, and even on that day I managed to get through it. So there is that.

As far as the students are concerned, this is about as bell curve an example as you can get. Most of them do the minimum amount of work to get by and make no real progress because at the end of the day ‘learning is hard’.  A small slither are just awful, and an equally small slither are genuinely good students who are working hard and going to actually learn this language given enough time and dedication. Anything else here is just (sometimes humorous) anecdote.

My colleagues are however, pretty fucking awful. I am reduced to one foreign coworker, who is a fucking idiot. I think he has pretty deep seated social issues, and also believes every single conspiracy theory ever created, including that Rebecca Black is a time travelling assassin and the song ‘Friday’ is a confession to her having offed JFK. He also believes that air conditioning is bad for you and that microwaves sap food of nutrients. I wish all of this was a joke of some kind, but only one line of it is.

My boss is cool, so there is that. The only things I can fault her for are not giving the first fuck and thinking that ‘there is more to’ the previously mentioned coworker than meets the eye. In one case she is right, in the latter, well she’ll learn once she’s been there as long as I have.

My Chinese coworkers can be broken down into two groups, sales and support. I love the support team, as they are hardworking and personable. The sales team however is about as useful as sack of circumcised foreskins and about as personable. One of them hasn’t bothered to learn my name yet, and simply rotates through her list of foreign names until she gets something that seems right. Alas, its never my actual name. The rest of them merely treat us like chattel. You see, none of them actually know how to do their job, so they often need us to give demo classes to convince the students to join. I have no idea why this is so, but it is apparently the case. You think people with sales experience would know how to con people out of their money, but apparently they need English teachers to do that.

But for the rest of them, they are mostly just bland, boring people. Short of them needing me to do demo classes, they don’t say hello, they don’t wave,  they don’t ask how you are. You are as relevant to them as a fucking coat hanger. Come to think of it, I may only speak so highly of the support team because at least when I walk into work they give me a smile and make me feel like a god damn human being.

Ok, but enough bellyaching about people. As for the teaching itself, the work is fine, and when I get into the classroom more often than not I get really in the zone and forget about my problems outside. Occasionally the students are too stupid and cowish to properly participate, but it is bothering me less and less, and I have even developed a good-natured way of mocking them when all they are doing is looking at the board and ignoring what I say. For the most part the school provides enough material for me to get through a lesson as is, though I much prefer putting my own spin on things. In terms of teaching and materials, I don’t have too many complaints. Where I do have a gripe is with the levels. The levels the school uses are nto thought out very well, and are often a rough fit for the students.  Students are often not at the right level, and the system in place lets them advanced much too easily, and often when they are not ready. The students have no idea, and because every accomplishment in China is a tick-box task where you do something only to say that you have it done, the students don’t understand that they aren’t in the right level. What do you mean I am not upper intermediate? Sure, I can’t answer basic questions, but I have done all the tasks I need to.

It is all pretty mediocre, which is the most I can ask for. Management only cares about sales and customer satisfaction, so the fact that students aren’t learning anything is of no one’s concern except us teachers. And because they make us put all our energy into customer satisfaction and not learning, we stop caring as well. Case in point; I will have a meeting today. Will we talk about how to better the students or will we plan the halloween party (there is your under the hood look at how far in advanced I write these damn things)? We are going to talk about the halloween party.

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