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June 26th 2017
Published: June 26th 2017
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China Blog Post 7

6/26/2017

Intro

The last time I posted a blog was in early March. It’s been a long time. A lot has happened since and I’m excited to write about the adventures I’ve had these past few months. When I last wrote, my WT (World Teach) colleagues and I were throwing a going away party for Dom. Unfortunately for personal reasons he had to leave early and return to Australia. Since March I’ve had some more travel stories, teaching disasters and teaching break throughs. Before continuing I want to let all of my friends and family know that I am currently working on a commentary, writing about my observations and experiences with Chinese culture. It will be different from my blog as I’ll solely be focusing on analyzing aspects of Chinese culture. It will be long but honest. If you find the time, I hope you can take the time to read it. Thank you.

Future Plans

For those who don’t know I’d like to start off this blog by saying that while my stay in China has been fruitful, I am ready to embark on a new journey. I have been to
GuangzhouGuangzhouGuangzhou

Dowtown Guangzhou, Newtown area
China three times now so I feel like it’s time to have a new experience and go to my dream country, South Korea. Back in March I applied to an English teaching program in Korea called EPIK. I passed the interview back in March but as I’m still in China, obtaining all of the proper paperwork, especially an FBI background check has been a long, painful, tedious process. It’s extremely hard getting paperwork done while abroad. For the background check I needed to obtain fingerprints so, I had to go all the way to Guangzhou, a southern Chinese city to obtain them at an embassy. (Police stations in China do not do fingerprints and there is no embassy in my city). While I got a new traveling experience (which I’ll talk about in detail later) I had to spend a lot of money to do something that would have been much cheaper and easier to do in the States. All of my paperwork has been completed since long ago, however as of June 25th I am still waiting on my background check to come in the mail.

My program adviser for EPIK told me teaching placements are a first come first serve basis. Since my background check has not come through, I cannot send in all my paper work to the office in Korea. Most people who were accepted have already sent in their paperwork and placements began coming out last week. As of now my adviser told me because I’ll be towards the end of the line, to prepare for a rural placement. I requested a city placement, just as I was able to obtain here, this past year teaching in China. Teaching in a city has given me a great experience. It’s east to be social, meet new people, and live a comfortable, modern style life. FBI background checks are long and tedious in nature. I could not have foreseen this process taking so long. I’m even using a channeling service, to help the process go along faster but there have been sum big unforeseen bumps in the road that has made my process longer than it should’ve been. As a result I will most likely be placed in a not so ideal location. I’ve been getting a little paranoid and depressed about the likelihood of being in a rural area as I’m an extremely social person and don’t particularly like being alone. After doing tons of research on rural placements and talking to family and friends about my worries, I have decided, regardless of my placement, I am going to see this through. I don’t want to have any regrets in life. I’ve wanted to go to South Korea since I was 12 and whether in a big city or small town, I want to make the most of my experience. I came into my current program, World Teach China expecting to be placed with another teacher (as most people in my program are) however I was placed alone. I was expecting to teach anywhere from 12-16 classes but I was given 18. I was expecting to only teach high school but ended up teaching middle and high school students, which definitely stretched my patience. Many unexpected things have happened to me this past year and while it’s been very challenging it has forced me to grow and become more mature as an adult. You simply can’t get everything you want and sometimes you have to just wait and see. While I’m still extremely worried and scared that I could be going in over my head, I’m hopeful and looking forward to such a different experience. As my parents said, “You never know. It could be the best experience of your life.” When I find out my official placement in Korea, I’ll let everyone know. As for now please keep me in your prayers as my first priority is to get my paper work sent in before the deadline, mid-July. If for some reason I am not able to send in my paper-work on time, I have a Plan-B which I’ll announce later should my plans have to change.

Traveling in Guangzhou

As I explained in the intro, my initial reason for going to Guangzhou was just to go the embassy and get my fingerprints done. I was planning to take a fast train there and come back the same day, but then I realized that, that upcoming weekend was a holiday and I had 4 days off. Amongst all the stress of getting EPIK’s paperwork done, I thought it’d be nice to give myself a little vacation. I stayed in Guangzhou for four days. I arrived on Thursday, got my finger prints done early Friday morning and had until Monday to do whatever
Dragon Festival HikeDragon Festival HikeDragon Festival Hike

Hiking on a famous mountain in Yueyang, sitting on the glass bridge.
I wanted. This was my first time ever traveling in China alone. It was absolutely great! I could do whatever I wanted and I didn’t have to answer to anyone. Because I get paid extra for teaching over 16 classes, I had a little money to splurge and I treated myself. Guangzhou is the capital city of Guangdong province and the land of Cantonese food and language. It is one of China’s top tiered cities, meaning one of the biggest and most modern (Shenzhen, Shanghai, and Beijing are the other 3). To give you an idea of its size, 13 million people live there and there are 8 metro lines. This part of China has a completely different feel. Guangzhou is in the deep south of China, the land of dim sum and some of the world’s most exotic foods. The biggest African expat community in China lives in this city so I saw black people all the time, and for the first time since being in China no one stared at me. I didn’t plan anything and just sort of went with the flow. My first adventure included going on a bike tour of the city. My bike instructor was a Tibetan man (Tibet is an autonomous region in Western China, with many political and religious tensions with the Chinese government) and he was very humorous and handsome. We exchanged contact info towards the end of the journey, and if I were staying in Guangzhou,……………..the possibilities. On that day, I happened to be the only one to sign up, so I had a private bike tour. It was amazing. I had never done something so adventurous. As I’ve mentioned in previous blog post, the driving culture in China is much different and can often times be very dangerous so riding through the city by bike, was an adrenaline rush. The city tour was a 5 hour bike ride. Not only did we drive on the main streets, but we also drove through the back alleyways and old streets where life is livelier. We stopped at historically marked landmarks, learned about the history of the city and took many pictures. I even got to take a picture in front of IP man’s old training school (for those of you who like kungfu or kungfu movies, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Check out the IP man movie trilogy on Netflix. IP man was an extremely famous fighter who practiced and taught a fighting style that is unique to Southern China. He was also Bruce Lee’s fight instructor). We explored back streets, markets, temples, tourist areas such as the downtown walking street (a shopping area), and ended downtown in Newtown, where all of the city’s new and modern architecture is. The next day I took the metro to some of the other tourist spots such as some of the city’s most famous parks. The city I live in, Changsha, is a modern still developing city so while there are subway lines and Western restaurants, they’re limited. Since I was in a major city I splurged on food. Guangdong is the land of dim sum so I tried as many as I could. I also ate at an upscale Thai restaurant one night as I hadn’t had Thai food since being in America so I was very happy about that. My last full day on Sunday, I went to hike the city’s main mountain, White cloud Mountain, near the city outskirts. I had a great time in Guangzhou and would definitely like to visit again, as well as other parts of Southern China.

Finishing up the school year - Juniors

While my school informed me that like the first semester, they wanted me to give each student a final grade, I did not do a final exam with the juniors. Instead I did a project with them over the span of four weeks. I taught them movie genres for two weeks and for the first time I assigned them a project. Their assignment was to create a movie poster. They could either create their own movie or do research and use information from movies that already exist. On the front of their poster they had to have a drawing, and on the back they had to write out information about their movies. Because I have so many students, it took 2 weeks for everyone to present their posters in front of the class. It was really cool to see the student’s creative side. (I’ll post some videos on Facebook of one or two presentations).

At this time in the year my lessons have pretty much been perfected. The juniors are used to me and are generally more well behave because I’m a little stricter, but I still feel I am too nice. About two weeks before the movie poster project I walked out on one of my Junior classes. Class 1, which surprised me because they can sometimes be a little rowdy but compared to the other Junior 1 classes, they’re behavior is somewhere in the middle. I did a lesson about the weather, following their textbook. While I admit the beginning might’ve been a little boring, towards the middle and the game at the end was a hit with all of the other Junior1 classes so I wasn’t sure why this lesson wasn’t going over well with them. They were being completely disrespectful. Half of the students had their heads down, trying to sleep, the other half was talking or not paying attention. I felt like I was talking to myself and it was one of the worst feelings I ever felt as a teacher. I tried to discipline them but they were just out of it. Suddenly in anger and frustration, I stopped talking, turned off the PowerPoint, packed up my things and left the room. They were shocked into silence. I walked back to my office which is in the Senior building, and some of the more advanced English speakers from that class, came and found me in confusion, asking me what was wrong. I told them not to worry and that their head teacher would be hearing from me.

The next week the head teacher told me to take a break from them, so he taught my class period the next week. After a week’s absence, I came back and they were perfect after my walk out. I still question to this day whether that was the right thing to do. I felt that I would be coming off as unprofessional. The head teacher for Class 1 happens to be an English teacher and when I talked to him he was adamant about apologizing on their behalf and he insisted that I was in the right. The rest of the year with the juniors went quite smoothly. While teaching 7th graders is probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life, I’m glad I did it. It forced me to grow up, learn to adjust to the unexpected and become a more patient person.



Finishing up the school year- Seniors

Before I talk about exams for
Taiping Jie StreetTaiping Jie StreetTaiping Jie Street

This is an old street, a tourist area for food and shopping in Changsha.
the seniors, I had one more teacher break-downs with one of my senior 1 classes. The fact that I had an incident with this particular class, Class 3, did not surprise me at all. All semester they had become noisy, and many other teachers have behavior issues with this class. One of the last lessons I taught was about advertisements. It was a two week lesson. The first week was about analyzing ads. We learned about the different components of an ad and in teams the students watched 7 different commercial ads and had to answer questions analyzing them. They loved this and really had fun. The second week, in groups they had to make their own ad and sell a product to me. Many senior 1 classes did amazing and were quite creative and funny, while others were lazier. This particular class did the bare minimum. When it was time for each group to present, they were generally unprepared and quite clearly just sat there until I told them it was time to present. After the 3rd group presented I was fed up. I silently walked around the room, took back all of the products (that I took the time to bring in to class, and these ae my own personal items from my house) and started at them. After it was silent I told them class was ending early. The exact quote was, “Class is over. When you want to continue learning, you let me know.” Class ended about 5 minutes early. It wasn’t just that class period that made me angry. Some of my other senior classes didn’t do as well as I would’ve liked but they did well enough that I could see they put some effort in. This class was just completely lazy and quite frankly had been getting more and more disrespectful at that time in the semester anyway. Even before this incident, during class I often have to interrupt their side conversations and noisiness. For all of the other senior classes, when I had to discipline them for similar behavior they generally respected me and became quiet, but class 3 would just laugh when I was angry, be quiet for one minute, then go back to being loud again. Whenever I disciplined them, I never even saw an ounce of guilt or remorse. (I’m sure every teacher has that one class). Even the Junior class I walked out of, just had one very bad day, this senior 1 class, was consistently disrespectful.

Finally I decided to write out a letter to them. We needed to have a talk. My liason happens to be their other English teacher so she came with me the next day, along with their head teacher and translated the letter that I read aloud to them. I was very frank and didn’t sugar code anything. For the first time I could see that most of them felt bad and actually looked guilty. I invited their head teacher to show them I was serious and told them that I would be reporting their behavior on a weekly basis. When I talked to my liaison in private later she said, “I’m sorry about them.” I told her, “Maybe I’m doing something wrong with them.” She replied, “No. I’m much older than you, more experienced, and my class counts for a grade and even I have a hard time controlling them. It’s not you, many teaches have problems with them.” I told her, “I understand but there are students in there who I know want to learn, and its not fair to them that I have to constantly stop class for the students who are rude. I feel like I’m failing them.” She replied, “Don’t feel bad. Actually the students really like your class.” I sarcastically responded, “I can’t tell.” She said, “No really. They find your class, relaxing, fun, and interesting. They look forward to your class.” After I thought about it this is probably true. Out of all of the classes, class 3 is the liveliest and if they like a particular lesson’s topic they’re wild but they’re into it and its fun, but if they’re even a little bored that lively energy turns into disrespect. Again, after having a coming to Jesus moment with this class, they were perfect for the rest of the year. I could even see them eagerly awaiting for my approval when I have to give them their end of class points.

Final Exams

The last 4 weeks of class for my seniors included 2 weeks of exam prep and 2 weeks for exam presentations. Instead of the usual skit that I assign as an exam, the final was for the students to teach us something. I taught them all year so I told them, “Now it’s your turn to be a teacher.” This was the first exam where I allowed them to choose their own groups and topics. I gave them an example by teaching them how to study Chinese. They found my teaching them pronunciation, and reading and writing in Chinese quite amusing. I told them they could do anything as long as it was appropriate. I usually tell the students about the exam requirements and on their own, after school they prepare but this time I took two weeks of class time to closely monitor each group’s progress. This included approving their topics, checking grammar, helping students with translations and research. About half of the groups prepared power point presentations while the others just spoke from memory (sometimes using he blackboard as well). Topics included: How to obtain freedom, how to bake a cake, how to use a Chinese fan, how to study Japanese, how to take a selfie, how to exercise, hoe to study well, how to be an attractive boy, how to make paper airplanes, how to do a card trick, how to protect yourself during a terrorist attack, how to get through high school, how to draw, how to play badminton or basketball, how navigate Chinese vs. American mannerisms, how to go to sleep, and so on and so forth. I really enjoyed this exam and there were many impressive presentations. For this exam every class took it seriously and I had no problems. If I teach at the high school level in South Korea, I will definitely do this final exam project again. I recorded each group so I will post some of the presentations on Facebook.

Saying Goodbye

After finishing all projects and final exams for both Juniors and Seniors, I ended the last week of school with a movie prize for all of the classes. They voted on which movies they wanted to watch during class, and as a present I gave them the other American movies I had on my USB. For the seniors the first day of the semester we played a game where the students had to write down any three questions they wanted to ask me. I would pick two students. One student would ask one of their three questions and the other student had to pretend to be me. In other words they had to answer the question as if they were me. Since the students only got to ask one of their three questions, at the end of the first day of class, I collected all of their questions. On the last day of class, in addition to the movies, I returned the questions they asked me. I answered every single question the students asked. I have about 500 senior students, so that was a ton of writing. My hand even began to hurt at one point. The students even seemed quite touched. I said my goodbyes to all of my students, took pictures, even received some presents and now I’m completely done my first year of teaching. Yeah me!!!!!!!!!!!

In between trying to get my EPIK paper work done and finishing up the school year I also hung out with friends in my free time. I will also post pictures of these activities with some descriptions. My year in China has been long but fun. I’ve had a great time here but it is indeed time to come home. I miss my family and friends too much and I’m ready for some Maryland blue crabs. I’m counting down the days. I’m currently in the midst of packing and saying my last goodbyes to all of my World Teach colleagues and my Chinese friends. I just said goodbye yesterday to one of my best friends in the whole world, Jody Spence. We’ve been together since college, and we even embarked on a yearlong journey in China together. I’m going to miss you soooo much. My closest friends here, Jody and Nick, I love you guys. And to all my World Teach colleagues and friends, we made amazing friendships that I know will last. I miss everyone already and I can’t wait to meet again in the future. For family and friends from the States reading this, I’ll be back on Thursday, July 28th 9:30 pm, not that I’m counting. I can’t wait to see everyone. Bye.










Additional photos below
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Goodbye lunch with ChristinaGoodbye lunch with Christina
Goodbye lunch with Christina

Had an amazing lunch on the river with one of mmy best friends Christina, at a Nepali restaurant.


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