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Published: November 21st 2011
TAIZHOU TEACHERS COLLEGE
The college is about 1 or 2 kilometers from centre of city in and OK area with some basic shops out the front with some water gardens and big fir trees inside.
The apartment is close to the sports field and concert hall and is comfortable and livable; A bit like a ‘mini’ version of my last ‘mansion’ in Shaoxing. Most utilities work, with a few minor problems as is usual. ‘Not very good views in a quiet location, except for the unexpected fireworks.
So altogether there will be 4 English speakers here; all old guys, three from Australia, one from America. I only have to teach about half the classes I was supposed to, so I have plenty of spare time.
Our Welcoming Banquet was at the ‘number one’ 5 star hotel here but was not what was expected. No ‘lazy susan’ with heaps of choices of exotic Chinese dishes, but each guest gets the big white plates with small servings of exotic western style food instead.
FIRST CLASSES AT THE COLLEGE
I only have to teach about HALF the classes I was supposed to. The classes start a 7.30 AM,
so usually I am finished classes by 9.10 or 11.05! At 7.30AM it is a 15 minute walk for the classes at another campus down the road.
The only time I get to see the other Foreign Teachers (FTs) is when we get chauffer driven to the high school 45 minutes away for Thursday afternoon lessons, where we get snacks and the occasional western style dinner. Other than that, I don’t see them often. We four ‘oldies’ get along OK and catch up on local school politics and how well China is doing.
The students are generally a pretty good bunch. ‘Usually attentive and keen and I don’t have to confiscate mobile phones very often. It is funny how all the places I teach at have such varied standard. This was probably the best yet, so I had to fid some harder lessons.
On the way to classes we walk between old apartment buildings, six stories high, very close together, so there is not much sunlight. The ornamental gardens between the buildings seem to have been ‘hijacked’ by the local old residents for growing vegetables. It is interesting seeing cucumber
and pumpkin vines growing among and over the rose bushes. There are even rows of bok choy type veggies, fig trees and even chooks!
Now that winter is coming, they are drying veggies and clothes and playing cards in any sunny corner they can find. It is a nice atmosphere and one of the highlights of the day when going to class.
HIGH SCHOOL CLASSES
We have a ‘teaching connection’ with a high school about 45 minutes away by car. We are expected to teach 2 X 45 minutes classes, each Thursday, and are chauffer driven there and back. Due to negotiations on class size, by the other English teachers, I was told I would be teaching a class of 16 students in the class instead of the expected 64!! How we managed that, I don’t know.( 40 students in a class is considered ‘small ‘in China.) It was great being able to talk with ALL the enthusiastic students in a lesson. This just does not normally happen in China.
Each class is so different. They are usually very excitable at meeting their first foreign English teacher. The classes with mostly boys can be hard to
control at first and tend to dominate. The girls hardly say a word in these classes. However , in classes where there are more girls, they do all the talking and the boys don’t say a word.
We can not teach much to them in the first lesson but it is an introduction to western style of teaching. I try to tell them that they can say anything they like (there are no wrong answers etc) and that the teacher is not always right and that you can challenge anything that is said in class. This a concept very foreign to high school students especially. Some understand, but still do not say anything. At least the seed is sown for the next Foreign Teacher class at college, hopefully.
As well as been given snacks by the high school staff before the lesson, we are taken for another banquet after, this time pitza and all the western food you can eat. We are sometimes given other presents. Last week it was a large bottle of Bailey’s Irish Cream each before being chauffer driven back home to our front doors. I like that high school.
I went on my first ‘major‘ journey yesterday and hour away by bus on a recognizant mission to a another more interesting city-Yangzhou.
Tourist information is almost non-existent for individual travelers here, so you have to approach each trip like a military mission. I have about a dozen maps from the internet, about an hour away called Yangzhou. It is fairly pleasant with gardens along the old Grand Canal.
Most of the maps look completely different and it is hard to relate one map to the next. It is almost as if they are completely different places! Buses, bus stations, place names, street names, directions are all contradictory and confusion, and that’s even if you can get it in English from the internet!! Anyway , a very old nice old city for walking around, especially next to the old Grand Canal, which was a lot narrower than expected.
In November I moved my computer and desk into bedroom from study where the only heating is and ready to ‘bunker-down’ for winter. ‘So far not too bad with some good sunny days. The sun does reach the bed in winter- very handy for siesta. Left work
end of December and stopped off for quick break in south China at an old British colony port called Xiamen.
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