If you first don't succeed, Yutai again.

October 12th 2010
Published: October 13th 2010
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My employer, Blue Sky Tengfei, is pretty new on the scene and has several locations. Their location in Yutai (which I was just beginning to get used to) is the newest of the Blue Sky Tengfei locations but is not quite ready for prime time, there had been a very successful summer school there. Some kids who had attended summer school in Yutai had missed a few classes and had to do "make up". Those were the classes that I had been teaching and they are completed. I had nothing to do, so they simply moved me to a location where I was needed. Everybody knew about this but me. With scarcely fifteen minutes of notice, I was asked to pack my belongings and be ready to go. Uh, OK.

The only way to survive as a Foreign teacher in China is remember to "go with the flow". If one expects prior notice, reasoning or explanations, then that one is going to be a sadly disappointed Joe. To be honest, I was not all that thrilled with living in Yutai anyway. It was kind of a dump.

After I packed my stuff, we were whisked away to the town of Jinxiang. While there is a Blue Sky Tengfeu center in Jinxiang, what was in store for me was visiting a public Middle School, grade 5.

Here's the deal: Why should only the upper middle class kids get to learn English? How about the normal, average kids? The ones who go to government run, public schools? For these kids, it is a much bigger deal: they have never had a foreign teacher visit their school. They have never had one in their class. They had never had one make pig sounds to them. That would soon change.

George, a fellow "teacher" from the Jinxiang location (George is a young Londoner fresh out of University) and I would be the designated visiting celebrities. George and I get along and have the same sense of humor. While we traveled through town towards the school, I spotted some sort of official government building, one whose only signage was an enormous red and gold hammer and sickle. "What party do you think they belong to?," I asked George "Tories?" He shook his head "Labour, most definitely" he deadpanned.

George and I each had two classes to teach; I had 5th graders and George had the 6th graders. These kids had learned some English already but their pronunciation just wasn't quite there. Our jobs, I was told, was to make learning English appealing and fun. We were given bottled water and sequestered in a sort of a "green room" before "going on stage". Soon, it was showtime! The school Principal and Vice Principals were going to be watching from the back of the room. The "performance" was videotaped.

We have a teaching template to work off of, and once I had done the first step ("Warm up"), I had the audience in my hands. Jasmine and I worked as a team and she cued me whenever I forgot the next step. I did fine. Lots of slapstick. We timed the lesson just fine, there were no flubs and the audience roared with laughter. They also learned the words that we taught them. The next class went even better.

Afterward, we were invited to lunch. Not the school kids, just we visitors and the school's honchos.
We were hauled in a Hyundai to a nice restaurant and seated at a big banquet table in a private dining room. George and I were to sit on either side of the Principal, as we were the guests of honor. All of the school's administration were there, and toasts (of hot soy drink) were made in our honor. Food arrived. Then, more food arrived. Food kept arriving. Photographs of George and Joe were taken. More clinking of glasses. The food was the serious stuff: whole fish, rabbit, chicken, pork, duck and another damned turtle.

I avoided the turtle.


13th October 2010

these posts are great to read. Like your go with the flow point of view!
13th October 2010

The Flow
Ha!! I love the pun in the title! That said, in China you certainly need to go with the flow, although you have to be able to draw the line somewhere. For six months teaching I was very patient and easygoing--frankly, I don't think I have the right to show up to someone else's country and try to make them do things MY way. I also don"t like to be rude and angry towards others. But with that recent so-called "clusterfuck", I've found that being angry and aggressive also seems to have its merits. Maybe it's best to unleash this only for major events, only after you've repeatedly shown people you are willing to work with them. Till that day, I'd have to say, Keep up the flexibility! Flexible people don't break. It's all an adventure, and you will never be bored by your schedule, that much is certain.
13th October 2010
Joe impersonates a teacher

Hey, Joe - I downloaded an app on my iPad for the grandchildren with photos and sounds of animals. Go to iFarm.com, or to iTunes, and see if you can get it and, then, take your laptop to class. Thee are also other apps that you may find that would work in your classrooms. Barry
15th October 2010

Turtles all the way down
Keep avoiding the turtles. I love reading your reports. When to they give you the requisite red jacket and/or sweatshirt?
17th October 2010

yo joe
hey joe its emily i want to go back to CA but i am in school so i cant:(well have fun and please respond baccond is still that good and i still love butter Mr.Camp fusilitater!
19th October 2010

Sounds like you have found a niche. Superstar celebrity, and the kids are learning to boot. Nice going.
28th October 2010

Just out of curiosity, what do you have against eating turtles?
8th November 2010

avoid the turtle
Avoid the Turtle: That sounds like a good name for a band, actually. Nice to be a rock star, eh, Joe? And remember if you get toasted with "Up bottom", as my friend Fiona was, in Qufu, back in the early 80s, be sure to respond with "...and up yours too"!

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