Life isn’t all peaches and cream. (where did that expression come from anyways?) I wouldn’t want to present a blog that didn’t tell you the truth about my experience, good and bad.
This experience is going to be different for everyone, since no two people experience life the same way. I’m not speaking for all Fulbrighters, nor am I speaking for how I feel 100 percent of the time. I need to be able to be honest on my blog and reflect the natural progression of how it feels to be a person living in a foreign country under a programme that has a set of rules to be followed. Rather than use this for bad, I hope anyone who reads this can take it and give it a think, knowing that it is my experience only, and is not a truth for all people.
Awkwardly worded, but true nonetheless. Here are my frustrations then.
Wo Ting Bu Dong/ I don’t understand
I work at a school whose entire faculty speaks mostly Mandarin. Meaning conversation is difficult at best. I make an effort to talk to my fellow teachers, but sometimes it just ends up like me smiling and nodding, understanding every other word. I’ll be honest and say that I kind of miss being able to have a real conversation with meaning.
After wrestling with this one for a while, I finally asked my coteacher about why there seemed to be so much strict emphasis on following the textbook and getting a lot done. I was prompted to ask because we tried to cover ten pages (10!!!) in the workbook with the 2nd graders last week, and I just couldn’t fathom what they were learning. It was my job to go around from student to student, making sure they had filled in all the blanks. It was difficult to see whether they actually understood or whether they just had copied from their neighbor. Anyway, my coteacher said that this school in particular has a strict instruction about what they want to be taught and by what time. She went on to describe how in fact, the job of English teacher at this school was one previously held by some of the homeroom (main) teachers, who had quit because they found it too difficult! I guess I can see why they quit, although it would be different than why I would. Maybe the strict textbook ideology didn’t bother them as much as it does me.
An Unclear Role
One of the first questions I asked my co teacher was about my role in the classroom as her ETA (English Teaching Assistant). If you were to think about this title, what would you think it meant? It sounds like I would assist her in the classroom, right? Cutting out paper things, copying, fetching and carrying, classroom crowd control, etc. I thought this was it, once she told me that I was considered her equal and we shared the class, but let me tell you that I haven’t really ever gotten that vibe. The language barrier between the students and I makes it more difficult for me to assert myself in the classroom as an authority figure with anything but a stern glare and the tone of my voice, so I am often relying on my co teacher to translate what I say to the kids. I also have no idea what they are used to in terms of discipline. At our teaching observation last week, the evaluators were able to help me ask for a more clear idea of what my coteacher expects of me. That way if I don’t get to teach as much as I want to, at least I will know it wasn’t going to happen.
300’s a Crowd
Teachers, have you ever had trouble remembering all the names of your students? Think two of them look alike? Try being an English teacher with over 300 students who you see just once a week for 40 minutes! Embarrassingly, I have yet to learn most of my student’s names and I mean their English ones. I won’t even begin to learn the Chinese names. Another draw back to having so many students is that you do not really get to know them very well. I love the idea of really being able to help each of my students out when they are struggling, because I know how they tick. I don’t know that with these kids as much. I don’t know how they are anywhere except in this classroom, which is difficult. After our teaching observation, the evaluator whipped out her iPhone saying, ‘would you like a picture with your students?’ I grimaced, a bit embarrassed and replied, ‘I don’t think they’re really the type…’ She nodded, ‘I could sort of tell that was the case.’ I’m glad I’m not the only one to notice that the majority of the students here whip in and out of the classroom without caring much about what goes on inside.
That’s all for now, folks. Not too much is going on in terms of complaints, it doesn’t do well to complain. It does well to observe, take note, and change if you can, or come to terms with something. Hey! It’s nearly the end of October!!!