Thursday, 24 November 2011

The weekend starts here...

Friday today, no classes so the weekend starts here.


It’s surprising how quick the weeks have gone. At school I am organizing the exams. This means, and I only realized yesterday, in class, that this was the last time I had a teaching class with my students, the next time I see them will be in the exam.

The exam will be a shock for 95% of my students, because I have never seen them. In the three third year classes I teach I have a regular half a dozen that turn up out of a role that should be about 40 strong.  Sometimes it’s six, sometimes four.  And their English is pretty ropey especially for students that have been learning English since at least their junior school.

The exam will cover, listening, speaking, reading and writing and I have little confidence that even the ones that have come to the lessons will get top marks or even half marks, or even pass.

Never mind though, even if I mark them 0 the school will generate a 100% pass for my classes so they will all get their diploma regardless.  Which as a teacher is pretty demoralizing.

With my fresher class, who all turn up for their twice-weekly class (39 students) things look brighter. Their English is much much better than the third years, I hesitate to say 100% better because that simply does not indicate how bad the third years are, so even a 100% increase would still see my third years being useless. (In my defense I really have seen the third years that turn up gain more confidence in speaking – which is the main issue here)

So with my freshers I have to organize some ‘catch up’ classes simply because I have to teach 30 classes, we have done 18, so that leaves 12 which would cover six weeks, but we want to be finished by Christmas, including the exam.  So I have to fit the 12 classes into the next 4 weeks.


Tonight we are having a Thanksgiving Dinner at the Blue Marlin.  This has been driven by Tom and Peggy, who are, as I have mentioned before, stalwarts of our college group of foreign teachers.  I have mentioned how Tom has galvanized the bar into doing a Fish and Chip night and like a more polite version of the chef Gordon Ramsay, driven the kitchen into producing the right sort of batter for the fish and so on.

The Chefs learning curve has recently got steeper. Lets say right off that the Western Style food that he provides is pretty good and they do a good trade there with foreign teachers like us and those at the international school and other colleges and universities around. But I’m sure the mysteries of the Roast Turkey Thanksgiving Dinner was never part of his education. So Tom and Peggy have been inducting him into the dark art of the bread stuffing, the rice stuffing, the gravy and so on.

So for instance, in the run up to this evenings meal, Tom and Peggy were in the bars kitchen overseeing the preparations when disaster struck. They had only gone and thrown out the turkey giblets and all – the basic building blocks of the gravy. So an emergency trip to the local supermarket was made for large chickens, giblets intact, so a faux turkey gravy could be made.

We’ve got a large table booked so we should all be sitting together. The cast of villains will include:

Tom and Peggy, AJ, Hopalong Steve from Glasgow. Plus Matt, Todd, Rick, Nichole all colleagues from US all who teach at my college.  Sheree from New Zealand a colleague who teaches in Nanjing with the same agency as me.  TingTing a Chinese teacher of AJ’s acquaintance, Christy an American teacher in Nanjing and other assorted people that I don’t know or who I’m not sure of their names.

Last night I was told that there was about 30 covers sold, I think the bars hoping for 60+ covers, but there are two sittings, one at 5, which we will go to and another at 7. The bar had a trial run when another US teacher, Taylor, took a class of 40 children to the bar for a Thanksgiving Dinner and I’m told it all went well.

The only blot on the landscape seems that they will not be serving apple pie and ice cream, but Peggy got a certain look in her eyes when this was mentioned so fingers crossed that it might just appear!

Next blog will have pictures – promise.


Steve update – last thing I mentioned was that the college were effectively sacking Steve and sending him home.  That was until Tom got involved. I have mentioned before how Tom is simply a force of nature, ‘Never say Never’ should be his motto. I have mentioned how he organized the international doctor to see Steve – no fees involved. So on the Monday after our trip to Shanghai and hearing about what the college and the Chinese doctors were saying about Steve’s condition Tom took Steve back to Dr. Collinna, who very generously was giving up his time yet again, remember I had taken Steve to see him on Friday and the Dr was very pleased with the progress, that’s why we couldn’t understand the sudden volte face of the College.

The good Dr. confirmed his diagnoses of Friday to Tom who got back onto our International Liaison Richard – who we all now know we cannot trust an inch to look after our interests should we be in trouble.  Tom very forcibly told Richard some home truths and indeed told him that we were all pissed off with him and he was so pissed off that if Steve left then so would He and Peggy.

On 7:30 the following morning Richard rang Steve and told him that he could keep his job and have sick leave, but, and to cut a long story shortish, his lessons would have to be covered by us because if they got another teacher in to cover Steve would lose his flat and his job. (Of course if Tom and Peggy left plus any more teachers Richard would have lost his job too)

So as of today, the situation is this, Steve’s job is safe, he is taking sick leave, we will cover his classes for the next three weeks and be paid for the cover, this takes Steve into the Winter break that lasts till February – so on Monday he is flying home for some good old British NHS care and the tender mercies of his mums love and cooking.

He will be back next term.

Make no mistake this is Tom’s victory. And Tom, I know you are reading this, THANK YOU for your tenacity, your love, your care and your friendship. You have a BIG HEART and on your Thanksgiving holiday I want to give you a huge THANKS that you are our friend.

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