This long Christmas/New Years/Spring Festival has been tough and its been one of epiphanies, tough decisions, loneliness, self reflection, doubt, the highs and lows of personal emotions, revelations and just too much time doing sweet flip all except think!
I knew after about 4 weeks that what I was doing here was not teaching and to all intents and purposes was ready to bale there and then. But after speaking with Tom and Peggy and AJ I gave myself until Christmas to see how it was going - now its gone!
I wrote this on the 24th of September - I had been In China about a month and teaching for a couple of weeks
'I suffered this too in my first weeks. What I have learnt, and what I have talked to Tom about is not only lowering ones expectations about the students and what they can do. But one has to lower ones personal expectations about oneself. I guess we all want to be good teachers and we all want the kids to learn. But what if the students can’t be arsed to learn and are just going through the motions? I mean I have not seen half of my classes. I have told my leader and he told me he would ‘keep that in his mind’.'
It didn't get better and I have been finding the teaching at the Nanjing College of Information Technology (NCIT) totally unrewarding. The students are indifferent, inconsiderate, uninterested, overworked and pretty dumb when it comes to English. That these were 3rd year students on the British Columbia Institute of Technology programme was made more remarkable in that, in the main, they did not turn up to class. Out of a role of three classes made up of over 30 students in each, after the first class no more than 6 would turn up regularly, sometimes my class consisted of two students!
That they turned up at all, when their colleagues did not, was compounded by the fact that they turned up without writing materials, paper and the course books. Once in class they seemed to be more concerned with either sleeping on their desk or totally ignoring me by playing on their mobile phones. Not that I allowed this to happen, but having to reiterate the classroom rules every session was boring and tedious.
That I failed the majority of the students in my BCIT classes should come as no surprise as the majority had not fulfilled the 66% attendance requirement, however I am told that the College will provide all the failed students with a pass and the required certificate. If BCIT are aware of this I am pretty appalled at the lack of academic standards applied by the Chinese College and ratified by the Canadian College, which I am aware, has an internationally recognised academic reputation.
Indeed my Chinese teacher leader told me that although there was a course book, I didn’t have to follow it, and that I could do whatever I wanted to do. This is not teaching this is babysitting the students through a 2-hour session. I really came to China with good intentions, wanting to teach and be part of what, from the outside, seemed to be an exciting time for the country. I am really disappointed that the ‘teaching’ experience has been so bad. As you know I am an experienced teacher and really expected more. The level of work is much more suited to a graduate who is happy just to show films to the students whilst they sit back and wing it for two hours whilst earning enough money to party.
I wanted to work and to make a difference. This hasn’t happened.
On a more personal level I have missed my daughter, Matilda and her mum, Lucia. I thought I was strong enough to be apart from Matilda, and she was very supportive of me coming to Christmas. But clearly I wasn't strong enough. Perhaps if she had come out to China as I had discussed with her mum I might have been able to bite the bullet and stay until the end of this next short semester. But it didn't happen (for good reasons, I might add) so there it was. What I had in Nanjing, in China just didn't add up to what I was missing at home.
I thought about this long and hard. I went to Thailand to clear my head of the problems I was facing and my negative thoughts about what I was doing here. On the train to Shanghai, to catch my plane to Phuket I jotted down a few of my feelings about China.
These are them...
It monotonous, in that there is nothing to do. Remember I was only working about 12 hours a week. What to do with the rest of the time? After I had exhausted all the tourist things what is there to do? Most of the younger American teachers who are in the main no more or less graduates seem to get by on the endless watching of TV series which they can quote, DVD's and video games, as well as party hard throughout the week - but that's not me.
The place is in fact, bleak, grey, depressing and industrial. There is no design aesthetic in the buildings around, in fact most building is based on short-termism, they'll last about 20years and then fall down. The flats I live in are about 2 years old and are starting to get tatty. A lot of China is a muddy building site that's heavily polluted. The place has no character, no sense of history, its overly modern. Things that seem old are often pastiches because during the cultural revolution they pulled all the old things down.
There are no redeeming features, even in the countryside. Although in a hypocritical aside, I really enjoyed my trip to Benzhongen which I wrote about earlier and where I suppose I saw a different China and I'm sure there are a million 'other' China's that I'll never see.
But here in this area, all over to Shanghai, every building is stained by pollution, every window cries black tears down from its sills. Its an overly landscaped dystopian place, where there seems to be a place for everything and a person to put that thing in its place.
The Chinese themselves seem to be an indifferent, rude, selfish, insular and mannerless race of people who treat us as if we were exhibits and interact with us in a sub racist sort of way - its not overt, its just that we are foreigners - laowai! Personal and social hygiene are left wanting. People gob on the side walks and in restaurants and bars, men piss openly on the streets in broad day light. Children defecate in the bushes or piss on the floor whenever and where ever they are. I am fed up of the times I have been pushed past or blocked from moving through a door because people cant be bothered to wait to give you the time and space to get out of the lift or the metro or the bus. I have got so fed up of this I now physically move them out of my way - straight arm tackles seem to work.
I came back from Thailand in a more positive frame of mind with some notion that I might just be able to scoot back to the UK, see Matilda and come back refreshed for the short Feb to June semester. But once back into my cave of a flat, with nothing to do, nothing to get up for, no one around, becoming enveloped in loneliness once again, becoming bored of the TV, suffering from a chest infection, bored of going to the Blue Marlin, I knew I just couldn't do it any more. There are some great people here, I've made some good friends from all over the world and I value that experience very much (and if any are reading this please do keep in touch)
So that's it, I've had enough. its been an interesting 6 months in China, but I can't do it anymore.
I'll be home on the 3rd of February.
The End (maybe....)
I'll be home on the 3rd of February.
The End (maybe....)