Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Autumn Semester in a Chinese High School

This last few weeks at Nanjing Dongshan Foreign Language School has seen a flurry of activity - every thing from live music to the 100 meters dash.

Most High Schools in China are boarding schools and the school I work for is no exception. There are over 3000 students who stay here from Sunday midday to around 5pm on a Friday. Its a busy week for them. As I have mentioned elsewhere their day starts at around 6am when they get up for breakfast. They are in class at 7:10am and through until around 9pm with just the long 2hr lunch break giving them some relief.

But its not all work work work. The students have a full curriculum which includes music, sports and play. This last few weeks we have experienced them all.

 Keeping the red flag flying 
 Waiting for marching practice

The first I knew of a sports day was when I was told on Thursday that I had to go and rehearse for the opening ceremony Thursday evening. Sports day apparently was on Friday afternoon. I was also told  that my Friday afternoon classes were cancelled because of the sports day. Now one would have expected a 'sports day' to be quite a big thing in the school calendar what with all the organising and practising and stuff and that we might have been given a little more notice about the rehearsing and the cancelled classes.  For instance, I might have already made arrangements to be off campus on Thursday evening because I like to plan things in advance not spontaneously want to rehearse for a sports day opening.

This rehearsal (I did go of course) consisted of waiting around for about half an hour with other teachers, then marching as a group for 5 minutes and then being told that we had finished.

The sports field

So Friday afternoon, sports day happened. I did my five minutes of marching for the opening ceremony and then the obligatory flag raising, national anthem, school anthem and flag raising and speeches.

 The school enmass

 Superstar teacher (Blush)

And then the fun began all 3000 + kids were there running, jumping, watching - mainly watching in an organised Chinese fashion. There were no parents watching their little emperors and empresses do their thing unlike a British sports day - no egg and spoon race, no sack race. Here in China you have winners and losers. Its a competitive society and the winners take the prizes.

 Competition is fierce
 But a bit too much for some
 The rest - well they sort of watched

There were so many events that the Sports day was carried over to the Saturday. Of course I was then told that I would have to cover my 'missed' Friday class on Saturday. At the last minute of course. 'Too Late'! I told them. 'I have an appointment downtown on Saturday - you need to tell me these things earlier'. I didn't really I just had some vague plans that I would go downtown, but the principle was that 1. I didn't want to work Saturday - my day off, and 2, They should have told me earlier.

Anyway a week or two later I actually did go out for a Sunday lunch with some expat teacher friends in the Xianlin area of Nanjing. This is where around 12 or 13 universities are located and where I had my first job in China. We went through a Mall and chanced upon this talent contest. Interestingly some of the students competing were from that old college of mine. Nanjing College of Information Technology

 These are some reasons to be cheerful in China - dancing girls
 The bookshops are always busy in China with readers - no one stops them or shoo's them out.
 Han dynasty costume
 Getting ready for the dance
 Even the cops took part - who says this is a repressive dictatorship? 

So next up is Halloween, not that the school kids know much about it. Its just another Western (American) custom which is being taken on board, probably more for it potential for selling more junk , as it is in the West,

Traditional Halloween Dancing by the senior students 

The Juniors are more traditional - here singing a song

Some of my students

I think under all that there is one of my students - but you know, Im not really sure at all - its Japanese cos-play

Food and drink was served

Elva - who is the Admin boss worked hard doing the food
Me and Simon in full gore

Halloween started at 6:30 in the evening and the Foreign Language Department (not the whole school) had set the party up in the indoor basketball courts above the canteen. We were entertained with dancing and singing and general fun. Lots of the kids wore costumes some didn't - the seniors, of course, thought it was now beneath them to have fun.

Some of the students had organised a Ghost Walk around the campus. It was quite good as night had fallen and at certain spots they had kids jumping out in costume scaring the participants. Me and Simon were roped in to do some of the scaring.

I also had what I thought was a good idea. The poor High School students were still in their classrooms doing self study. So I went and barged into their classrooms scaring the bejesus out of them until one of the Chinese teachers asked me to leave.  I later heard that the School Headmaster had rung Elva our admin asking who it was in the classrooms, because that night some of the students couldn't sleep and had had nightmares. Oops - good job I was in disguise.  I heard this from Elva and I asked her to keep my secret. I haven't heard anything yet!!

Last Sunday we had a concert in the school theatre. One thing this school does it try to provide the students with access to different types of cultural events. This is a 'new agey' Australian Singer/Songwriter/Pianist. Karen Joy Hawkins look her up on Wikipedia.

Simon was roped in to be the MC for the afternoon

 I got to admit this wasn't my cup of tea - too plinky plonky with breathless vocals that I couldn't understand or hear, let alone a Chinese audience.
This is the view past the heads of my bosses. Although I had a VIP seat, they and their communist party cronies had the seats in front. The head to the left is my agency boss (PhD purchased in America - common knowledge - wifes MA? From Harvard? But she can't speak English? OH My! Wonder how much that cost? -  and on the right the school boss who has converted the staff accommodation on the top floor of my block for his own use - he turns up every morning and goes there - use your imagination guys....) 

 Actually in the interval we had a student play Chopin and after the main event had finished, other students, in a band, played for us. They were, in my view, better than the main event. (my phone had run out of power so no pics.)

You can tell the weather is getting a bit chilly now because the Chinese teachers are using blankets when they have their mid morning nap. (I also have the winter quilt on and the fluffy slippers)

So now its mid semester already - so its time for those pesky mid-semester exams!

Only for some they don't seem that important

 Sleepy and its only 8:30am
 And their parents are paying big money for this - so I don't let them sleep - these pictures will be for the parents if they ask why  little Do nt Giv Afook failed!

This is Albert - I don't even know why he's in my class. Apart from the fact his parents have paid the school.

I confiscated this from a boy during the exam - opened. And no he didn't have a pencil he needed sharpening.

So thats what the last few weeks have been like here in sunny Nanjing. There have also been trips out, trips downtown, trips to see the doctors as I have written about elsewhere. 

Heres a few more photos

 Snooky  Still fit and Healthy
 Me with some of my students - the school wanted a 'publicity shot' 
 The opticians girl - on the look out
 In the bookshop where the game is more interesting than the book
 Taking the birds for some air - locally
 Its orange season
 Our local BBQ
 The river close to me
 A local view - food is grown everywhere
 Vapour trails
 More publicity - I was entered into the 'Most popular teacher in Nanjing' competition.
 A local bike
 Scooter girl by my fruit and veg market.

I'll write about the actual teaching soon.

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