Sunday, July 20, 2008

Twilight Zone "Lecture"

The new kids are here. Suddenly they've dumped some older, high-level English speakers on me, so I'm no longer teaching the equivalent of Levels 3 and 4. I have Level 4 and Level 6, so my planning is not offset like I'd hoped. Though they tried to give my Level 4 kids the Level 6 book, which is way too hard for them. And then tried to not give my Level 6 kids a book. So I moved the books from the Level 4 class to Level 6, and then Tracy tells me that they don't have any more Level 4 books and won't be getting any! So what am I supposed to do? Play games with them over and over. That's all anyone seems to want: games. Luckily Rachel's Class 2 can share their Level 3 books with me, and I'll start near the end where we left off first week for my Level 4 class. And then for my Level 6 class. I had about 5 punks in there who decided that they didn't want to do English, they didn't care, and they would just disrupt class constantly. I was so upset and frustrated that I told the Chinese TAs that they had to be removed from my class. It was a complete detriment to the rest of the students, and I was super grumpy. This camp tries to be ridiculously regimented, but ends up being disorganized more often than not.

Today I was appointed to give a lecture to a high school camp class about "anything American." I talked about the "green movement" that's happening right now--how people are trying to be more environmentally conscious, including myself, and how it all relates to oil and global-warming issues. I talked for about 40 minutes and opened the floor for questions. There weren't many, so I was about to wrap up early when the teacher said, "no, no, there's still 10 more minutes." So what? What am I supposed to do, just stand there? Is it so bad to end a bit early? And then, Lo and behold, a girl raised her hand and asked if we could play an English game. So apparently I was supposed to act as teacher then too. Aren't they too old for games by 11th grade? I don't remember playing games in my Spanish classes over and over by the time I was in high school. It seems a little elementary. So I awkwardly led a game, with a Chinese student telling me what to do the whole time. She told me to write down six different subjects and choose a student to talk about it for 30 seconds. One of my topics was "Dating in China," as I'm curious about this. A student said that they are not "allowed" to date until college, that their teachers in middle and high school won't let them. Seems a little odd. Are teachers involved in students' personal lives? How do they even know if students are dating? She said they have to focus on studying, studying, studying all the time so they don't really date. Interesting. Perhaps this explains the indulgent PDA Rachel and I have spotted with young-ish couples in the metro stations. They have to sneak around? Or they're so excited to make out in public b/c they've had to wait for the freedom to date for so long? One 16-year-old student told Rachel and I that he didn't date, didn't want to, that he was "too ambitious." There seem to be a lot of single people here. Not sure how I feel about it, not that it's my place to feel anything, but on one hand I think it's impressive that people don't get tied into those things and stay so focused on academics. Wish I would have stayed more focused through college (I wasted too much time on Mr. Wrongs, and although my grades didn't suffer, my personal development might have). But then again, how do they do it? Are they that much closer to their families that they don't need immediate fulfillment of that kind of love? Don't they get lonely? I suppose a lot of it has to do with your culture and surroundings. Perhaps I wouldn't have felt so lonely after college if 80% of my friends weren't leaping away to get hitched.

But back to the "lecture." Finally, with not a minute over time, I found a stopping point in the game and told the group "thank you." As I started to walk out they erupted in applause that somehow seemed eerily scripted--loud, fierce, and forced. It's that regimented aura again. It felt a little like the twilight zone.

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