Show an Interest, Don’t be Distant

The Students

By Professor Fury

Inevitably you will meet your students. I have limited experience with other than public universities and so cannot give an opinion for other establishments. I may have been a guest teacher at all other levels but I must adhere to what I know.

If you timed your arrival correctly, that is, just when one incumbent is about to continue with what were his freshmen last year and are now sophomores, you will (as I was) be given the new intake. This may well afford you 10 days or so grace before you actually teach. You will see perhaps 3,000 newcomers wandering around campus in paper-thin military fatigues whilst they undergo military training.

In fact this is a nonsense. Certainly they have regular soldiers drilling them in relation to marching but that is the extent of their training in matters army. In fact their marching at the “passing out” parade leaves anyone who has actually undergone real military training with apoplexy – but these are young kids (and never forget that the Chinese by western standards are still kids until they graduate, emotionally and mentally). A lot of their training is learning to sing patriotic songs in unison. You will see no firearms at all.

So you have unexpected time off. What to do? Most I would imagine will use it to explore the town and generally relax or if a first-timer, maybe try to perfect their classroom manner in the mirror.

Don’t.

Down there on the sports fields, somewhere, are your students. Ask your co-teacher (I dislike the term assistant teacher as it implies they are your secretary when in fact they are teachers in their own right and on paper are probably more qualified than you – they are appointed to help you with any problems and receive no extra remuneration for an often thankless task) where you may find your students. Go and watch them as they drill. You do not need to make contact but they will see you. It will mean something to them. Be sure to attend the passing out parade and be seen in the stands. Any teacher, foreign or Chinese, who takes an interest in the students, be it parades, sports days, football matches or whatever, gains considerable respect for just showing an interest.

So many teachers couldn’t give a fig. Do not be one of those. Show an interest.

You may find your future freshmen will seek you out and invite you for dinner. You haven’t taught them a class yet and there they are taking you into town for a Barbecue, hotpot or whatever. Go with the flow. They will not expect you to award extra marks for it, they know you will pass everyone anyway, just that the ones who really should fail will be given the lowest possible pass mark.

On the scale of things, your class is at the bottom and yet failing a student creates an earthquake of magnitude 7.3 on the Richter Scale with its epicentre in the Dean’s office. Trust me, I did it once. It works. I failed a boy, not so much because his English was terrible (it was) but because he was intent on doing work for other subjects in my class. His oral exam topic was “Give me your opinion of rail travel in China”. Simple enough? He never understood the question and rushed out to get a translator!

I failed him and despite pressure, left him failed. At the time I never knew it meant he couldn’t graduate. I just wanted to teach him a lesson. I let him sweat until the final term before asking administration to pass him in my class. He was a changed boy in the interim!

Do not be distant with any of your forthcoming pupils if they approach you. If you are teaching in a school away from the big cities you are probably the first foreigner they have ever spoken to in their chosen major. Let them practise even if it is over a beer outside the school canteen! Be available if you are not in your personal enclave. I always make a rule that if they see me I am free but if I am home they need an appointment – I am not Superteach and I do need notice. I love holding dinner parties wherein I introduce students to western foods. Luckily a life lived mostly solo has shown me how to be a competent (although far from cordon bleu) cook. “Italy noodles” – to us Spagbol – has yet to fail. You will likely have hong jo (red wine) but they will bring their own orange juice. Ok you will probably need to use Taobao for the Italian herbs and Bisto granules if like me you can never find beef mince but improvise with pork! Don’t even think you will be able to get microwave ready meals. You’re on your own there.

So you can’t cook? Now is the time you should, MUST, learn. For yourself more than anyone. I used my Western Wednesdays along with other foreign teachers as a way of rewarding the best students. I was lucky enough for three years to have a Frenchman as a colleague who was a whizz at desserts and we were complete! There was always too much for 6 to eat and every morsel that was left was split evenly between the three students to take back to their dorms.

I chose a “wife” in each class. This at one point (because a Chinese snake of a teacher went running to the Dean) prompted a phone call about “naive and impressionable” students. Laughable really, I was late 50s and fat, hot young Chinese girls were fighting over me! I continued with my “wives” who were the ones I considered active enough and with sufficient English to be able to take part in role play in class when something needed to be explained properly. Many a “wife” informed me their roommates had said they were so lucky to have a wife as their dorm mate because they got the finest leftovers of crepes, cakes and whatever else. Just be careful if you are in the eligible age bracket though. I am not.

Whatever, cherish your students, they will be your best source of information and help.

Next on Prof Fury’s load of old rubbish: Just How Good Your Students Can Be

 

About the Author 

He is in his early sixties and has been teaching in universities in China for seven years. He has been a ships officer, salesman, manager, company director, engineer and truck driver in the past  and so has a wealth of stories and experience to impart to his students.

He has been to 47 countries so far and visited more than 400 cities around the globe. Antarctica is the only continent he has yet to experience but there is still time!

He has so far volunteered at every school level in China, appeared on television several times (including taking part in a Spring Festival Gala show) and his ambition is to be allowed to retire in China when the time comes. His latest party piece is playing Santa for whoever asks!

 

 

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