Teaching: Day Two 7.2.10

July 9, 2010 § Leave a comment

Fake it til you make it

That night, I dreamed that a bird somehow got inside my room. Frightened, it kept trying to escape, but the windows were closed, and it would fly into the window, fall down in a daze, and repeat. I finally caught it in my hands and tried to calm it, but I could feel its terrified body shaking in my palms. Resigned, I released it through the opening in the corner of the window, and it flew away as swiftly as it could.

I was awakened at 6AM by voices coming from the classroom outside my room. Panicking, I checked my phone and saw that there was still an hour before I was supposed to wake up. Eventually, the students began singing praise songs [loudly]. I love that they love Jesus, but I wondered if they had anything better to do with their time…like sleep… Amazingly, they appear to wake up for morning prayer every day at that time.

The sunshine uplifted me a bit after the previous night’s indulgent wallowing, and I tried to put negative thoughts out of my mind as I prepared for the day’s lessons. In addition to the prayer/worship time at 6AM, the students also sing a few songs at the beginning of class, sung acapella [because that’s how they do] and led by one of the students.

I’ve decided to start every day with a writing exercise that they all read aloud to the class and turn in to me. I come up with a list of personal-ish questions that use some of the previous day’s vocabulary so that they can get thinking and speaking in English. It’s a bit reminiscent of the DOLs we did at the beginning of English class in elementary/middle school, which were exercises in which we had to identify the grammatical and spelling mistakes in the given sentences: editing, essentially, which I had no idea would end up being my choice of occupation..!!

The game of the day was a simplified version of Taboo, which I also miss playing with my Mizzou buddies. The male team won by one point. I’ve noticed that even in a classroom setting such as this, the girls women behave more shyly than the boys men, with the latter coming up to choose a word willingly while the former hesitate and look around at teammates. They’re not like this in every situation, but I would like to find a way to nurture greater confidence.

On the second day of every month, the factory workers get a day off, so there was no lunch to be had in the cafeteria [a relief?]. Instead, one of the students [Ruth] took me outside of the factory compound [finally], and we ate at one of the many little open-air restaurants lining a nearby block. So far I’ve been eating rather meagerly here, partly because I’m still not comfortable enough to eat openly [and for someone with a history of vaguely disordered eating, the act of it still carries the occasional tinge of shame] and partly because I’ve been so used to the rich and plentiful fare of Hong Kong.

Afternoon lessons ended on a happy note [no pun intended] after we did a musical dictation of Hillsong’s “Came To My Rescue.” I told myself that I would try to combat my loneliness by interacting more with the students outside of class time, which is…the obvious solution. Good job, self! I brought my laptop out and sat at the back of the room.

Most of the students were still hanging out there because really what else is there to do, and some started conversing with me. I mostly talked to the 19-year-old who looks eerily like one of my exes, since he was sitting the closest and took an interest in my Macbook.

This kid, who apparently took the phrase “Living Stone” as his English name [a direct translation of his Chinese name], is quite a character. During one of the class breaks [like passing period, except we all stay in the same room] when I sat at the front of the room writing in my notebook, he played the chorus of Westlife’s “My Love” loudly from his laptop and then yelled across the room for me to translate it. I’m very familiar with the song, having loved it for almost a decade, but how was I supposed to translate a love song?

“Please, teacher,” he called out. “I really don’t understand what it means.”
I could hear in his voice that he was baiting me, but I didn’t acknowledge it. Finally, I responded, “It means I miss you and want to see you, something like that.”
“Oh, well, I feel the same way,” he yelled back.
Insolent little…LOL.

When I was sitting behind him after class, LS asked me if I knew about the yoga epidemic in America. “Uh…it’s a very popular form of exercise,” I replied. “Even I’ve done it before.” Shock briefly registered across his face as well as the faces of nearby students. They tried to tell me some information on its pagan/evil origins, but I couldn’t understand all of it. Besides…really? I knew Chinese people were superstitious, but…it’s yoga! It’s that thing for upper-middle class people with time and space and money! Not some way to achieve nirvana, which was apparently its original purpose…

They also asked me about Halloween, which I thought most Chinese people translated as 鬼节 [“monster/ghost holiday”], but the students referred to as “All Saint’s Day” [I forgot the Chinese phrase]. Actually, LS specifically asked if people in Chicago celebrate it.
“It’s a rather foul day, isn’t it?” he inquired. “I’ve seen it in movies.”
I tried to explain that this holiday is basically a free-for-all for children to dress up like their favorite cartoon characters and gorge on candy.
“But I’ve seen reports on the news,” he persisted. “People dress up as fiendish monsters with blood on their faces.”
When I asked, he couldn’t spell out what exactly he thought these people did on Halloween, but they all seemed to have a rather odious view on the matter — a rather interesting cultural gap.

After dinner, I watched half of Daybreakers with LS and another student on his laptop. There are some rather morbid scenes of dead and/or bloody people, during which I made appropriately disgusted noises. This caused LS to hold up his hand in front of my eyes to shield my vision — funny the first time, not so much the third or fourth. And it reminds me even more of that ex. It was a surprising gesture from someone who insists on calling me “teacher” instead of my real name because he says our age gap [of 2 years] would cause it to be disrespectful T____T a joke, probably, but he persists.

I’d like to elaborate on this tangent and note that I really despise it when guys [of any friends/boyfriends/whatever] feel like they have to protect me. I mean, unless there’s an imminent ninja attack and he’s some kind of martial arts master, I can probably handle myself. More importantly, he doesn’t know where I’ve been or what I’ve seen — it might be nowhere and nothing, but he DOESN’T KNOW. For him to assume weakness is inexcusable. And if he DOES know me well enough, there should be no question of my capabilities.

Anyway, this post has gone on too long … time to end it!



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