Although our students are this weekend getting ready for their final exams next week, Friday for me signaled my last class with my Luzhou students.
August will find me in Guangxi Province, settling into my new Amity teaching position at Guangxi Normal University for Nationalities in the small town of Longzhou (long joe).
Luzhou Vocational College is too prosperous and developed for Amity teachers. They are now on their own to find foreign language teachers and I’m off to a new location.
Although Amity wanted to close this teaching position last year, my sending agency (the United Methodist GBGM) and I requested another year here to complete a few projects that were yet unfinished. Amity agreed under the condition that this would be the last extension in Luzhou and we concurred.
Of all the teaching days of the year, my favorites are always that last week of school before summer holidays begin.
My conversation finals are finished. The relaxing 2-month vacation is just within arms reach. The classroom erupts in laughter and excitement as students file in for their final lesson with their foreign teacher before it’s time to take off.
As an educator, I love planning a rewarding closure to a school year. It’s such a pleasure to instigate a fun, upbeat, hopeful atmosphere where we all join together in relief and pride in our accomplishments.
Every semester closure class is a bit different, but this year I think was a model I’ll be following for many years to come.
Spring Semester Resolutions
After singing a warm-up song of some sort, we begin with our spring semester resolutions. These were written 5 months ago, when the dark, dreary, winter cold was upon us and the freshness of spring seemed far, far away. In class, students were asked to write 5 different resolutions: for myself, for my school life, for my family, for another person and for the world. After writing these secret promises, they signed their pledges to keep them, sealed their papers in an envelope and handed to me.
All during the semester, my labeled stacks of 360 resolutions envelopes have been sitting on my lesson plan bookshelf, waiting to be opened.
And last week in the classroom, each student had their resolutions returned to open, share with their classmates and determine if they kept these or not.
Those wishing to share a resolution or two with the entire class are always welcome. We had a lot of good giggles for those who announced such things for fun.
“For myself, I resolve to get up at 6:30 every day and study before class.”
“I resolve to eat less.”
“I resolve to save my money and not spend it on selfish things.”
Kept or not?
More meaningful resolutions included those for family: study hard to make parents proud, get a part-time job to relieve financial burdens, remind loved ones how much they are loved and appreciated.
Very simple for most of us but coming from those who are from poor, countryside areas, whose parents are working hard to put them through school, these small promises mean a lot.
Thank Yous to Scholarship Applicants
What end-of-the-year class would be complete without the thank yous?
First, we had our Amity English Education Scholarship applicants who worked extremely hard to complete their 10-page forms. We had over 100 apply and only 20 chosen.
I felt it was important that all those who tried receive their scholarship write-ups back with some sort of evaluation for their English ability. After reading through them all, giving scores and comments, and placing reward stickers to their English essays, it was time to thank them for their time and effort.
In every class, the applicants were announced, handed back their scholarship forms and given a round of applause. Those whose English language essays and service plans were especially outstanding received English language newspapers.
Thank Yous to Class Monitors
The monitor (class leader) was next on the list.
All Chinese classes have a class leader, either chosen by the students or appointed by the teacher.
The monitor is in charge of all class activities, including assembling students for meetings, making announcements, being the laison between faculty and his/her classmates, and organizing participatory events.
It’s a very big job and a thankless one. The monitor is constantly running here and there, doing the bidding of teachers and students alike. The experienced ones handle it all with competency and a tough skin. The novice ones often erupt into tears when classmates snarl over being told what to do by one of their own or teachers criticize them for not having done a good enough job.
The monitor for the foreign language teacher is especially under a lot of pressure. Having to listen carefully to every word he or she says in class, taking notes on important announcements and relaying messages in English from classmates takes a lot of energy. It’s a bigger pressure than working with the Chinese teacher in their native tongue.
That’s why I always appreciate and recognize my monitors at the end of the year.
Monitors this year were given bookmarks or signature booklets with my thank-yous and a miniature sticker picture of myself and Little Flower. All monitors were given choices on which gift they’d like, which made it a bit more fun for them.
English Newspaper Give-away
Everyone should have the opportunity to win a prize for our last lesson together so we always have a drawing of some sort for items of interest.
This year, I chose 3 of our English language newspapers published here in China.
The first two choices were the 21st Century. This newspaper is published specifically for students in China who are learning English. There are 2 editions, one for teens (junior high and high school level) and one for university.
Both editions contain current trends in the young people’s world, both in China and overseas’, interviews with popular stars, hot issues around the globe, advice on love and studies, vocabulary building, cartoons and so on.
Aside from student reading newspapers, China also has English language papers published for the native speaker. In Luzhou, I recently found The Global Times being sold at a nearby stand. This is a daily paper with editions both in Chinese and English. It caters more toward the issues that affect China today although world issues are also included.
I enjoy the Global Times more than Beijing’s China Daily because the articles are more in-depth and tackle difficult subjects, such as child trafficking to the south, drug abuse in Yunnan, earthquake unrest among parents, and disgruntled farmers who have lost their lands to development.
Just a few years ago, such articles would have been held from the public but as China becomes more open, these critical reports of the country are taking over the front pages more and more.
We had 8 different newspapers to give away with 8 winners for our drawing.
Everyone excitedly waited to see whose name would be drawn next for their newspaper prize. When the last one went, a huge cheer went up for the final recipient.
In China, tests are never returned to students but are kept locked in a cabinet for at least 2 years. If students contest their scores or suggest the school cheated them, the department can then prove to them how well they did (or didn’t do) by showing them the actual test which is on file.
In our office, we have thousands of smelly, moldy tests stuffed into cabinets just in case someone has a complaint.
But the foreign teacher is exempt from such practices. I can give my tests, grade them, record the marks and then hand back the exam papers directly to the students so they can see their personal evaluations.
Conversation tests are extremely important for students to know in what area they need to improve on, whether it’s grammar, pronunciation, expression of thought or comprehension.
Since the grades are the highlight, they go out last. If there are any questions that need answering or clarifications on marks, I’m right there to do so.
Name Cards: “Keep in Touch!”
Students grow very attached to their foreign language teachers and vice versa. We’ve spent an entire year together, both in the classroom and out. There’s a lot of community and special relationships formed so one of the last things we do is make sure we can keep in touch with one another.
Name cards this year contained my email address and my website.
One of the blessings of computers is that everyone in China has access to them. No matter where any of us might be in the future, we can always stay in touch. Emailing or checking out my website brings us all closer together, even though we won’t be seeing each other in person anymore.
It’s a sad thought but at the same time, we have many great memories to carry with us for as long as we live.
That’s the most important thing.
From Luzhou, here’s wishing you Ping An (Peace) for your weekend as I wind down my last week in my Yangtze river home, Luzhou.