It’s official: No more holidays now until January 1st, our Western New Year.
Starting this past Monday, our classes will continue uninterrupted without weekend make-up days or missed courses. It’s finally time to settle into our normal schedules, giving both teachers and students alike some much-needed continuity.
It’s also time for after-summer, no-show students to make an appearance.
National Day holidays are so close to the beginning of the school year that some students remain at home, not bothering to show up until October 8. Some miss home and want to prolong their summer vacations for as long as possible. Others are scrambling for money to pay for yet another year of school. A few just are unhappy as students and would rather forgo education all together. They put up a fight among family members concerning a return to school, sometimes winning and other times not. One or two have illnesses which keep them at home to be treated and looked after by Mom and Dad until they’re better.
In my case, two students were missing when I came back from my Nanning venture. Would they be around for our Fall semester or not? This week would tell.
The first student missing was Polly (Huang Jingmei), now a second year English Education major.
It’s very hard not to miss Polly in a classroom because she is one of those exuberant, overly hyper students. While her classmates sit respectfully and obediently, listening to the teacher, doing what they’re supposed to be doing, Polly is messing about. She’s either talking to her neighbor, trying to complete the already due-in-class homework assignment, checking her cellphone messages, straggling in late (hair disheveled, bleary-eyed and obviously not awake) or bouncing in and out of the room during the break.
“Hello, Teacher Connie! Do you remember me? I’m Polly!” she greeted me all last year. Every time we met on the campus, when I was shopping, while I was walking Little Flower, and even in the classroom, it was always the same: “Hello, Teacher Connie! Do you remember me? I’m Polly!”
Yes, that gets a bit old after awhile but one thing’s for sure: I definitely had no trouble remembering Polly.
So when our first week of classes in September produced no Polly, I noticed.
Nor did she appear the second week, or the third, and then it was October, after the National holidays.
Still, no Polly . . . until today.
Who came bounding down the classroom stairwell this morning, racing up to me with childlike glee, but Polly.
“Teacher Connie! Do you remember me? I’m Polly!”
Being the kind of student she is, her English isn’t that great. Why she was so late in returning to classes is still a bit of a mystery but there was something about her being sick. Perhaps next week, I can find out exactly what kind of sick we’re talking about but until then, it looks like Polly’s back among her classmates, ready to start up another school year.
Isaac’s Life-Changing Experience
Yet another young person missing from our campus was Qin Haibo, known to most of you by his chosen English name, Isaac.
Isaac was a second year Business English major last year and a complete loner. He skipped classes, he wandered about campus by himself, he didn’t talk to anyone and he preferred computer games and movies to studying. He was never exactly my student but a loyal visitor to the English Center. That’s how we met.
It’s also where Isaac’s attitude changed.
He became more vocal, more open to the other students, and more interested in English. In our small Center, Isaac blossomed. Playing Uno and Scrabble with others became a constant every time he visited. He even began walking with me and Little Flower at every opportunity he had. As we cruised the campus, Isaac would initiate the conversation by asking all sorts of questions or making remarks.
It was on our last walk before the summer break that Isaac shared with me that he didn’t want to come back to Longzhou.
It was boring here. There was nothing to do. The classes were useless. He didn’t like anyone. He definitely didn’t want to study English. This was just not the place for him.
His unhappiness was pretty apparent so after wishing him a happy summer, and giving my hopes he’d reconsider returning, we said our goodbyes.
I honestly didn’t expect to ever see him again.
But just like Polly, who made her appearance today, last Sunday afternoon, there was Isaac.
While Little Flower and I were walking around the sports field, Isaac’s tall figure came jogging toward us. His face was full of excitement.
“Connie! Little Flower! I come back!” he shouted.
After that, it was a steady stream of conversation about his adventures during the holidays. His older sister, working in the city of Wuhan, found him a job in Beijing for a huge business company. She paid his way to the capital city, gave him some spending money and there he stayed for 2 months.
Isaac lived with the company boss, enjoying time with a new family and learning the ropes under the help of other employees. He went to the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and even the Shanghai Expo. He worked hard, spending 7 days a week in the office, and enjoyed every minute of it.
Finally, no more theoretical business talk in classrooms. Isaac was doing it all, hands on.
Because of this turning point, he decided to return to school to at least get his certificate of business. Even though our 3-year school doesn’t give degrees, a certificate of study is still important. Isaac figured he could hang on for just 2 more months, which places him at the end of December, to finish the semester and thereby finish his studies. After that, he’ll return to Beijing to continue in the company he left last month.
“I have a new idea about life,” Isaac proudly told me as we walked. “I change.”
While I can’t guarantee he won’t be absent from classes, or study much harder than before, at least he has a positive attitude about his future as a businessman. Better yet is his ability to work with others and socialize, which we all know is the key to being successful in his field, or any field for that matter.
English Center Crowds
In the meantime, we have been experiencing record crowds in the English Center now that students are ready to hunker down into their college studies after the holidays.
Part of our high number turn-out has to do with my mandatory 5-English Center-visits-a-semester. This is a requirement for all my 210 1st year students or I will not give them their grades at the end of the term. (A little threat never hurts!)
To make sure they do this, I included a page in their textbooks which must be signed and stamped by Center volunteers after they visit. This allows me to check and make sure they’ve attended their 5 times. They must stay for at least 15 minutes and so far, most are staying much longer. They’re reading magazines, checking out books or DVDs, joining Isaac and me for Uno games, or just talking in English.
Our TV is still being repaired so no movies yet but at present, we’re doing just fine without the extra entertainment.
This weekend, we’ll be seeing new volunteers inducted into the Center. The second round of English interviews for candidates is taking place tomorrow (Friday). The first round had 120 trying out and now the number is down to 60. From that number, 20 will be chosen to run the Center for this semester.
Wish everyone luck who’s trying out! Being a Center volunteer is a big deal and I’m sure we’ll find great workers to start up on Monday.
From Longzhou, here’s Ping An (Peace) sent your way.