My second year English Education majors and I are saying farewell.
After the summer, they’ll be returning to our campus for a month of classes before disappearing into the teaching world to do their practice teaching. While they will come back in December, we will no longer have classes together. Their last semester (Spring, 2012) will be spent doing necessary graduation certificate requirements. While we can arrange a few gatherings in the evening, we no longer will be seeing each other on a weekly basis.
Thus for this week, it’s farewell parties for my second year students in Classes 091 and 092.
Party Number 1 for 091 Students
Last night, Sunday evening, we had our first party gathering in our usual classroom, Room 3303. The students of 091 were anxiously awaiting my arrival at 8 p.m. They had the room decorated with balloons and had spread candy, cookies, peanuts and sunflower seeds all over the desks for us to enjoy. They also had numerous watermelons ready for cutting which would close off the night.
I must say, my 091 students are not my favorite. I have some sour ones in that class that don’t put up much of an effort, sigh and moan whenever I ask them to do anything, yawn with sleepiness when they enter the classroom and drag their feet when it comes to assignments due.
Polly, the annoying girl who has missed 60% of my classes due to lack of motivation, and my one lazy boy (Owen) are also in that class.
The group dynamics has never been as strong or enthusiastic as my 092 class, which can wear on a teacher week after week. Despite their lax attitude, I would always put on my best face and plunge into the lesson with as much energy as the other classes I teach, even though I would have preferred giving them all a firm scolding at times.
I wasn’t really looking forward to 2 hours with this class, especially in our roasting heat. The temperature was well into the 90s even so late at night. I was already drenched in sweat when I walked into the room.
“I’d rather be home watching a movie,” I was thinking.
But as soon as I entered the classroom, my mood brightened. Students were excitedly clapping my arrival, the tape player was going with favorite Chinese pop songs, the microphone was ready with Owen as our MC to lead the event, and all were positioned in their seats anticipating our time together. They’d spent a lot of time putting up balloons and purchasing snacks. This certainly promised to be a worthwhile night after all.
All Chinese parties are organized like mini gala events. There are always performances. The 091 students were no different and had prepared dance performances and several singing songs as well to accompany tapes. They weren’t very good but we didn’t care. It was just nice to see people participate and have a good time.
One group of girls creatively did a dance about how hot Longzhou is and how we have to take showers 3 or 4 times a day. (Very true because I take cold showers 4 times a day sometimes in this heat.) They had us all in hysterics with their movements: showering the body, washing the hair, soaping up arms and legs, and drying with a towel. Very, very clever.
After the first hour, we had time out for each student to come to me and say some words about our classes together. One by one, each came to thank me for teaching them, making the class fun, and always smiling and being patient. And each one received a hug from me in appreciation for their kind words.
Only one of my students, Nadia, had difficulty getting out her message. She is the shyest of all my students and was always very quiet in class. After her first sentence, she was overwhelmed with emotions of our farewell and broke down in tears. I gave her a hug, told her later she could talk to me and she went to sit down while her classmates comforted her.
Her embarrassment and her sadness got the better of her, though. Before our final picture of everyone together, she went back to the dorm room by herself.
Today, I called Zoe (my monitor, or class leader) to make sure she was OK. We then scheduled a picture-taking session just with the two of us. The poor thing deserved a picture with her first and only foreign teacher, especially after such a display of emotion last night.
My Gift From The Class
Naturally, it’s always a custom to give a farewell gift. Usually, class gifts are photo albums, desktop nick-nacks or stuffed animals. But in my case, the students really surprised me with a Chinese traditional dress, the qipao (chee-pow).
After opening the box to see what was inside, Zoe explained what they’d done. She and others had gone to our local seamstress on the campus, picked out some material and told her they wanted a traditional Chinese dress. They didn’t have my measurements but the seamstress had seen me around campus and said she could guess without too much difficulty.
When I held it up, I could tell immediately it would fit. And to prove it, Zoe and I went into an empty classroom where I changed into my new Chinese garb to show everyone.
Cheers went up as I runway-walked myself around the room. Aside from the sneakers, the outfit was quite complete. A beautiful fit and very appropriate for a gift to the foreign teacher.
Afterwards, we had pictures taken right and left as students rushed forward to pose with me.
A final group photo was taken with my camera as a reminder of our special evening together.
The Final Farewell
I did change back into my shorts and T-shirt when the sliced watermelon pieces were served. I wasn’t about to drip all over my new dress.
When 10 p.m. arrived, it was time to call it quits. We sang Auld Lang Syne in English and everyone began scurrying about, cleaning up the mess they’d left.
For myself, I headed back to my apartment, thinking what a great night it had been, even for a class that had never been my favorites to teach.
Still to come is this Friday for yet another farewell gathering, this time with my 092 students. I’m sure it will be just as fun-filled as the one we had last night.
Until next time, here’s Ping An (peace) for your day.