October Happenings

Where has the month gone?!

After the country’s National Day holidays from Oct. 1-8, I returned from Chengdu to find myself into the full swing of teaching, as well as my daily activities of noontime campus walks with students, afternoon pool swims, evening English corners on Wednesday night, Sunday services at the Luzhou Protestant Church and whatever else needing squeezed in.

So let me squeeze in an update!

Freshmen Settling In

The freshmen are slowly getting used to me and my teaching methods. I have 3 classes of first year English education majors, a total of 96 with only 4 boys, and all are at different levels of English skills. Some are good at writing, others at listening or speaking with a few who can’t speak or understand a stitch of what I’m saying. These tend to be the students whose parents have told them that teaching is a good profession and English teaching will guarantee them a job somewhere. Never mind that they truly have no aptitude in the language or great interest in it. It’s what Mom and Dad want so they obey.

Originally, I was only given the seniors but I requested the freshmen as well. It’s a nice balance between those who are beginning their college studies and those who are finishing them. It also provides a great eye-opener for a foreign teacher to see the progress of her students after 2 years of language study, and then witness their hectic, worrisome move from college student to working adult.

Interesting News Concerning My Seniors

The following news I find fascinating.

10 years ago, we had no such programs mentioned below for our seniors. Now it seems such 3-year colleges as ours are working hard to give students more options in the working world. More and more graduates from junior colleges such as mine are finding it difficult to get jobs, even in the teaching field, because their education is too low. Even at the elementary school level, China is requiring its teachers to have more schooling than before. This is forcing institutions such as the one I work at to rethink how to better equip their graduates for the working world. Thus the new steps to do that. Read on!

My Seniors: Working toward Their Futures (Not in Education)

My seniors today were my freshmen 2 years ago. I now have them again, 2 years later, as they finish up their course work to graduate. (We are a 3-year school, as a reminder, so 3rd year students are seniors, soon to become English teachers themselves.) I am teaching them Activities in the Classroom and have noticed that those 2 years ago who cared little for English, and were pretty bad at it, are still as disinterested in their major now as they were then. Several are skipping classes to do part-time jobs in the city, take driving lessons (3,800 yuan, around $630, for a 2-month course), or return home to look for jobs.

I even have one student whose family (quite well off) paid for him to take a training course to pass the civil servant test for the province. The training course was for 1 month, at a cost of around $2,000, after which he took the test to become a government worker. He was absent from school during that time but has since returned to continue studying with his classmates. Will he ever become an English teacher? Most likely not but at least he will have the hope of having a stable, steady job in the future working for the government in some capacity.

Those Wanting to Be Teachers

Others, however, are quite enthusiastic with their new move into the world of teaching.

I have quite a few who have paid an extra 10,000 yuan ($1,660 US) fee to the school to do correspondence courses which will allow them to have a BA degree. Our college, more like a junior college, only offers certificates of graduation so this is a way for our students to study here while at the same time get their BA degree. They do the extra work on their own time, sometimes having courses here on Saturday or Sunday, and then must travel to nearby cities to take the exams at qualified testing centers.      

The BA will allow them to teach at the junior high and high school levels rather than the elementary level. In other words, it will make them more desirable candidates to be hired by better schools in bigger cities and towns.

Those Wanting Options

Then we have those 3rd year students who want options aside from teaching, such as going into business.

During the past 2 weeks, our school (in cooperation with the local government) has been holding a business training course for all majors. Students interested applied through their departments to take the course on campus. After being chosen, the departments paid 800 yuan ($135) for each student they approved of to participate in this 10-day program. The participants have been excused from all their classes for the duration of the program, which ended yesterday. Their schedule has been 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., 10 days straight, with 2 hours for lunch. If anyone is absent (unless officially excused), they are dismissed without program credit. When they complete the course, they will be given a certificate that allows them to apply for business loans from the government. The loans, I’ve heard, can run as high as $10,000 or more with the understanding these will be paid back within 5 years.

Within my English Education major seniors, I had 30 participating in this program.

While I am happy this will give students more options in the working world, I do wonder about our Foreign Language Department using precious funding (over $4,000) for a selected few. I would rather the money go toward those wishing to continue in the educational field, perhaps giving them better chances at being hired in better schools, but that’s not my call. And, naturally, as an educator, I’d rather see the money go toward those in my field than those wishing to venture into the world of business.

Who knows? Perhaps some will want to start their own English training school. Such schools have become quite the money-maker in the bigger cities. Luzhou has a few of these, where students go during the weekends or after school to get extra help in any subject, mostly to improve their grades. Since English is a mandatory subject in junior high and high school, many training schools have their English classes filled.

There are also English training schools directed only at children, ages 3 to 12, with group and private lessons available for parents willing to pay the necessary fees. (Chinese parents are extremely willing to make sure their kids gets ahead in the world. Pre-school English study is just one way to do so.) Adults can also take courses to learn English at these privately-run institutions, meaning such places reach a wide range of learners.

Like I said, who knows? 5 years down the road, I might very well have some of my seniors recently absent from class having very successful English language training schools.

Halloween Activities in Luzhou and Tomorrow in Chengdu

No matter what the English Education seniors choose to do in the future, this week has everyone doing observations at elementary schools in our area. We have just finished a smashingly successful Halloween activities evening, which 3rd year student volunteers held for my freshmen classes after their Halloween unit ended. We had 3 classrooms, fully decorated and ready to go, which invited the first years to participate in wearing costumes, carving pumpkins, making masks, bobbing for apples, and trick-or-treating. The week of planning and then the actual night itself was to help hone my seniors’ skills in creating fun activities for their own students some day. Teachers and their children were invited as well so we had quite an abundant, enthusiastic crowd racing wildly about during the 2-hour evening.

In fact, with my senior classes doing their observations, I am completely free to volunteer myself for another presentation tomorrow at the US Consulate in Chengdu. I’ll be doing Halloween, the history and activities, on the day itself, October 31st, from 2 – 4 p.m. for the Chinese public.  

For those who missed last year’s entry concerning our US Consulate, weekly American culture lectures are given  in English by volunteers. All are invited and welcome to listen.  Usually, depending on the subject, there are at least 40 in attendance who are studying English, interested in English or just want to improve their language skills.   With the Halloween theme, however, I am guessing we’ll be having a lot more than 40.

My suitcase is bursting with costumes, masks and wigs plus Halloween pencils and treat bags for any children who might be present. The Consulate staff has been working very hard to make sure this event is well publicized, as well as the venue stocked full of decorations left over from their own Halloween party.  I have no doubt this event is going to be a whole lot of fun. I can hardly wait!

So until next time, here’s wishing you a Happy Halloween and Ping An for a blessed All Saints Day!






About connieinchina

I have been in the Asia region for 30 years as an English language teacher. 28 of those have been spent with the Amity Foundation, a Chinese NGO that works in all areas of development for the Chinese people. Amity teachers are placed at small colleges throughout China as instructors of English language majors in the education field. In other words, my students will one day be English teachers themselves in their small villages or towns once they graduate. Currently, this is my 13th year in Luzhou Vocational and Technical College. The college is located in Luzhou city (loo-joe), Sichuan Province, a metropolis of 5 million people located next to the Yangtze River .
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