Back in China: Starting the School Year Right

I’ve been back in Luzhou for a full 2 weeks now, and it’s been busy!

My first week was spent getting over jet lag and also putting together my textbooks for my seniors.  I compile all my own materials so it was just a matter of picking and choosing from among lesson plans which I wanted to include for my teaching methodology course with my 150 soon-to-graduate students.

This had to be done fairly quickly, including copying, by September 4 when my first class met.  I picked up the textbooks on a Saturday and the students had them in hand on Sunday night, after class monitors and their volunteers came to my home to pick them up.

It was so nice to see everyone back in the classroom, this time not as sophomores but as 3rd year students.   (As a reminder, this is a 3-year college so my 3rd years are considered seniors.). All seemed excited to continue with their studies but I could see senioritis is already settling in.

Quite a few had great difficulty putting down their cell phones during my lessons.  Lots of texting going on to friends and video-watching while in my class.  This is normal and difficult to control so I do my best by keeping everyone so busy they have no time to mess about with their addictive hand-held technology.

Freshmen Yet to Start

My next set of classes are yet to start.  High school and college freshmen in China are required to have 2 weeks of what is called Military Training.  Soldiers from the local army units in the city lead these for all high schools and colleges throughout Luzhou.

Students are placed into platoons according to their majors and their class.  They have special uniforms they wear, some with camouflaged T-shirts and others with departmental T-shirts, and wear sneakers for comfort.  Their day starts at 7 a.m. and finishes at 6 p.m., when they are allowed to return to their dorms to rest.

Sometimes, they have evening meetings to discuss college policies or continue with their training.

There are 3 classes of English Education majors (50 each class with a total of 15) and 1 class of Applied English Majors (50 students) who I’ll be teaching starting Sept. 18.

What does Military Training entail?  

At present, all freshmen are marching about the sports field, getting instructions on  living harmoniously together with classmates and dorm mates, how to follow the school rules and how to study as college students.  They have little time to be homesick, which is one purpose of the military training exercises, and the group dynamics force them to make friends and bond with one another.

Their platoon leaders are often soldiers who are just a few years older than they are, which helps with the sharing of fears and concerns which these young people have.  In almost all cases, these 1st years have never been away from home before.  They need a lot of reassurance that all will be well and that they can, indeed, survive on their own once the training ends.  Their military leader becomes a friend and a confidante, which is nice to see, especially for those who really struggle with their new surroundings.

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Freshmen Classes Soon to Begin

September 18, Monday, will be the beginning of my full teaching schedule when I will have another 8 hours and 200 students added to my teaching schedule.  I am at present putting together their textbook, which I entitle “In the Classroom with my Foreign Language Teacher”, and expect to have it ready to go by this coming Friday for pick-up.

Meeting the Freshmen

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Under the English Association club tent, I met my freshmen English Education majors for the first time.  Many were too shy to talk but these few had enough courage to strike up a conversation.

In the meantime, I have been seeing these new freshmen from time to time as they come to our school club sign-up tents during the evening hours.  I’ve been hanging out a few times at the English Association tent in the hopes of getting our incoming freshmen English majors to sign up for this association.

The English Association is in charge of English contests, parties, English Corner and other activities related to English events on our campus.  Each member pays 20 yuan ($3) to belong. The money is then used to pay for materials needed for the events.

All clubs have their $3 membership fees. The more members, the more money the clubs have to spend so it’s important to recruit as many as possible.

I made sure our booth had free candy to give away and extra money to buy the candy for the 4 days the booths could remain on the sidewalks.  Because of all the competition, we needed  as much drawing power as possible.

Other clubs we have been up against are the Japanese/Chinese Animation Club (dress in well-known animation characters and have meetings in your costumes), the Electric Car Science Club (making battery-operated race cars and entering competitions throughout the province), the Hip-hop Club (very popular, learning sexy dances from routines posted on the Internet), Rock Band Club with Vocals, Guitar Club, Zither Club (Chinese harped instrument), Ping-Pong Club, Basketball Club, Student Association, Chinese Chess Club and numerous others.

Last year, the membership reached 200, giving quite a bit of money for the association to spend.

This year, however, our membership drive has been very slim.  The last count was about 30 members, which is very disappointing compared to 2016-2017.

Halt to the Club Drive:  China’s Core Socialist Value Campaign

Our clubs were shut down recently just 2 days after we started recruitment due to China’s Core Socialist Value Campaign.  This is a nation-wide and city-wide sweep of inspections to make sure all Chinese are in touch with their core value system, as designated by the Communist Party in 2012 at the government leaders’ yearly National Congress meeting.

This new campaign push is to remind people of these values and to make sure they are followed.  Inspections of schools, local shops, chain grocery stores, companies, traffic and roads and beautification of these places are taking place as I write.  This is to last the entire month, leading up to China National Day from Oct. 1 – 7, which is when China became the PRC on Oct. 1, 1949.

And, beware!  If you see anyone with a Core Socialist Value red armband, those individuals can stop you at any time, in any place, and require you to say your 12 core values.  If you can’t, you will be chastised and criticized for your lack of patriotism.

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Assigned Socialist Value “police” are all over the city of Luzhou at present.  Anyone with a red armband can quiz the public at any time to recite the 12 core values.

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Many of our students have volunteered  to make sure people follow the 12 core values.  Dressed in their vests, hats and armbands, they patrol the school campus throughout the day  to pick up trash, report bad behavior or poor building upkeep and remind students to be civil to one another.  This is a great honor to be accepted for such duties.  The students take it very seriously!

If you’re interested, the 24-character, 12-word values are:  prosperity, democracy, civility, harmony, freedom, equality, justice, the rule of law, patriotism, dedication, integrity and friendship.

These words and important slogans are being piped throughout the city and our campus via loudspeakers or other means.  Inspectors have been cruising the streets, warning store shop owners to remove their items from the sidewalk areas in front of their stores. City beautification procedures are being met, uprooting dead trees and replacing them with new ones, as well as posting  placards with the 12 values in Chinese throughout the city and local thoroughfares.

It’s quite something to see these go up overnight, including in front of the gate of our school.

Teacher’s Day

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In the midst of all this, we did have Teacher’s Day on Sept. 8 which is a UN holiday.  Zuri, the new Peace Corp teacher, and I were presented with flowers by Dean Horace and Bruce Li, our liaison teacher.  Both surprised us in our homes on Friday evening to give us our gifts.  (Notice my attire wasn’t exactly as professional as I’d have liked!  Zuri, on the other hand, looked great.)

So nice to be welcomed and appreciated in this way. Already, my students have been texting me their good wishes as well.

Closing Off

Until next entry, wishing you Ping An (Peace) for your day!

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About connieinchina

I have been in the Asia region for 18 years as an English language teacher. 13 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 second year in Guangxi Province at the 3-year college, Guangxi Normal University for Nationalities. The college is located in smalltown longzhou, 1 hour from the Vietnam border.
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One Response to Back in China: Starting the School Year Right

  1. Kate Lindsay says:

    Lovely flowers! Your class load seems larger than last year. The 12 core values seem very Chinese. It’s a lovely fall day here. Have been watching CNN and following Irma – a cousin has a house in Naples (she on an overseas trip)
    and other friend in Jacksonville is getting more weather than expected. Worked the refreshment stand at the Heart Walk on Sat – have sore heels couldn’t walk. Best Wishes next week as classes get further underway.

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