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