School’s Out!

As Alice Cooper sang: “School’s out for summer! School’s out forever!” Well, at least for one month, until the regular school year beings September 7.

This morning was the oral examination for all students who are completing the 3-week summer camp program. I listened to 9 pairs of students hold “debates” about such topics as “Is romantic love a prerequisite for marriage?” or “Does criticism do more harm than good?” Most of the students did very well; that is, I understood what they were saying and they spoke very smoothly, without many long pauses or much searching for words. The students are very happy, because now most will go home to their families for the first time since “Spring Break” last May.

My 3rd-period class

I have mixed feelings about this teaching experience. Mostly it was frustrating for me, and I went through many feelings of failure. It was often hard to “reach” the students, that is, to keep them interested and engaged. It was hard to know whether they had their heads on their desks because they didn’t understand the lesson and were bored, or because they just didn’t want to be there. Also, in just three weeks it was hard to decide what I could teach them that would actually be of some use. In addition, many of the classes seemed to be either too easy or too hard for them, with no middle ground. It’s a relief to now have this experience behind me.

My 4th-period class

The thing that strikes me about the students here is that they’re so YOUNG. Most are in their late teens, but their behavior and maturity level often seemed more like Junior High than University students. Many Chinese students are very sheltered by their parents – when you’re only allowed one child per family, often that child is over-protected and somewhat spoiled. However, it was refreshing to see such youthful spirit, far different from the jaded, self-centered attitudes I remember from my own “college” days many years ago. Yet, at the same time, these students are incredibly driven – by career goals, their parents, and the expectations of their school. Many carry a class load of 10 to 12 DIFFERENT subjects per semester!

As you can see from the class pictures, many of the students are also ADORABLE. They’re very affectionate around one another – boys walk with their arms around each other’s shoulders, and sometimes they seem like playful puppies. I also got a kick out of the students’ “English” names, such as Cherry, Vanilla, Romeo, Legion, Darker, and Satellite. One of the most unusual was “Airbus.” I asked him why he chose this name, and the student said he admired the airline company that operates an airbus service between Chinese cities. OK, whatever.

Teacher and students

Tomorrow morning (Saturday) is the grand finale to the Summer Program: the Drama Contest. I was very sad to hear that the group of students I “coached” for their Cinderella performance was eliminated in the preliminary round. Seems that there’s only room for ONE Cinderella, and another group put on a better production. Some of the other offerings tomorrow will include The Sound of Music (god, please don’t let them do “So Long, Farewell”), and The Merchant of Venice (in 20 minutes). I’d better take some Kleenex – it’s bound to be an emotional experience.

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