Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Glimpse of my Teaching Schedule

In New England, we say, "If you don't like the weather, wait five minutes." In Changchun, they say, "If you don't like your schedule, wait a day." Put differently, I have been here for three weeks and school resumed last week. I still don't know what my schedule will be precisely, but am beginning to have a sense.

The one assignment that I am reasonably sure I will be doing long-term is a special contract that the school has with adult learners at TRW Fawer Automobile Safety Systems (Changchun) Co. Ltd., Manufacturing Facility, Braking & Suspension. There are three classes. I teach the mid-level on Tuesday and Thursday from 4:30 to 6 PM and then on Friday, I follow-up on Catherine's elementary lessons with the beginners at the same time of day. Catherine is a native Chinese speaker and also the Director of Operations for Perfect English. Her English is excellent.

Many Chinese people call me "Alex-aw", but I worked on pronunciation with them today and yesterday so that there are now at least 558 students (62 kids in nine classes) in Changchun who can say it it properly and they now might be able to point to New Hampshire on my hopelessly scribbled map of America. A few of them heard about maple syrup and the Presidential Primary. Tomorrow I will have eight sections of Grade 2 (equivalent of 10th graders, I believe) so another 496 will wander the streets of Changchun.

One student spent three years living in Weston, MA, which is not far from where I grew up. Nobody else in his class had been to America. There were a handful of students who could speak a third language, but not one had a sibling, despite the loosening of rules around the one child policy.  (It looks like there may be a further loosening, as well.) I had them guess what I used to do and how old I was. They were either remarkably clairvoyant or lucky. I don't know whether I like that I look 37 and act like a lawyer!

[Those of you who know me well will note that I am 36, but in old China (one kid told me today, "just the old people do that") the way your years were counted was quite different. You were one years old when you were born and then you turned two at the turning of the Gregorian (not Lunar) new year. Talk about confusing math for a lawyer!]

I plan to spend part of my day-off on Saturday with some students that I met today. They are involved with Model UN and are working on Kyoto Protocol and climate negotiations. They were very earnest and, unlike the litigious US, I can share my email and/or QQ # (the Chinese equivalent of AOL) with impunity here.