Chinese SAGAS – My new job in Quanzhou – part 5
Now I had a job, at least for the next 4 months.
In Quanzhou it was more convenient to walk to the school than taking my car. Finding a parking spot could be an adventure. I was told I could park my car inside the parking lot at the school but there were places reserved for the dignitaries and this would be complicated. I decided I would walk from the dorm. A good exercise and I would meet different people on my way. I would get to know more about my new city. Great!
Jeanne took me by foot. She showed me the way. It was not that difficult, or was it? This was my first day and I was excited, new students, new school, new road and new people.
The dean asked me if I needed a Chinese teacher to sit in on my classes. What! That was a strange question and I said thank you but no thank you. Why would I need to have a body guard in my class? These were just children and I was a grown up. They told me that usually there was one Chinese teacher with the foreigners, for support. I could not understand why.
My first class was with the 14 year old. They were nice and just as excited as I. They even did understand some English which was very good. We could have a civilized conversation. Everyone was happy, or at least I was.
My first day, I did not have classes with the youngest ones, but nothing to worry about there. They were children and Chinese children are nice. They are obedient and polite. I had met many of them during my years in China so I knew what to expect. Oh no, the youngest ones would not be a problem and I looked forward to the afternoon.
In they came. They sat down and looked at me. I smiled and introduced myself. One of the girls, sitting at the front row, replied and was very polite. She spoke some English, also very well. After a while I noticed there, at the back, was something going on. They did definitely not look like well-behaved Chinese children. Talking and throwing balls, standing up and shouting, was their way in learning spoken English. The little one in front of me, in the front row, told me they did not like spoken English, and they did not like English at all. She was the grown up in my class, always sweet and trying to help.
It was beginning to make sense to me why the foreign teachers wanted a Chinese one in their classroom.
If the students don´t behave the Chinese teachers tell the parents and that is not good.
I had my pride and was not going to give in. I had to find a way to keep discipline in my classroom. Anyway, how bad could it get? This was just a normal boys behaviour in any country. Some of them had no boundaries, a challenge but not a problem.
One of the older classes was another challenge. I could not manage to get them to talk to me. During the brakes we talked. They came to me and we had a conversation. Then after the brake we went back to the class room and everyone got quiet. They were just quiet. I knew they could speak to me, we had done it just few minutes ago in the hallway. Why did they not speak in the class room?
Since I lived with the teachers in the dorm, the Chinese ones, I went over to one of them and told her and her husband about my problem with my silent class. The teacher told me they never spoke. They were not too bright and there was no pressure on getting them talking. I should not worry, this was the situation and I would best accept it.
I was not going to. There had to be a way.
In the Chinese schools there are always some competitions, there are singing competitions and debating competitions.
Not long after I began teaching in Quanzhou there was going to be a singing competition. Every class had to learn an English song, and sing in English. I was supposed to teach my students proper pronunciation. It went well, even with the youngest ones, who did not always behave. Everyone enjoyed singing, except my silent class. They did not sing, they kind of whispered. Something had to be done. What? I thought about it. I contemplated about it. I tried to talk to the other teachers. They told me not to worry. I worried. I was seriously worried. There had to be way.
One day when I came into the classroom and looked at my students, the silent class, I noticed that they were all standing at the back of the class room. On the spot I decided what to do! When they began to move to their seats I told them we would not sit down during this class. This time we would be standing up. We would practice our song, not in our seats, but in the back of the room, standing up. They looked at me, perhaps thinking the foreigner had lost her mind. I loved this class and I was going to help them.
We stood, and they sang. They had beautiful voices and perfect pronunciation. One or 2 sung the solo part and there was perfection in every note.
I was in seventh heaven. I had found a way to reach my silent class. They left this class with smiles on their faces.
They did not win the song contest and that was ok. They sung beautifully and when they left the stage I gave each and every one a hug and told them how proud I was. I cried. The miracle had happened. I cry when I am happy and my dear class had made me the happiest teacher in the campus.
In our next class I got a card from them.
NO ONE HAS EVER CRIED FOR US, they had written. NO ONE HAS EVER STOOD UP FOR US, they also said.
Each and every one came to me and thanked me. There were not just tears in my eyes. There were many tears shed that day, tears of happiness.
This was a beginning of something wonderful. I told the other teachers about my attempt and asked them to try to help my class. They did. They changed their attitude to the class and even discovered how bright the students were. Even though this would be my only accomplishment in my new school I was happy. This could be my legacy as far as I was concerned.
To be continued/