An example of difficulties some foreign experts can encounter while teaching in China
|Maria staggered back to her apartment. She had tipped back glass after glass of beer. Then there was a shot or two of something stronger. Her fingers limply switched off her bedroom light. She tumbled into bed and pulled the duvet and blanket up and wrapped herself tightly in the layered fabric. She awoke and had to get up and pee. It was an effort to loosen her mummified body from the bed covering; small wonder she didn’t throw up as she reached the toilet bowl.
Her smart phone alarm tringed on and on. She almost let the noise slip past before she found her senses and realized she had to get up and take a class within the hour. She groggily slumped against the bed’s back rest and pondered for a few moments.
I shouldn’t have drunk so much. I can hardly get up. My head’s cracking.
She was in no mood to touch any breakfast except for a cup of coffee; the strongest and the blackest. It helped to revive her senses after she’d clumsily donned a tank top, jeans; scrubbed her face in soap and cold water, hard-brushed her teeth and vigorously ran a brush through her brown shoulder-length hair.
Her head was smarting and still throbbing as she entered the classroom – five minutes late. The students sat up and stared at her, prolonging the silence. She took a few gulps of water from a flask she’d filled from the water dispenser in the corridor. Her tongue and pallet felt like dried wood as the water drowned the effect.
She burped out "go…go…od morning." It wasn’t a good sign as she struggled to stifle hiccups and introduce the themes of the lesson: personalities and fashion. How was she going to model an oral English class when her speaking was slurred? It was a bad signal, an omen of ills to come. But nobody was on hand to guide her, to instruct her in the rules of professional and social etiquette; what you can and can’t, should and shouldn’t do. It wasn’t that she couldn’t handle a class. She could. But nobody seemed to care. No one wanted to tell her, to own up to what she was doing wrong, that it fell below the standards of a teacher. There was the fear of losing face. But pupils and students are shyly expected not to ask questions, but to respect the teacher as long as the class remains clear, active, and is respectable. All Maria had been given was a textbook and was told to teach from that.
Once Maria’s sub-standard teaching had taken its toll, the students left the room in silence.
“Don’t you think you should be wearing something to support your chest, like a bra or something?” Chris, a colleague, leaned forward over his office desk. His eyes were fixed on Maria’s. She was wearing a light purple t-shirt under a denim jacket and jeans.
“I’ll be OK.” She made no further comment. She didn’t want to admit or wanted to let the penny drop that there was a ‘respectability’ problem with the way she was handling her classes. She’d been outside the building to light up a fag. She’d been outside the entrance taking long drags to try and calm her nerves. It had taken several minutes before she stumped out the cigarette butt against the closest wall. Her stout black leather shoes clonked along the corridor before she came back into the office and sat down behind her desk and drawled out a sigh. Chris said nothing. His attempt at getting her to see she was treading on thin ice with the students was going nowhere.
The one-thirty bell signaling the start of the next class peeled through the building. Maria stood behind the classroom podium in readiness to begin the lesson once the ringing had stopped. She’d copied and pasted a power point presentation to the classroom computer desktop. She began the reading class with the salutation, role protocol and introducing the theme and lesson content which shone onto the screen from the projector.
She steered a comprehension activity with follow-up questions; some were multiple choice. As she stepped down from the plinth to monitor the activity her breasts began to juggle up and down beneath the t-shirt. One or two girls, as she was passing by, looked up from their texts and stifled a giggle. As she moved around the room the juggling continued. What’s worse, the movement was unified as she moved on the wooden plinth facing the class. But the juggling wasn’t always there, only as she twisted round or leaned over the computer encasement to use the mouse. More students stifled more giggles. She didn’t seem to notice or to be gripped by embarrassment. The tittering gave way to some smothering their mouths with one of their hands. A thin ironic line had been drawn between what could be classified as amusement, as entertaining, and rude or impolite.
The college building bell thrilled loudly signaling the class was over.
At the end of the semester, Maria received an unwelcome e-mail.
Time to look for another job or head back home, she thought.