frustration

Publié le par chrislzh

So I now only have one class a week. That's the grand total of two hours work a week. Well, two teaching hours, which means 2 x 45 minutes, so really only an hour and a half. But...

And there is a really big

BUT

here.

All my good classes have finished. As have the mediocre but tolerable ones. Which leaves me with the worst class. That's right, in some cruel twist of fate the only lesson I have each week is with the class that causes me the most pain and suffering.

The hardest part is always the first forty five minutes. It really can take a very long time and a huge amount of effort to get the students to answer even the most simple questions (the standard, Party-issue, how are you? how was your weekend? what did you do on the weekend? series of lesson-starting questions). It's not because of their English level, either. No, their English is more than adequate. It may be partly to do with the size of the class (19 students), and that's understandable, but I've taught them for six weeks now and that is normally more than enough time for the braver students to get used to just calling out an answer.

Actually, most of the students are alright, and I'm getting a reasonably large core group who are active and take part in class, and as always, they're not all the best English speakers. Some are, but there's that beautiful group of students whose English isn't brilliant but they still give it a go. Not beautiful in any physical sense, though, I should make that clear. This is probably the ugliest class I've ever taught, but that's irrelevant. I didn't take this job for the scenery.

Anyway, back on topic: Despite this large and slow-to-start but generally alright group, lessons with this class are still painful. Why? Well, I'm going to discuss this with my colleague this afternoon to get his impression (in an absurd twist of the timetable, I teach them once a week, he teaches them twice a week), but I'm coming to the conclusion that there is a group of students bringing an unnecessarily negative attitude to the lesson which is dragging the whole class down. I can't help but feel that with those guys gone, class would take off and all would be well with the world.

Two examples from yesterday afternoon:

Champion. At least, I'm pretty sure that's who he is. Y'know, 19 students who I only see once a week, it's not easy to remember names. Anyway, I'm pretty sure it's Champion. It's always the stand-out students whose names you remember first. And, although I'm pretty sure he goes by the (silly, high-school-ish even though he looks to be pushing 40) English name of Champion, I'm also pretty sure that he is not. Not a champion, I mean, not by any objective measure I can think of. He's usually one of the most talkative in the first five or ten minutes of the lesson, but that's almost always because he's arguing with me. Not that I care. So long as he follows basic rules of respect and courtesy, fine, at least he's talking. But all too often his argument is "Beijing is boring". Why? "There's nothing to do here." Rubbish. "Maybe it's interesting for you, but it's boring for me." What are you interested in? [followed by a long list of things many people are interested in, with him saying "No!" to all of them]. So, basically, his argument is that Beijing is boring because the friends he usually plays sport with aren't here. Fair enough, except that he refuses to accept that he could go out and find something else to do. My argument is 'life is what you make of it', meaning he is choosing to have a boring life because he refuses to go out and find something interesting to do.

I mean, really, if you are in Beijing and you're bored, that is entirely your own fault.

Well, all that would be fine, I mean, he chooses to be a loser, what do I care? So long as he takes part in class, or at least doesn't disturb anyone, what does it matter?

Except that once his little tirade of the day is over, he sits in the back glaring at... something in middle distance... doing nothing. Normally that wouldn't bother me, except for the rather negative energy that seems to emanate from him.

Well, yesterday's lesson got off to the usual start, with Loser doing his 'I'm so bored because I'm too bloody lazy to go do anything and you're completely wrong because you must be because I don't want to face the fact that I'm a total loser' rant, followed by the usual, long, slow process of the students warming up and remembering they are actually supposed to speak to me. Then at the end, some of the students suddenly started asking about a flightless bird they thought still lived in New Zealand. Turns out they were talking about the Dodo, which lived in Mauritius and has been extinct for quite a long time now, but never mind, these misunderstandings often occur, and this inevitably steered the conversation in the direction of New Zealand. Well, class was about to end, so I said, "Alright, next lesson we can continue talking about New Zealand or I can give you another topic".

Well, this sparked off a long and heated discussion with another loser. This woman, who hadn't said a single fucking word the entire lesson finally decided to speak. Her rather non-sensical argument contained two main points:

1: This class is for everybody! We all have something to say, but we don't get a chance to say it (implying that I was to blame)!
2: We can't talk about New Zealand because we no nothing about New Zealand and we won't take the opportunity of you giving us one week's notice to get off our fat lazy arses and do even a tiny little bit of research.

Well, point number one was demonstrably false. I only stop a student from speaking when I have something important that needs to be said. That is part of my job. I can't sit around letting them mangle the English language without correcting their mistakes or helping them fix their pronunciation or helping them rephrase sentences into something clearer and more comprehensible. That's my job. But, more importantly, a very large part of the lesson is taken up by me sitting, silently, waiting for them to take the opportunity to speak. Which means: You said nothing up until now not because I did anything to stop you but because you did not take the opportunity that was offered you. So why are you blaming me?

I also pointed out that 19 students and only two hours means that according to the laws of physics, which none of us can bend, break or deny, it is simply not possible for all of the students to say everything they wanted. This is a simple, unfortunate fact of life that none of us can change. So, once again, why are you blaming me?

Point number two is patently ridiculous. You have nothing to say about a subject because you refuse to go and find any information. Brilliant. You're a real credit to your nation. We really need more people like you in this world. [note to the humour-impaired: this paragraph is meant to be laced with a decidedly unhealthily large dose of sarcasm]

So, to sum up this ridiculous argument: She tried to blame me for a choice she made and for not somehow stretching the space-time continuum in order to allow every student to say everything they wanted to say. And then she demonstrated that Champion is not the only loser in class and that there is at least one other who has chosen to limit her life to only that which she grew up with, and then shift the blame for her boredom, frustration, and ignorance on to somebody else.

Absolutely fucking brilliant.

So, even though once I got them warmed up the majority of students did reasonably well and the lesson went fine, these two incidents at the beginning and end of the lesson and the sheer amount of negativity emanating from the back of the room conspired to leave me walking out of the lesson, as I always do on a Monday evening at six pm, feeling really frustrated and hating the fact that I have to teach these people.

Which is ridiculous and it shouldn't have to be this way.

Probably the best bet is to just ignore the losers and deal with those who actually want to be there. But, based on the experiences of a longer-serving (at this school, I mean) teacher there's a good chance one of the losers will go and make some ridiculous complaint about how I'm totally evil, and I'll be dragged into the office to explain why I am so obviously the spawn of Satan. And then I'll have to go through the whole ridiculous "Well, you know, maybe students in your country are different..." bullshit yet again without blowing my stack and then patiently explain what the real problem is and that in fact, apart from a few idiot losers, most of the students are actually fine and apparently happy and getting on with their lives. It's only a few idiots determined not to face up to the fact that they only have themselves to blame who are causing any trouble.

So, I'll talk to me colleague (who, unfortunately, is new and has only seen them three times. And he's not just new here, but new to teaching.....) and see what he thinks and then maybe, if I decide it is worth my while I might go and put in a pre-emptive complaint. It's probably not worth the effort, though. But we'll see.

Oh, and by talking about choice all the way through this rant, I don't want to start some ridiculous debate along the lines of fate vs. free will. I don't believe in either fate or free will in any kind of absolute sense, and I really don't give a damn, such a debate would be utterly meaningless in reality since neither side can present any real rational argument. I believe that although there are very many things which we can't control and which have a huge effect on our lives, we have no choice but to live as if we had free will, at least in so far as we choose how we respond to and deal with all these things that affect us.

And yes, I know, I'm not perfect either, and there probably are many things I could change to drag these losers back into class. But judging by their behaviour so far, I don't think it really matters what I do, they've chosen to sit there being losers and blaming me, and they will continue to do that. They probably will complain about me, and I probably will be dragged in to defend myself, but ultimately the only thing I will be able to do is present my side of the story, ignore the losers, and get on with life. April 27, when this class ends, will come around sooner or later.

Publié dans chrislzh

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