He said: “My name’s the teacher, that is what I call myself”

Please forgive the Jethro Tull lyric-title, I couldn’t come up with anything better.

So if you’ve been following my updates via Facebook, you know that today was my first day of teaching. Mondays are my easy days– only one class from 8:00 – 9:50 AM, with a group of students who will be taking the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). As this is a special group of students who will study abroad in Britain if they pass the test at the end of the year, it is also a significantly smaller group (only 9). Additionally, I will be teaching them twice per week (Monday and Tuesday) rather than the once-per-week classes that I will have with my other students.

I woke up at 6:30 this morning in order to relax a bit, grab a quick bite to eat from the market, and then headed back to my apartment to change into more formal clothing. It’s a rainy day in Kaifeng– not exactly the brightest note on which to start my first adult job(but then it rained on the day I was born, so I guess it could harbor good fortunes). I headed down to Marlie’s apartment around 7:30 to grab some hot water for a mug of tea and then headed off to class, umbrella in hand and class materials under arm.

The building that I teach in on Monday is about a 5 minute walk, pretty much straight away from the gate of the foreign experts housing. After I dodged several deep puddles and reached the building I made my way up five flights of stairs to room 513. I was there 15 minutes early and the room was still locked. It took another 10 minutes for the a few students to show up and, eventually, the class monitor brought the key and opened the lock (the monitor is a student in the class who takes care of stuffs).

Mr. Hou (pronounced Ho), my teaching assistant, showed up to check on me and make sure I was all set. He wished me luck and then left immediately before 8:00 AM. Mr. Hou is a nice guy, albeit a little strange (but then aren’t we all?). The first time I met him we ended up discussing Heidegger and some of his interesting theories. We have also chatted at numerous times about Shakespeare. Like I said, he’s an interesting guy.

So Mr. Hou leaves and I am faced with my class of 9 students (well, 8 because one got stuck in traffic or something lame. The 9th showed up late and bowed and apologized for being late). Once 8 AM rolled around I greeted them with a warm “Goodmorning!” and was happy to hear an enthusiastic reply back. I wrote my name on the board and introduced myself to them. I talked a bit about where I’m from, my family, my personal interests, and I my fun fact about myself was that I am a vegan (we then had a very brief discussion about veganism).

At this point it was their turn to introduce themselves. I gave them a few minutes to think about answers to the following questions: What are your hobbies, why are you studying English, and what is one interesting fact about you?

The room grew quiet as I asked if there were any volunteers willing to share about themselves first. It took a moment of awkward silence, but eventually a rather courageous looking young woman stood up and said that she would go first. Her English name is Rebecca, and she’s by far my most non-verbally respondent student in the class. Her fun fact was that she dislikes the sunlight (she then told me she was like a vampire). It was a great introduction to break the ice for the students to be a bit silly and open.

The rest of the students then went on to introduce themselves. Some interesting highlights include a student named ‘Ladamian’ as well as a student named ‘Tata’. Many of the students really enjoy listening to Lady Gaga and reading/watching movies about vampires. It was fun to inquire about some of their hobbies and interests, and they were a very responsive group. After they introduced themselves they were allowed to ask me a question about myself… the questions included things such as:

“Why did you come to China?”

“How old are you?”

“Do you like Chinese food?”

“Do you have a girlfriend?”

and a few other interesting ones. They were some pretty good questions, I thought– but then my experience teaching ESL is limited to a couple lectures with third graders in Japan (who asked me questions about whether or not I liked potatoes, carrots, etc).

After the introduction I went over the syllabus with them. After each relevant section I asked one student to give me a quick summary of what I had told them in their own words. This caught the first two individuals off-guard, but got progressively better as we continued.

After the syllabus we took a 5 minute break (none of them left) and then began again with a discussion about the formation of an English jogging club as well as an ultimate frisbee league. The students were excited about the latter of these activities, so I think we will have a good turn out at our first pick-up game (and a good smattering of students for the league we are trying to start).

Finally I passed out two surveys (one to finish in class and one for homework). They had the last 30 minutes of class to work on the survey, which turned out to be pretty perfect! The last students finished up about 5 minutes before class should have ended. Ready for some funny survey responses?

“What is your ideal job upon graduation?” – – – – Lady Gaga

“Is there any particular English grammar in which you are particularly interested?” Slangs. Hope you can teach us American slangs.

“Do you have any pets?” No, but a big bear toy named tata.

I will do the same drill for two of my three classes tomorrow, so hopefully I will have some more funny responses then… Overall it was a really great class, so I hope that the rest are just as good!

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5 Responses to He said: “My name’s the teacher, that is what I call myself”

  1. Shuu says:

    Rebecca must be my long lost relative…………….

  2. tony capozzi says:

    Jon-Michael, I, again, am very glad that you are enjoying your time in China. I wish you well as you continue you work and exploration. Although I may not be able to respond every day, know that I am reading everything you send. Tony

  3. Victoria says:

    So, what kind of American Slangs are you going to teach them?

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