Back in China

I got back to Jinan on Tuesday night and the next day taught six hours and then the next another six. Yes, it’s tiring, but since I’ve done this before, and in the beginning of the semester students need to learn about my expectations, background and procedures I didn’t need to do lots of planning.

I can’t believe how after several years here I still get shocked by the mores and pace of change. Today’s a holiday and after my morning online library class I came downtown to buy train tickets. I was walking down the street and saw a little girl walking with her grandparents. She needed to go to the bathroom (they must not use that euphemism here) so the grandparents stopped, pulled up her dress and had her pee down the street drain. I had to look away. I know that’s the custom, but it’s one I’ll never get used to. Bathroom behavior must be hard-wired into my consciousness.

Also, I forget how fast things change and how information just isn’t shared. After class on Tuesday I needed to make copies. I walked over to the usual copy office and instead of seeing the door to the copy office, I see two windows. The sidewalk has been demolished and the corner of this building was transformed. Why? Goodness knows because I’ve learned that the former rooms are now empty. I went to the Foreign Affairs Office and learned that “Oh, yeah. That office is now on the first floor of this building.” Okay, but how ’bout informing the teachers.

Also, no one will tell me the names of the new teachers. I emailed our point person to find out who’s already here and new. I know the English teacher, who’ll arrive tonight, but haven’t seen the names of any of the new business teachers. The woman in charge replied that she’s waiting for all the teachers to arrive before emailing us this information. Does that make sense or save effort? The man in charge of the business teachers (there’s only one IT teacher because they couldn’t find anyone to teach the other two IT classes. The previous teacher wanted to — but just if the stint was 9 weeks as it was last year. The Chinese school wanted someone for 14 weeks. Clark waited till the end of August when the tried and true teacher was committed elsewhere to see if she was free and offering to negotiate with the Chinese for 9 weeks. Now the students don’t get two classes that they’ve paid a premium for. Not sure what the plan is to make it up to them.) Anyway, I try to provide some hospitality and orientation to teachers even if they’re not in my department because I know their’ lead teacher won’t. He’s always gone for the weekend. I should at least know their phone numbers and they mine in case there’s a problem this Mid-Autumn Festival holiday when the school’s closed.

The big bombshell is that I’ve learned that some of the students who’ve gone to the US cheated on the English proficiency tests so they’re taking classes in their major though they barely speak English. The honest students are furious. They report that these students paid a service to have impostors take the TOEFL test for them, which is fraud. I just don’t get used to the level of dishonesty. It puts the cheaters in an impossible position as even those with good English are sure to struggle in a challenging American college course. I think they have to take at least 12 credit hours and keeping up and learning when you don’t speak the language of instruction is impossible so they’ll probably cheat more to get through. I’d love to probe the situation and get more information to make a solid report.

Don’t get me wrong being back is nice. While all my students are new to me and I miss the class I taught last semester who’re now in English 2, I’m sure the new kids are sweet. I get to go to a conference in Korea in a month and am looking forward to that. When I finish the semester, I hope to travel to Australia, where I’ve never gone. So there’s plenty of good on the horizon.


3 thoughts on “Back in China

  1. Surprised! Last I heard, sounded like you were at the end of the line in Jinan, so to speak! All those frustrations with lack of clarity/communication/honesty you mention got to be too much for me, as I interpret those as a complete disregard of professional (and even basic human) respect. And further, that if academic excellence were actually their aim, such things as cheating could easily be rectified; but then we realize that the program his simply about profit in their eyes.
    Anyway, I know you focus on connecting with students and are very dedicated. Your resilience is surely inspiring. KUDOS!


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