Well, this past week I had a couple presentations for parents so they can see what their kids have been learning, and more importantly for my classes, to see what the new teacher is like. These are really important for the school because this is where all the parents decide if they want to sign the students up for the next semester. I can tell that the TA’s are really stressed out about these presentations, which is understandable, because while foreign teachers won’t lose any money and can get a retention bonus, I think the TA’s may lose money if students and the parents aren’t happy and decide not to re-up for another semester. As for the parents, I’m not sure how much English any of them know(not much), but as long as they like what they see in the foreign teacher they will enroll in another semester. My age is an advantage in all of this because there is a respect factor for teachers and age. I am not an old man by any stretch, but I am closer to the age of the parents than I am to the kids, so the parents automatically assume I am more professional.
The weather here today has been non-stop heavy rain. This morning I had to go down to the bank with Rachel, my welfare officer, in order to set up direct deposit and bill pay so I don’t have take a bus around town to pay utilities in person. Rachel then had to go to the police station for further registration for me. So much time is put in getting the foreign experts(that would be me) registered here in China that it seems to me that it’s cost prohibitive to fire or lose a foreign employee once a business has them settled. All of the TA’s at work take on English pseudonyms. Next to me in the teachers office is a Chinese girl called Sara who does all the paperwork for current and potential teachers, she spends all day getting passports, permits and a variety other beauracratic obstacles taken care of, and that is all she does. It seems like such a waste of time.
This Thursday starts a three week intensive course, which means extra work and extra pay. I’ve done most of my lesson plans for this week, but I’m still going to be busy, which I don’t mind, but I’m sure I’ll feel differently after 3 weeks. At that point we have 5 days off, then another 3 weeks intensive, then another 5 days off before our fall semester starts. I have an inkling the teachers will all be ready for it to be over, not to mention the students. Their summer is rather grueling because this is when the state school is light or off completely, but the parents see it as a chance to hit their English study intensely. Summer vacation in China sounds like fun, huh. To be honest, I’m not sure how useful the level of English they acquire is given that even the TA’s have fairly poor English themselves, but it’s as mandatory as taking math or history. There are supposedly 300 million Chinese studying English. As far as I can tell, at least in Wuxi, they lose whatever they learned within weeks of leaving school and not practicing the language. Anyways, once September rolls around the workload lightens, and while we still have guaranteed hours payed, the schedule will be much easier. This is when some other teachers and I plan on checking out the surrounding areas, such as Lake Tai or a giant Buddha I keep hearing about. I’ll have a load of pictures to post and hopefully some interesting sights to talk about, I promise.