Well hot damn, it's nearly the end of March and I've got a deadline: blog, at least a little bit, so that this month doesn't go down as the worst month for blogging in Matt's Myth history! A deep prestigious history at that. Yes, the internet itself may very well crumble if this beachhead of a blog doesn't improve it's performance!
I guess what's been weighing on my mind of late has been China, and how I can't seem to think about much else other than leaving it, and one of the main reasons being just how pointless trying to teach here can be sometimes.
Last year in Zhanjiang, Nicki once said that she thinks China doesn't need foreign teachers. But while I think there will always be room for native speakers as teachers for anyone trying to learn a foreign language, for the most part, she's right. Because China has no clue what to do with foreign teachers.
Allow me to first say: I am not a good teacher. I try, I do a middling job, and the students who care seem to like me, and I can notice an increase in confidence and skill in some, but I am not a good teacher, and I realize I am sorely lacking a background in TESL to make my job go smoothly. But these problems exist regardless of me.
I look back at the classes I have given here in China, and they have been a mix of well-intentioned but trouble, and utterly pointless. The British and American literature classes I taught in Zhanjiang? That was a great class, a fun class, a class to share with students (even though maybe only handful ever engaged on any meaningful level) some of the important stories of the English language. The other classes I taught in Zhanjiang? Much more in the pointless category. A writing class with a rubbish textbook, a class that no one bothered to tell me was really supposed to prepare my students for a big nation-wide test; in the end, I was left without any direction for the class, and the students were done a disservice because they weren't given a class to basically learn how to take the test (since China more or less teaches to the test for everything). Another class, a thesis writing class that was all for one big fuck-all thesis paper at the end of the term: Steve and I trying to actually teach some students how to do research and take notes and do MLA citations and stuff, a term's worth of work, and then, shrug, the school has some student from last year give a two-hour speech on How The Papers Are Meant to be Done, and that's all they should listen to; ignore everything the teacher has told you.
And here: a simple Oral English class for Freshmen. Only problem is, the Freshmen's English is bad. Really bad. So bad that more than half need a bilingual teacher much more than a foreign teacher. Maybe the junior students I've met, they might benefit from a foreign teacher, but the school deems it unnecessary to give them an Oral English class. (Meanwhile, my Freshmen, so woefully unskilled in English, are now being forced to begin a new foreign language, either French of Japanese.)
So I teach Freshmen, many of whom honestly cannot understand what I am saying, and on top of that, I have a textbook that is absolute shit, couldn't teach a book to read. Fine, whatever, same old, all last term I wrote up my own dialogs, made photocopies every week, bought magazines and other things to use in class, all outta pocket, at least those who engage and try will get some useful experience, and hopefully improve, and my grades will reflect that, right?
No. Wrong. Come to find out, the people here at BeiHua changed my grades last term.
They didn't tell me. They didn't ask me to adjust my grades to fit their "oh you have to many students in the eighties" so-called "requirements." Just changed the grades. Gave the top three in the class 90s, the middle of the curve got 80s, most got 70s. The shithead kid who couldn't say his name and skipped class nearly every week? 70. The girl who came and tried hard and got a 90 on my final despite doing poorly all term, whou could lose her scholarship if she scores below an 85 in any class? She got a 70, too.
She'll lose her scholarship because of my bullshit grade, and the school refuses to do anything about it.
And here is where I make some reconciliation, where I drop a little pearl of understanding, or I slough it all off and just say I'm China-jaded or culture-shocked or something to sweep the whole ordeal under the rug with a happy "isn't China great!" smile. But no.
I am tired of teaching and living in this country. I'm tired of the truly amazing levels of incompetence I have encountered at every level of both universities where I've worked. I'm tired of lazy, disinterested waibans and lying, misleading bosses whose constant inaction and refusal to DO THEIR GODDAMN JOB slowly kills even the best intentions. I am tired of the games you have to play to get anything done here. I'm tired of even playing these ridiculous games, because just playing lends them some kind of legitimacy. And I'm tired of pretending there is something of value to be had from such pointless frustration.
It is very clearly time to go.