Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Even In China, You Can Have 'One Of Those Days'

I woke up this morning with what felt like a hangover, except I didn't have a drop of alcohol last night.

That was my first indication it was going to be one of those days.

Traffic in the bike lanes was particularly frustrating; I was cut off twice by e-bikes and once by a car. Strike two.

And then fourth period rolled around.

Fourth period is one of my new "Grade 2" classes (junior year), a class I was seeing for just the second time.

Maybe the students are anticipating the Tomb Sweeping Festival long weekend, which starts after school tomorrow. Maybe it's the rising heat in the classroom (I believe it reached the 80s today). Or maybe it's just a class filled with troublemakers.

But today, they just became unbearable.

The same kids repeatedly disrupted class with their side conversations. Two of them, I had to call out several times. I had to break up a group at the back of the class, bringing one of them up to an empty seat at the front of the class. (When his neighbor moved into the student's old seat to be next to another talker, I sent him back to where he was.)

When two boys in the corner started laughing about something, I asked them to repeat the joke out loud in class. (That's the only time they chose to remain quiet.)

I even spotted two boys slapping each other's faces during class.

I repeatedly asked them to be quiet and behave. I warned them that the school has asked me to report any classes that misbehave. But when the chatter was so loud that I couldn't hear the last student I'd called on in the period, enough was enough.

Fortunately, although there are school bells, class isn't over until the teacher says it is. And I wasn't about to let them go.

Sure, as a teacher, I want to be liked. But not at the expense of letting them walk all over me.

I laid into them with a five-minute tirade about having respect -- respect for their classmates, respect for the classroom, respect for their teacher, and respect for the educational process.

I'm a patient man. I never fly into a rage. But this was, by far, the highest level of controlled anger I've had to express with any of my students.

Did I get through to them? I hope so, but I don't know.

I guess I'll find out in two weeks.

Of course, it didn't help that my fifth period class was almost as unruly. Or that my knee -- the one that took a hit in my bike crash -- started bothering me during volleyball. (I'm icing it now.)

It truly was one of those days.

The good news is that, even on one of those days, you can find the cloud's silver lining.

After my last class, one of my more conscientious students stayed behind to talk. In some cities here in China, there's an activity called "English Corner," where a group of English-speaking teachers gets together and hangs out with any Chinese students who feel like getting a little additional practice speaking English. I haven't heard of any here in Zhangjiagang, but this student told me he and some classmates were interested in getting together, maybe catching an English-language movie, and then hanging out to chat... a modified "English Corner," as it were.

Even though this isn't a graded course, it's nice to know that there are students who appreciate what I'm trying to do for them, are buying into it, and are even willing to go the extra mile to learn from me.

And it made "one of those days" a lot more tolerable.

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