JISHOU, HUNAN — I’ve been up to my eyeballs in work these last two weeks, so I haven’t had time to post anything. Even this one will be short.
This term I had only three subjects to teach, Oral English, British Literature and Academic Writing, but the last two upped my workload significantly. The juniors in Business English take those courses, and altogether there are 90 students. Their term project for the writing class was to read a novel by a British author, and write an analytical paper of 1,000 to 2,000 words about it.
Given the average length was about 1,400 words, my ambitious assignment required me to read 126,000 words between the due date, June 16, and my self-imposed deadline of Friday (yesterday here). Most of that I did once classes ended a week ago. Meanwhile, I had already agreed to help out one of my Chinese teacher friends with her English school, so in the mornings I was teaching middle schoolers and the afternoons and evenings I was reading essays.
As for the quality of the essays, they fit the standard distribution pretty closely: a few superb ones, a few truly awful ones, and the rest in the middle. Considering none of these students had ever done such a paper before, the results were better than I expected. As for the low end, some were bad because the students’ English skills are poor, or because they hadn’t actually read the book. A few were cribbed from the Internet, and I gave them zeroes as a result. The re-writes are due July 12, for a non-zero but substantially diminished passing grade.
For you would-be cheaters, here’s some advice: the papers you can download for free from the Internet are crap. If you manage to get one past your teacher or your prof, I feel sorry for you, because your teacher or prof is crap, too. Either their standards are very low, or they’re just not reading the papers.
The project awaiting me now are the Brit Lit exams, also 90 strong, from yesterday morning. These will be quicker to grade, and they’d better be, since my grades are due Friday the 15th.
The teaching gig is just three hours or oral English lessons in the morning at a downtown location. So, for two weeks I have become a commuter again, riding the bus to and from the city center. The pay is pretty good, 100 yuan an hour, for a total of about 3900 yuan. (My monthly pay from the university is 4280 yuan.)
Then, the following week, I will be in a small neighboring town, Yongshun, teaching middle school teachers oral English. This course was arranged by the local foreign teachers bureau, who hand out our teaching licenses, so I felt rather obligated to agree to work for them. The pay is also 100 yuan an hour, for basically six days’ work: two days of lectures and four days of conversational practice.
Once that’s done, my whirlwind vacation can start. A day or two in Changsha, a few days in Beijing, a couple of days in Los Angeles, then to Indiana (for my son’s graduation from Purdue) and Iowa, Kentucky or what have you, then Chicago, and a week in Shanghai and maybe other places, to finally return to Jishou by August 25 or so.
Yep, that’s right. I’ll be here another year — my fourth. So far, I haven’t found a compelling reason to leave, and many compelling reasons to stay. Why spoil a good thing?