A very late ‘preview’ of my term

Students in the new seminar room, complete with aircon, WiFi, PA system and wall screen.

Students in the new seminar room, complete with aircon, WiFi, PA system and wall screen.


JISHOU, HUNAN — In September, I had planned to write about my new term. Now it’s almost December, and I’m finally getting around to it.

Yeah, I was busy. I’ll go with that excuse.

This term I have 20 classes a week (that’s 10 100-minute sessions), plus every other week I meet with five Ph.D. students for another session of oral English practice. This is a big change from the last few years, when I was loafing around with only 12 or 16 classes each week and scads of free time.

Plus, we’ve switched to new textbooks. While much better than the previous ones, teachers reading this will already know that a new textbook means new class preps. So, I can’t rely on the lessons I had in the bag, so to speak, from the last four years of Listening Comprehension and Oral English. They’ve either been modified or tossed out completely.

In addition, we’ve decided to combine the separate courses of Listening Comprehension and Oral English into one course. Effectively, there’s not much change, though. For each section of students, we meet two classes in the language lab (for listening) and two classes in the newly furnished seminar room (Oral English), which comes complete with an ultra-modern giant touchscreen PC, pictured below. It’s like having a giant, wall-mounted Microsoft Surface.

Wall-mounted touchscreen PC -- like a big tablet computer!

Wall-mounted touchscreen PC — like a big tablet computer!

The new books are specifically written for non-English speakers who plan to enter the business world in some capacity. Given that our students are Business English majors, the textbook switch makes a lot of sense. The previous texts were either too general in content (Oral English) or out of date (Listening Comp). Pearson publishes the new ones, under the general title of Market Leader.

Another positive change is the smaller sections for the new students: now there are roughly 28 students per section rather than 38. The entering class of 2016 has 96 students divided into three sections, which explains my additional course load. Two 100-minute sessions with each of the two sophomore sections, and four 100-minute sessions with each of the three freshman sections.

[At my university, a “class” is one 45-minute period. Each session with a group of students comprises two classes plus a 10-minute break between them. So I have on average 21 classes a week. My contract stipulates I should teach no more than 24 classes a week, or the uni has to pay me extra.]

Given my increased teaching load, I’ve called off all my weekend tutorials, so I can have a real weekend. It’s really quite blissful. Canceling weekend tutorials also eliminates a potential infraction of the Chinese regulations barring foreign teachers from having two jobs. The regs are a bit hazy when it comes to self-employment, and given last spring’s drama regarding my work permit, I’d rather not give the Public Security Bureau (州公安局 [pinyin]zhou1 gong1 an1 ju2/pinyin]) a reason to suspect I’ve been infringing the regulations somehow.

Mondays and Tuesdays, I teach all morning (though we have a 30-minute break). The other three days, I teach from 2:30 to 6 pm. Compared to teaching high school, it’s not a brutal schedule, but my “off time” has been spent either grading listening quizzes or prepping classes. I’ve also had to learn business concepts I was not already familiar with, in order to flesh out the units in the text. I never imagined those three years working as a part-time retail salesman would be useful in the classroom, but here we are.


Also published on Medium.

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