Winter holiday is here, and I’m in Japan! 4

Winter holiday is here, and I'm in Japan!
TOKYO, JAPAN — This year’s winter escapade is not to a warm, sunny location like Malaysia, but to the more wintry Japan — a joint effort by my son and me. He had some comp time available, and wanted to visit me in Jishou, but as I had planned to travel outside China during the Spring Festival, we settled on two weeks in Japan. Fun fact: this year, the Chinese New Year falls on my birthday. I’ll leave it to you to figure out which day that is. I gave my exams on Dec. 30, and spent the rest of the week reading them and calculating grades for my 150 students. I discovered two disturbing things: at least two of my sophomores had cheated on their exam and hardly any of the sophs had improved their listening comprehension marks over the last three terms. The cheaters flunked their exams, and the term. They will need to take a new test next term. I also get to read their classmates the riot act, as I suspect those two were just the unlucky ones who got caught. The sophomores’ failure to improve their skills much since they were freshmen is a bigger ...

It’s almost the end of the term

It's almost the end of the term
JISHOU, HUNAN — Today I gave my last exams of the fall term. Classes ended last week. Once I hand in my marks next week, I’ll be free for nearly two entire months! My duties this year are teaching Listening Comprehension and Oral English to the freshmen and sophomores in our college. That’s about 160 students, so my load is much lighter than in the past. For the listening classes, we met in a lecture hall yesterday where I could meet all the frosh at once, then all the sophs at once. Judging from the groans of dismay, what I hoped to be a relatively fair exam may have been harder than I thought. More than a few students have told me they think they failed the test. Both listening exams followed the same format. Part 1: A VOA Learning English report. Announcers for these reports speak more slowly and use easier words than regular VOA readers. Parts 2 and 3: Short exercises from their textbooks. Part 4: Dictation of the first paragraph of Matilda. It seems they did OK with the VOA Special English section, but the readers on the other section spoke too quickly for the students. Granted, ...

Meeting the freshmen 2

JISHOU, HUNAN — The trade-off for a week-long National Holiday break this year was seven days straight of teaching, including my first meetings with the 109 freshmen who have enroled in our college. Unlike American colleges, universities usually bring in their freshmen after everyone else has arrived. At our uni, they arrive during the second week of classes, then have two weeks of military training — mostly formation drills, physical training, and practice with mercifully unloaded rifles. Then we all take off for the National Holiday. Originally, I was not scheduled to teach the freshmen, but we didn’t start the year with two foreign teachers. My dean rather timidly asked me if I would consider taking on additional classes to help the college out. I agreed to take on oral English for the frosh, which added six classes to my load. If Chinese students need any instruction, it’s in spoken English. I figured missing even a few weeks of class with a foreign teacher would hold them back even further. Besides, taking on the freshmen means, at least for this term, I will have taught every student in our college at least once. So, what is this crop of first-years ...
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