I just learned that the two new ETP classes, the first-years who will make up the majority of my teaching hours, will not start class until after the National Day holiday. This is because the school has not yet constructed classrooms for them.
Admittedly, this year’s incoming class is larger than those of years past, but the school administration knew about this situation well in advanced.
Last year, with my wealthy, lavishly and aggressively spoiled, obnoxious students at Shida Fuzhong, I would have been ecstatic to hear that classes had been pushed back. This year, I am upset.
This is because this year’s students are of an entirely different species than the students I taught last year. They are differentiated simply because this year’s students actually care.
My students here in Rebgong are the most wonderfully amazingly heartbreaking people you will ever meet. They are most definitely not spoiled; they grew up herding yaks on the grasslands, or potato-farming, shouldering heavy responsibilities at a young age. Despite being in their last year of senior middle school, they are still slightly shellshocked at the simple fact of being senior middle school students, and by their entry into the more advanced civilization of Rebgong, They are hardworking and polite; not just polite, but engaged, questioning, willing to take advantage of this opportunity to learn. Whether it be a movie screening or a slightly drier lecture on modal verbs, these students are actually asking questions until they understand what I’m talking about; their minds are working, and that is something infinitely rewarding to me as a teacher.
So as you might have guessed, I’m enjoying this teaching situation a bit more than last year’s Shida Fuzhong horrors. Although I couldn’t have been through a better training school; how many teachers have to deal with students starting fires during their first year of teaching?
However, my relationship with last year’s students has become an interesting one. Aside from the ETP students I taught last year (who are indescribably awesome), I always thought last year that I’d never continue any relationships with Shida Fuzhong students, or indeed any connection with the school. But while wandering in Xining last weekend, I ran across numerous students, some of whom were not great to teach, but all of whom greeted me with almost excessive warmth and kindness, often expressing the wish that I’d come back and teach them (rather than the foreign teacher they have now). Since last weekend, I’ve received a number of emails from these students. And taking into account the difficulties I faced teaching last year, I’m completely stunned by this response; apparently, my efforts had more of an effect on these students than I realized. As emails arrive in my inbox, I’m getting a sort of delayed reward/gratification from last year’s teaching.The emotional high from which is all being channeled into my teaching at the number two middle school here in Rebgong.
What an indescribably difficult yet rewarding job teaching can be!