My first semester of teaching is over; grades are recorded in the books; students have found their ways back home for Spring Festival and campus is deserted.
Me? I spent most of this winter sequestered in my dank flat, sidled up to my heater. Though PDX and Guiyang share very similar climates, uninsulated concrete buildings and a lack of central heating ensures that you’re never actually warm. So, 27º F is not /that/ cold, but you still feel like you’re living inside an industrial sized icebox when ya house only 59ºF.
I’m particularly bitter about the climate, having just returned from two weeks of training in Chengdu, where my hardened perseverance and will to survive the winter was melted down by the luxuries of central heating, pillow-top beds, and complimentary breakfast buffet (that purple glutinous rice tho).
In Service Training (IST) isn’t all warmth and fun though; it’s a dizzying mash of as much TEFL instruction, Mandarin practice, medical appointments, and
partying socializing that can possibly happen within a fortnight.
Days are packed with 5–6 sessions. The TEFL portion is pretty dense, but inspiring, since all of the presenters are fellow PCVs and their experiences are 100% relevant to the situations I experience as a teacher. My peers introduced dozens of thoughtful activities, strategies, and content that I hope to bring to my classes next term.
So, teaching: I haven’t offered a decent update on it, but my first semester was ripe with learning opportunities (for me, lol). I’m finally in a good place where I can adjust lessons based on the instantaneous feedback I get from my students, which still includes a lot of 😳😖😰 faces and a hive of whispered, “什么意思’s” (what does Teacher mean!?).
My writing students and I even ended things on a good note. All of my students now add spaces after periods and commas (✌️VICTORY!✌️); the majority of them can craft a thesis statement; all of them can express opinions in writing, which is a big deal considering 40% of my students started the semester with three word sentences (he is tall).
That’s pretty much all I have to say about teaching for now. It’s funny that while the semester was days of planning lessons, refining PowerPoints, grading, talking to students during office hours, and standing for hours on end while facilitating class activities, it ends up as a footnote in this blog.
My students give me a great deal of trust and enthusiasm. I am incredibly grateful to them and, on most days, feel #blessed to be here. Though I will say, chronic Vitamin-D deficiency, seeping cold, and an inability to break past small talk in conversations with community members makes it really tough to be here somedays. I have spent a good bit of break trying to cure the sads with vine compilations and Bruno Mars live performances.
I’ll have the next couple of weeks to dedicatedly prepare for next term. Then, I’ll be taking a train down to HK to visit my family for Spring Festival, which is a huge privilege and something I’ve never gotten to do before. Until then: ✌️