So, who forgot to tell the foreign teachers that there are uniforms?
On the first day of classes, and following that, every Monday morning at 7:20 am, there is a Flag Raising Ceremony that takes place on the school’s soccer pitch. The students and teachers all turn out, line up, and do a bit of marching whilst the Chinese National Anthem plays and the National Flag is raised up the flagpole by Chinese soldiers. Then another song is played and two other flags, which I can only assume are for the city and the school, are raised as well. At this ceremony, all the students wear their normal school uniforms. Also at this ceremony, the teachers all wear their uniforms.
Which someone neglected to tell the waijiao (foreign teachers).
My co-teacher and I rolled up to the soccer field at 7:15 to find the students and teachers all in smart lines, the students in matching blue and white, the teachers in matching black and white. Stephanie and I looked at each other in slight panic, realising that even in neutral -colored, teacher-appropriate clothing, we stood out like a couple of very sore thumbs. You can do nothing at this point but shrug and get in the back of the line, and try not to blush too much when all the students turn to give you curious stares.
Flag ceremony accomplished, we trundled off to our office to prepare for our first day of classes.
I may have mentioned my teaching load here before, but in this context it bears repeating. I am teaching 13 classes a week, 2-3 per day, to 8th graders and 11th graders (Junior 2 and Senior 2). My class load is actually quite Senior-heavy, with 9 senior classes and only 4 junior classes. Since I taught juniors in Beijing, I was far more apprehensive about the 11th graders. Turns out, they are quite charming. And smart. And also, incredibly reticent. They are going to need some hardcore teeth-pulling to get them to volunteer for anything. On the other hand, the juniors are a wild bunch, quick to erupt into cacophony but also quick to settle and listen, which I greatly appreciate. (Maybe once the novelty of having a foreign teacher wears off, this will become more difficult, but I’m hoping to whip them into shape a little before that happens…) I’ve already had one student make an after-class appointment to just come in and chat with me about American music– also to bitch about her other English teacher, which I think was the real purpose of the visit. But anyway, I have some truly delightful students and I haven’t even met all of them yet.
Did I mention, however, how the waijiao didn’t know about the uniforms? Today, I had another brilliant what-the-foreign-teacher-doesn’t-know experience. I showed up for my second class today, good and ready to do battle with the juniors’ attention deficiency; arrived, only to find out that my kouyu (conversation) class had been cancelled in favor of a science examination. Okay, fine. I trundled back to my office to wait out the 50 minutes until my next (and final) class of the day. Arrived at that class to find out that this examination was grade-wide, still going on, and that yet another of my classes was cancelled in its favor. Awesome. So I went back to my office again, this time bumping into one of the Chinese English teachers who work in my office, and with whom I had exchanged pleasant, “Have a good class” right before leaving. She was quite confused to see me back so soon, and marched me back down to the classroom I was supposed to be in, sussed out what was happening, then marched back down to our office and made a few prompt and pointed phone calls to the head of the junior 2 teachers. Out of this, I got an apology, and an opportunity to reschedule the class. For 4:10. Today.
Sigh. At least I won’t have to play catch-up with a random Thursday class period next week…