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Barry from Australia is a questioning soul who looks at social issues from an alternative point of view and instead of asking, “Why?”, he asks “Why not?” He’s convinced that many of his previous incarnations were spent in China. He feels drawn to the people there; attracted by their rich culture and way of life. If given one wish from God, he’d reply, “I want everyone on Earth to be the same colour, speak the same language, and treat each other as they themselves would like to be treated.”
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Teaching in China, A Greenhorn's Perspective - Part 2    

By Barry Pittman
4183 Views | 35 Comments | 10/2/2015 2:24:14 PM

Following a few days settling in to my new teacher's quarters, my first English class was looming.  In fact, it was the very next day.  Having never had any teaching experience,  I was understandably a bit nervous.



 



I didn't know how many would be in the class nor their ages.  I didn't therefore know what their English would be like.  I didn't in fact know exactly what I should say to them, in order to inculcate into them a feeling of confidence that their expectant new teacher wasn't a dud.  A Western showpiece, as one of the other teachers had previously advised.  His view was the university liked to "recruit and show off" its Western teachers regardless of their actual teaching ability, in the creation of some sort of pecking order, "our university has more Westerners than your university!". Something akin to the old “mine is bigger than yours” concept.



 



Anyway, the morning finally arrived.  The moment of truth.  I had four hours of teaching to do to two separate classes, two hours each.  Tina God bless her, planned to accompany me to each class and sit in on them, placing herself inconspicuously somewhere.  There was no university staff member to formally introduce me to the classes.  I had to wing it on my own.  All I knew was my subject was oral English.  There was no set program or lesson plan of what had to be taught.



 



"Your subject is spoken English.  Good luck to you."  was about all the faculty head had said.  A textbook was given to me, but it proved to be useless as far as the teaching of SPOKEN English was concernd.  No specifics or guidelines as to what areas needed to be focused on were given.  "But how does one teach spoken English?", I rhetorically wondered.  "I'd far prefer something tangible, such as writing, punctuation or spelling."



 



But enough.  Action needed to be taken. Quickly getting dressed, Tina and I walked to the classroom. I strode into it and saw about forty or so students.  Nearly all were girls of about twenty years of age.  Just one or two boys were present.  I yelled out to them "Ni hao" and in a loud chorus, they all yelled "Ni hao" back to me.  Little did they know that was about the extent of my Chinese language ability.  But so far, I think I had them bluffed as to what a fine Chinese speaker I was.



 



Standing in front of the blackboard, I then looked at them.  They in turn peered curiously at me.  Tina sneaked into the rear of the room and sat down discreetly at the rear.  I could see the students were all rather interested at who I was.  At 187cm tall with a shock of dark curly hair, I didn't resemble the average Chinese man.



 



"Ni hao", I said again to them, "my name is Barry.  I am from Australia.  I am your new teacher of spoken English."



 



They smiled at me.  So far, so good.  I seemed to be pulling this off okay.  Teaching wasn't such a hard gig after all!  The fact I'd only spoken two sentences in total however hadn't really entered my head.



 



"You'll be pleased to know that I speak no Chinese.  I only know English.  But this is an advantage.  It'll force you all to communicate in English with me.  This in turn will help you learn faster and better."  I beamed at them as if my abject ignorance was in fact a BENEFIT to them. Talk about making lemonade out of lemons. Creating something good out of bad. I seemed to be doing everything right though, no one had yet started yawning or looked disinterested.



 



But again, my total teaching experience by this stage was all of ninety seconds.  Perhaps I was getting a little overconfident, a little too early?  But I was on a roll. A wave of confidence happily overwhelmed me.



 



"In fact, you're all lucky to have me.  Why?  Because I know better English than any of the Chinese English teachers in this university, where English isn't their native tongue.   In fact, I know better English than any Chinese English teacher in the whole of Sichuan Province, unless that teacher has like me, spent over fifty years living, breathing and being totally immersed within an English speaking environment, speaking nothing but English!"  I hadn't intended on being so bold and brash so early in my teaching career, which by this time added up to around two minutes.



To my relief, the students all looked very impressed by my statements of superiority.  Happy days!



Modesty had never been one of my strong points.  On this occasion, I was really rubbing my extensive Western background in.  Why hide one's light under a bushel?  So I revelled in telling the students for a couple of minutes, what a fabulous stroke of good fortune they'd all been endowed with - to have me as their glorious new teacher! 



This teaching job was way easy, I started thinking to myself. Why had I been so apprehensive about it all?



I looked at my watch.  Five minutes had passed.  Hmm. Another three hours and fifty-five minutes of teaching left to go.  A bead of perspiration suddenly broke out on my brow, as I wondered what I should say next.  Maybe,  just maybe – I should actually begin some teaching!  But what?  And how?



A flash of inspiration then hit me. 



"Okay class, you all know my name.  So maybe you can tell me yours.  I'm going to hand out a piece of paper and I'd like you to all please write down your names and phone numbers on it please."



A murmur went around the class as the sheet was duly passed from student to student, before finally it returned to me.  I glanced down.  My Godfather, it was full of an unpronouncable mix of pinyin and Chinese characters!



A second bead of perspiration broke out on my brow.  I started feeling a little faint but like a true professional, quickly moved on. Never show signs of weakness or insecurity in front of an audience and epecially not in front of a classroom!



"Thank you class, for giving me your names.  But as you know, I can't speak Chinese. This unfortunately means I can't read it either!  Could I pass this paper out to you all again and could you please put a WESTERN name on it! "



Another wave of murmuring rippled around the room as the paper circled through it for a second time.  To my relief, everyone complied and I was able to see some interesting names such as Sunshine, Freedom or Velvet, as well as a bunch of more common names such as Sally, Debbie or Erica.



Another flash of inspiration then struck me.  Gosh, I was good!



"Okay class, I'd like each of you to stand up in turn and introduce yourselves, speaking in a loud voice in English, your Western name, where you come from , what your family background is and what you hope to achieve here."



The above request was complied with nicely.  Most of the students were quite friendly albeit a little shy.  I could hardly hear some of them as they spoke so quietly.  Typical of Chinese, they were a good looking, intelligent bunch of young adults, full of plenty of hopes and colourful aspirations for the future.  I felt honoured to be their teacher. 



 



This article may be written in slightly humerous fashion but in fact behind the scenes  I was taking the job very seriously.  I'd been actively researching and sweating bullets of blood spasmodically over the past few weeks and months in preparation for this moment.  My aim wasn't to be a so so teacher but an excellent one, but this of course needed time and experience.  These were very early days yet.



 



Every now and then I looked at Tina sitting up the back.  She was lovely.  With a frequent smile on her face, I sensed she was enjoying the experience.  With her youthful looks, she barely looked older than many of the students.  She'd told me that she intended to sit in on every one of my classes, at least until she had to resume her work in about a month's time.   What a gem of a lady.  She knew I'd been more than a bit apprehensive about this whole process and had at every turn, encouraged and supported me.  I felt as if I'd won a million dollar lottery, in having her by my side. A glorious example of how Chinese online dating can potentially achieve miraculous, life changing results. 



 



Many kudos must go to Paul Fox as well, who'd also been extremely encouraging in his words and actions, supplying me with plenty of preparatory material in order to make my transition into this new and unknown role as painfree as possible. With sterling support such as this, how could one fail?



 



Suddenly some strange music bellowed out from the hall.  Instead of a bell, this university had a musical tune to denote when teaching classes began and ended.  I glanced at my watch.  Two hours by now had passed and I still hadn't actually taught anything.  I needed to then stop and walk to my next class on another level of the building.  The day was far from over yet.



 



 



To be continued




 



 





 



 


Copyright owned jointly by Author and CyberCupid Co., Ltd. Breach of copyright will be prosecuted.
Comments
(Showing 1 to 10 of 35) 1 2 3 4 More...
#2015-10-03 14:27:28 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

Barry, in spite of your expressed concern over the whole teaching experience and whether you would succeed or fail as an ESL teacher in China, the teaching gig appears to be going much better than you anticipated. Really, I don't see that you have much to worry about on the teaching end of things, so I am going to move on to some serious issues that are vexing me at the moment after reading this article and, more importantly, viewing your photos. For example:

1. Do you colour your hair? I am looking at your hair in these pictures and frankly I am feeling no small bit if envy as my hair turns a startling grey that makes my true age obvious for all to see. Could you please stop posting photos in which your hair makes you look like a 20 year old?

2. I believe that may be the pinkest shirt I have ever seen. It is a wee bit hard on the eyes so would you mind refraining from wearing it in future pictures?

3, Are you actually getting to be much better looking as time passes and Tina's presence in your life brings you great happiness? For the sake of your fellow members who are still struggling to find their own special Tina, could you please strike that annoying smirk off your face when being photographed.

4. For that matter, maybe the best thing would be if you could just show pictures of Tina, preferably looking annoyed with the guy taking the pictures.

All kidding aside Barry. your life seems to looking pretty good these days. That pink shirted rascal in the first of the bottom row of photos looks more like a twenty year old kid who has the world in his pocket than he does like a 60 year old codger fretting over whether he'll make it teaching English.

Good on ya, mate!

#2015-10-03 15:36:00 by paulfox1 @paulfox1

Hey....Good on ya Bazza !
Thanks also for the acknowledgement - I knew you'd be ok mate
Just remember the most important word in an ESL class - POWERPOINT !

The biggest issue is that native speakers talk 'too quickly' for non-natives to understand so if you have your words on the screen as well then you have at least half-a-chance !

Keep it up mate - oh......I wear a pink shirt to work too so just ignore John - I think it must be a Canadian thing lol !

#2015-10-03 15:56:21 by Mela01 @Mela01

Hi, Barry,
Congratulations !!!(clap)(clap)
Did not expect, you do so good , you do teaching work, is your talent, of course, is your fun, We look forward you have more to share, thank you!!

#2015-10-03 19:43:02 by Barry1 @Barry1

@JohnAbbot

Thanks for your confidence in my teaching abilities John, I hope I can live up to your expectations.

You've asked me a couple of questions, perhaps I can answer you as follows:

1. "Do you colour your hair?"

Let me answer you via a parable of sorts, John. Remember the late Joan Rivers, the youthful looking, gorgeous 81 year old? She was asked one day by a reporter,

"Ms Rivers, your skin is perfect. Have you had any plastic surgery?"

"Hmm, let me see. Have I had any plastic surgery? Of course I have you blithering idiot! How else can an 80 year old look like a 25 year old!"

I hope this answers your question, John.

2. " would you mind refraining from wearing (the pink shirt) in future pictures?"

Sorry John, I can't oblige you on this point. I wear pink to show everyone I'm in close touch with my feminine side. You wouldn't want people to think I was just a butch, insensitive & uncouth person, would you? Just another rough Aussie Crocodile Dundee?

3. "For the sake of your fellow members who are still struggling to find their own special Tina"

This is one of my major reasons for penning these tales, John. So show people that if an average plodder like me can inexplicably be attractive to a lovely Chinese lady, then everything and anything's possible in this crazy world!

4. "your life seems to looking pretty good these days".

If anyone just two or three years ago had told me I'd be living and working in China soon, I wouldn't have believed them. I can barely believe it myself. Maybe one day I'll awaken from a deep slumber and realise this has all been some sort of protracted, bizarre dream! Even now, it's all very weird to me, this whole experience.

#2015-10-04 07:23:06 by melcyan @melcyan

Well done Barry. It is good to see that you are much more than a token Westerner. As much as you try to make your success look accidental and fortuitous it is very clear to the discerning reader that your preparation is thorough and you work hard at being successful. Once the story-telling veneer is peeled away you are exposed as an excellent example of how to succeed in online cross-cultural dating.

#2015-10-04 11:40:18 by Nekko @Nekko

@Barry

when you write ............Something akin to the old “mine is bigger than yours” concept.
Bananas grown in healthy soil are always bigger. That is what your referring to?

Not a word about the knees and the challenges with bending them in disposing of waste products. What is happening Barry?

You survived the first lesson as a teacher. Did you worry a lot about this beforehand?
These students are a third of your age and two thirds your height so no need to worry?

This is quite a change for you, this teaching and a foreign land. I am impressed by your ability to adapt to this change.

As to the photos. Yes, pink shirt is not suitable for your hair colour. Maybe you could change the colour of the hair. Did you take the hair colouring from Australia? or do you plan to purchase this in China.

Tina pushing the taxi. High platform shoes is very noticeable.

Barry, I learned English a long time ago. I still remember that singing songs
helped me a lot. I got the meaning the pronunciation and the rhythm of the language.

The students may spend some time in the karaoke bars and know how to sing in English. Have a singing competition in class. First price.... a membership to CLM.

What does Tina think about your sense or nonsense of dressing?

Barry, before you ask, at my end, the relationship is absolutely blissful and happy.

Thanks again for writing this fascinating story. (clap)

Cheers,

#2015-10-04 12:01:55 by YinTingYu @YinTingYu

@JohnAbbot
@Barry1
Johnny, John John,...didn't yo momma never tell yuh that it takes a REAL MAN to wear a pank shurt ?? Mine did (6th grade) but the apparel was more of a "sockeye salmon" color with a Nehru collar and equally as phosphorescent as brother B's. The one thing I did learn from the experience though was that if you choose a shirt with banded collar, you don't have to wear a gawdam tie.

Recommendations for Barry's teachin' clothes: black shoes and socks, black or grey pants (dockers with pleats last forever), braces (far superior to a belt for diaphragmatic breathing when addressing the class) and any solid color shirt long or short sleeve depending on the weather.
With shirts, Chinese silk is the way to go. I was sent two (emerald green and deep violet) by a lady that lives near Barry's current neck of the woods and man oh man it's like wearing nothing, if your into that. They wash easy in the sink and if you break a sweat they dry in nothing flat !! Every time I wear one of these shirts in public I always find someone who wants to feel the material and these colors really accentuate my silver beard nicely. Hat's off to that lady for color selection !!

Now,...this thing about hair dye. Personally, I dig every silver hair I have on my body! It's sort of like each one is a testament to some challenge I have overcome. My eyebrows are still coal black but, that's just a genetic thing.

Barry, I'm glad you posted this entry. I've been wondering how you would adjust to the situation. All seems good for now. Further, it has rekindled my interest in teaching and I'm currently checking out the possibility of substitute positions in charter schools (hopefully Waldorf) just to get my foot in the door. There seems to be something useful to me in the concept of taking these few 57 years of life experience I have made it through and bringing them back to help young minds grow and develop. Maybe it's more the feeling of personal satisfaction in having a "captive audience" (hehe). Egotistical perhaps (whatever an ego might be ?). Students learn from the teacher and the teacher learns from the students.
You are lucky Bud.

From my limited experience on webcam chat in helping a few Oriental ladies learn to pronounce English words, there seems to be some difficulty with the letter/sounds concerning "L" and "R". It's not that they can't do it, it's that they are not used to doing it. This is just like anybody learning to speak a different language. The placement of the tongue, whether upper or lower palate and behind the upper or lower teeth at the beginning of the sound is critical. You know this even though you may have an Australian/Brit accent.

One more thing,... you may consider yourself to be the best English speaker in Sichuan now but,...I'll be a commin' and with a well practiced "vocabucalary" (I've been reading Chaucer, Plato and Shakespear since age 8), two university degrees and an oiled trigger finger,... I just might be a considerable ally.

Peace and happiness to You and Lady T.
Gongji,
Y.T.Y.

#2015-10-04 12:30:11 by sandy339 @sandy339

Hi Barry
Congradulations for teaching here:-)
It is really good by living in this way, I am not like John, I have some deep or profound questions(rofl):
1. Is your hair real?
2. What does it mean in western culture by wearing a pink shirt?
3. and I like your smirk, I believe it is the best you could do(rofl)

Thanks again for sharing life with us, have a nice weekend!

#2015-10-04 14:02:49 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

@paulfox1
@Barry1
@Nekko
@YinTingYu
@sandy339
@malcyan
@Mela01

Ok, let's have some fun about men wearing pink shirts, shall we?

Sandy339 - you ask a very good question - "What does it mean in western culture by wearing a pink shirt?" But I think you mean "by a man wearing a pink shirt" because there is very little deep meaning in Western culture to worry about when a woman wears a pink shirt. The answer to this question relating to men is important, because it probably is a great way of understanding one of the difference between Western Culture and Asian or Chinese culture.

So after reading what follows and the responses, please do come back and tell us about "what does it mean in Chinese culture by a man wearing a pink shirt"?

Yintingyu - you said "Johnny, John John,...didn't yo momma never tell yuh that it takes a REAL MAN to wear a pank shurt ??" And the answer is that yes my mother probably did tell me that. For sure my second wife did. But as you said, that was back in the 1970's and 1980's. You were in 6th grade you said.

The reason this was important back then in our neck of the world was we were going through a massive cultural and societal recognition that men needed to lighten up, to stop being wife beating assholes, and get over their need to be ultra-masculine at all costs. For women to achieve equality "real men" should get in touch with their feminine sides and understand better how women feel, to relate to their needs and their to become more like them in terms of kindness, caring and compassion for other human beings.

Or as Barry says, " I wear pink to show everyone I'm in close touch with my feminine side. You wouldn't want people to think I was just a butch, insensitive & uncouth person, would you? Just another rough Aussie Crocodile Dundee?"

But the problem is that was then and this is now. Well we went through that back then and we did, indeed, become better people as a result in many ways. But it was all part of an overall change in society that seems to me to have done a lot more harm than good. What we have now is a society in which women and men can barely tell themselves apart, nobody cares about anybody but themselves, and family has been tossed out the window.

I did indeed wear a pink shirt regularly in the 1970's and even more so in the 1980's, proudly "getting in touch with my feminine side". However, sometime in the 1990's I began to feel that I had been too much in touch with a "feminine side" that I frankly don't believe is of much importance to me as a person, and maybe I should instead be concentrating on getting in touch with my real self, my spiritual essence, my miniscule share of the universal energy, and my masculine side, since that is really what defines who I am and where I am going from here (hopefully).

Afterall, the truth be known, I was already a kind, caring and compassionate guy. Probably so were all the ones who were busy connecting with their feminine sides. I doubt there ever were many rapists, child molesters, serial killers or wife beaters taking time off from their favourite past times to contemplate the need to wear a link shirt in order to become a better person.

The strange fact seems to be that Aussies have not yet been through this phase of getting in touch with their feminine side, or they are just going through it now. But no need guys, you are years too late. We've already done that for you. At least I say this to Paul and Barry. Melcyan, our other oft heard from Aussie, has yet to step into this discussion.

If you wish to wear a pink shirt because you like the colour pink, have it Mates, and balls on ya! But if you're wearing one because of your desire to express or discover your inner perfect female self, I suggest you've embarked n a mission that is way too little and decades to late. Kick back, relax and go back to those favourite blue, green, red or even back shirts that you used to wear so comfortably without giving it a second thought.

I've never really thought about it, and I'm not in China so I can't just walk out on the street to check it out, but my best guess is lots of Chinese guys wear pink shirts without giving it a second thought, because to my knowledge, the Chinese have never had any cultural belief that "blue is for boys, pink is for girls".

Maybe I'm wrong about that?

What say you Sandy339, Mela01 and all you other Chinese ladies?

BTW Nekko, I am so glad it was you who had the courage to come right out and assume as fact the hair colouring thing to Barry. You are so good to him and in touch with his feelings, that he can hardly hold it against you. You have boldly plunged in where I was only timidly dipping my toe in the water.

#2015-10-04 18:36:49 by Barry1 @Barry1

@paulfox1

"Just remember the most important word in an ESL class - POWERPOINT !"

Thanks for this, Paul. I've been creating some Powerpoint presentations of up to 100 pages each that exceed 50mb in size. I know there must be an easy way to send them to you such as via the "cloud", but so far I haven't found it. Capacity limits kick in around the 25mb mark.

If anyone knows how to email or send large files of say, 75mb without breaking them down into several smaller components, please let me know.

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