I’m leaving Chengdu, after 8 years, to move to Suzhou in the east of China. At least that’s the plan. I’ve been offered a job as an English Tutor at Xian Jiaotong-Liverpool University (西交利物浦大学 or XLTLU for short), a partnership between the two universities that began in 2006, and that grants degrees recognized both in China and in the UK. I’m tentative about the proposition because I’ve been through 2 months of visa hell – turns out that Suzhou has one of the strictest policies for granting Z working visas in China. The dreaded Certificate of No Criminal Conviction (CNCC) has been the sticking point, and getting this document from the Public Security Bureau in Chengdu ranges from difficult to impossible. My particilar hell involved 3 weeks of negotiation between the PSB and the SW University for Nationalities, where I studied Chinese for the past year and a half, which was required to provide documents in support of my application for the certificate. As a backup plan, I applied for a second non-criminal document, this one from the FBI in Washington DC, just to be on the safe side. All I had to do was to go to a private security company, pay them 800 RMP for a set of fingerprints, and mail them of with the application to the USA. Then wait for 6 weeks. That document has not arrived as of this writing. Driving from 成都 Chengdu to 苏州 Suzhou – 1376 miles (2215 km), about 20
I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while; as usual, however, life got in the way and it was delayed. I’ve now done this team-building activity with two different classes, and it proved to be a lot of fun. The Marshmallow Challenge was created by Tom Wujec, and he describes the activity in a TED2010 Talk [click photo above to view video]. The object of the activity is to enhance group and cooperative learning skills through creativity, planning, trial & error, and problem-solving as a part of a team. It involves building a tower using dry spaghetti, tape, string, and marshmallows. As a bonus, the extra marshmallows provided snacks for instant energy. Here are some of the photos from my English for Academic Purposes class as they constructed their towers. As it turned out, the students fell in love with the red clothesline string I provided, and used way too much of it. Oh well, I’m not one for strictly following instructions anyway. A few of the students also chose to snack on the spaghetti (uncooked) afterwards, which I didn’t recommend. After the towers were completed, a committee of judges used a tape measure to determine which one was tallest. Prizes were awarded for height and creativity – one tower was shaped like the Burj Al Arab Hotel in Dubai. During the activity I played a mixture of pop, disco, and 70s R&B music for inspiration. If you try this
I spent a long weekend in Chongqing, working as an IELTS examiner. I left on Friday evening, taking the express train, so that I could arrive early and not have to go directly from the train station to the testing center on Saturday.
Students in my class concentrate on their study book activity, identifying and sharing their personal skills. We’re now in the sixth week of the new semester, and what a ride it’s been. I’m performing a juggling act between my regular job of teaching 16 class periods a week, and being an IELTS examiner three weekends a month. I work pretty much all the time; in February I had a total of two days off. I barely had time for a healing massage, a trip to the grocery story, and a couple of trips to the gym. Another challenge is teaching two new programs: reading class for the Singapore study abroad program, and English for Academic Purposes for the Victoria University program in Australia. The Singapore class is reading Madame Doubtfire; this provides some opportunities for levity, as when we role-played a talk show and I was Madame Doubtfire, the cross-dressing housekeeper (no, I didn’t dress the part). I had to respond to a question about which toilet I would use, men’s or women’s, and I said “Well, dear, I’m not exactly sure.” I’m slowly trying to build my students’ confidence to give dramatic readings, a challenge in a foreign language. Reading shouldn’t be just another boring class. The EAP class is full of creative students, even if a few of them seem only to find creative ways to sleep in class. I’m teaching study skills, which consists mostly of student-directed group activities, such as exploring your personal skills and
My favorite GIF animation this week: Thanks to one of my favorite blogs, Black and White Cat, for publishing this image. Thanks also to its author for a great line for an insult: Glenn Beck is very, very low-hanging fruit. We should all just ignore him and hope he goes away. I’m battling a bad allergy attack and a horrendous cough. There’s no relief in sight, but fortunately I’m giving speaking exams this week, so all I do is sit there and listen to students talk (while I cough). It’s been rather eventful, nonetheless. My presentation Tibet-Nepal-India part 1 made the front page of slideshare.net, getting the most tweets [on Twitter] of any presentation. Slideshare.net is a site for sharing PowerPoint presentations, documents, videos, and e-books, and it’s a great source of information as well as teaching material. As of today the presentation has had over 800 views! I’m “featured” on the front page of slideshare.net! New pages on my blog: Teaching – lesson plans, downloadable documents, and links to PowerPoint presentations. It includes a link to my Culture Shock presentation I gave last week. Also visit me at: Visit my page at slideshare.net [chinateacher1].