End of Semester in High School

The semester is coming to its end, and we have already finished teaching in the high school that my training center is cooperating with. This semester was filled with new experiences (as I had never taught in a school before) and challenges (the students weren’t exactly motivated).

It was interesting to teach in high school because the dynamic is a bit different than in a training center – I don’t know, but I feel like students in the training center preparing for IELTS are more like customers and I would feel uncomfortable requiring too much from them or scolding them. However, maybe I shouldn’t feel like that – in all honesty, it seems that the true customers are the students’ parents – in almost all cases they are the ones paying for the course and oftentimes it is their idea to send their children abroad to study (and I feel like this type of students struggles with motivation too). So, coming back to teaching in high school – I could give students homework (and, in truth, I had to give them homework every time as per my school’s request) and I could tell them to be quiet or give them penalty speeches if they were too noisy. So it felt more like a teacher-student dynamic than a seller-customer one.

If I had a yuan for every time a student said  “broaden my horizons”…

There was also some drama – for instance, some students would come up to me and ask about me having written unfavorable feedback about them and then get upset that I wrote about their bad behavior, but not the behavior of someone else. Or a couple would fight (the boyfriend always seeming cold and a bit indifferent, and the girlfriend always trying to get his attention) and then she would spend the whole class crying and lying on her desk, and he would act as if nothing happened. Or once, I gave an assignment in one class to prepare a speech about what kind of a dream job the students would like to do in the future and what they would do in order to achieve it (I was hoping for them to see that the dream job was within their reach and to encourage them to put some effort into making it happen) and then one male student prepared a speech about wanting to become an adult video performer in the future – awkward! But instead of criticizing him and telling him it was inappropriate, I grilled him in front of his classmates to tell them about the second part of the topic – what he would do in order to achieve it. Would he leave China? What country would he go to? What would he need to succeed? Anyway, that is the approach I chose, I don’t know if it was the right one or not. I guess it was his way of acting up and thankfully, it was a one-time thing.

During the last class, I just played some games with the students. There is this game called “Island Adventure” that I found on www.teach-this.com (there are many great free ESL resources there). Students work in groups or pairs and are told that their ship is sinking and they will have to swim to the nearest island (a desert island). They get a list of items, such as matches, mirror, water purifier, pot, inflatable raft, etc. and they are supposed to choose four that could be most helpful to them to survive on the island. They have to decide together and then explain why they chose them. After that, there are gonna be some challenges, for example, they can discover that their island is infested with venomous snakes that only stay away from the beach, which in turn disappears during high tide. Or the island is extremely cold at night and the temperature drops to -30 °C. They have to figure out how to survive that and afterwards, they are given points for their idea and then they roll a dice, and the total number of points decides if they survive or not.
Sometimes students didn’t know what to do and the game kinda stalled, but sometimes they got super creative. For instance, in one class, one group chose a hand saw, a pot, a rope, and a flare gun. Without knowing what the challenge was gonna be, they started to make a plan: they wanted to use the saw to cut off one of their legs or hands and use the blood to entice some sharks. Then, they would catch them and train them, and then ride them away from the island… I pointed out that sharks, being fish, would probably go underwater to, you know, breathe. They pondered about it for a moment and then said that in that case, sharks would have to swim just below the surface of the water, and they would have to be standing on them so that they could breathe as well and that way they could also shoot their flare gun. Quite brilliant, to be honest!
Then, their challenge came – it turned out that their island was actually inhabited by some children that had crashed on the island a year before. So they decided that they were gonna use children and children’s blood to lure the sharks in – a bit gruesome, but clever nonetheless. They were adamant about riding the sharks, though.

A fast and eco-friendly way to get to the nearest human lodgings.

In another class, a group got a challenge in which the island was inhabited by “highly-evolved” apes that didn’t like visitors. So what did this group of four boys come up with? They decided that one of them would attract the female apes that would fall in love with him. Then, the females would fight the male apes for the boy they loved. And then he would become kind of the island, and the other three boys would become his servants. And they would just stay there forever, living comfortably. I thought that was a pretty funny idea, too.

So anyway, that’s all for today. All in all, they were some good and bad experiences in that school, interesting either way. I’m looking forward to what’s gonna happen next!

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