At 9:00 a.m. this morning, I awoke to the sound of knocking on wood and soon realized there was someone at my door. It was one of the Chinese teachers and she had my schedule for this week of teaching (not next week). On the contrary, I was teaching this week. In fact, I was starting this afternoon (yes, that means 5 hours from now...I told myself). Did they just forget to tell me this? None of the other American teachers are teaching today or this week!
Oops. Oh well.
Of course I wasn't mad, only a little shocked. But then that wore off and I got excited. Two two-hour classes in the afternoon of sophomore english majors is not a bad thing at all for a Monday, and so, I think---looking back on it---it was a pretty wonderful day.
I learned that in China, students will not leave the classroom---even after the teacher has dismissed them---until the teacher leaves first. So when I dismissed my first class and they all sat staring at me as I put away my things near the front of the room, I felt like I was grabbing one two many cookies out of the hidden cookie jar. Everyone was looking up at me...smiling...and so, I reassured them: "You are free to go! Class is dismissed." One girl picked up her purse and pulled out her cell phone. I think she knew deep down how stupid I was.
And then of course, in the next class I somehow found myself singing the chorus to R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly." Don't ask me how my students got me to do that, but in the first week of classes at any college---with all the lame introductions and 'my name is' ice-breaker games---something like this is inevitable. And then there was the moment when one student asked, "Do you think you are handsome?" and another asked, "Do you like yourself?" Yes, these questions threw me because they tend to only come up between friends (if ever at all). But I just kept wondering why these two kids weren't psychology majors instead. I mean, come on---what kind of personal, prone-to-self-destruct question is that?
When the second class ended, the sore throat from talking slow slow slow english had went from marginal to a scratchy dry high kind of pain. But despite this, I still couldn't help from smiling. Walking out of the class room with Chinese faces gleaming and smiling at you, and giggles and hand-to-mouth laughs constantly overtaking the entire room made me wonder why I didn't come to teach english in China sooner.