news sandwich

It’s spring in Chongqing. I’ve been meaning to write something here, but this has been a difficult semester for a few reasons. My class structure changed—I teach fewer classes, but they’re spread out over more days, and they’re 90-minute sessions instead of 45 minutes. It’s not all bad, but it’s hard for me to get used to.

And you know, I’ve been a little depressed. Living in China is difficult. Making friends is difficult. I haven’t learned the language as quickly as I hoped I would. To be fair, I’m not studying as hard as I could. But I’m working more and sometimes I need to rest. My health and happiness comes first, my students second. I have found that teaching is a lot like massage therapy in that I have to make an effort to keep outside stresses outside so they don’t affect my work. And I’m growing a bit as a person, and that’s difficult and shitty. All difficult processes are. Will I tell you about it sometime? It doesn’t seem likely now, but we’ll see.

So, enough with the apologies. Let’s serve up the news sandwich.

Good news
I was accepted to a Master’s program for English Language Learning. I can study online, with the exception of student teaching. That will have to wait until I return to the US. And that’s fine. I don’t know where I will do it, but I am so far from having to figure that out.

I am looking forward to learning more about teaching and how to do it better. I think it will be useful to show employers that I am serious about my career change. I also think it will be a butt-ton of work. But it’s work I know how to do. It’s not impossible, unless my internet connection fails to cooperate.

Not so good news
My contract at Chongqing University will not be renewed for next year. A lot of things will be changing next year and very few teachers are returning. University curriculum is determined in Beijing, so if anyone knows why these changes are happening, that person is not someone I have access to.

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Bad news: you’re dead. Good news: you’re fabulous.

 

I was really upset when I first found out. And I’m not still not delighted with the situation, although I’ve made my peace with it. I am looking for other work and trying to determine the best next step. I have not made a lot of close friends here, but the ones I have made are very dear to me and I will miss them terribly.

BTW, The Simpsons taught us that the Chinese use the same word for crisis as they do for opportunity (crisitunity, if you will). Not true. How could The Simpsons lie?

Good news
How much do you know about the improvisation workshop I’m teaching? Not a lot? That’s OK. Long story short, I have to teach an activity as part of my contract. I thought I was signing up for a two-hour, one-time thing, so I proposed an improv workshop. Whoops, my bad, it’s every week. Better learn how to teach it.

It has been incredible. First semester started out with most of my improv students coming from the English drama club. A few of them stuck around, but many didn’t. This is partly because they are busy and partly because they signed up for English drama club to learn lines, not improvise them. The president of the club told me, “I can require them to come to improvisation.” OMG, no, I’m not going to coerce anyone.

This term, I started promoting it to my former students. They started as Level 1, so their English is not at a high level (although there is A LOT of variation). But they trust me, and that is much more important. Now, my consistent attendees are non-drama students, only one of whom has any performance experience. Let’s do a show!

We are doing a show in five weeks. I am going to put something together that they can do well at. It is not the hip long-form show I hoped for at the beginning of the year. It will likely be mostly short-form games. Think my first ComedySportz beginner showcase. In other words, a few mistakes, but lots of fun. It is OK. It is better than OK. The students who show up have made a lot of progress, and I think that in five weeks, we will be ready.

In conclusion
The pickle on the side of the sandwich, if you will, learning is difficult and horrible and sometimes I think I’d rather not. But that’s not the hand I was dealt, apparently. I whine a lot, but I still want to do better, so I keep going. What else can I do?