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Love--Why I Chose to Stay

By Sam @WIEChina 

The intricate melodic sound erupting from my phone signals another start to a day of where I’ll be surprised, inspired and most likely exhausted as school awaits me. The morning dawn pierces light through the crevices that have appeared due to the sagging of my curtains most likely put up years ago. I lazily float a hand from the side of my bed, seizing the now painful noise that has awakened my eagerness to confront the day that lies ahead.

Is the coffee in the pot? Tie or no tie? Are my lesson plans for the day complete? Why am I already thinking about lunch? Is Donald Trump really the president of America? What is the meaning of life and death?

In a state of dazed consciousness, the next thirty minutes occur in a blink of an eye. I have made it from home to school. At the point of arrival, the coffee kicks in; igniting a heightened awareness of enabling me to well… to speak and respond. It’s at 7.30am when the caffeine kicks in, the stimulant blocking the effects of tiredness wanting to settle and cultivate within the necessary brain waves I need in order to complete a day successfully.

As I set forth through the giant iron-clad gate, imperious in its design… the thick bars with their spiked tips present a formidable challenge to those not welcome within the realm of education. The chipped paint which allows parts of rust to puncture through suggests that this gate has stood here for decades providing protection for pupils. I exchange ‘Ni haos’ with the guard accompanied with a brief nod, the early morning still chaining ones loquaciousness to just that.

The footpath ahead is enveloped in elegance. The path is surrounded by Penjing trees, their elongated trunks spiralling artistically upwards with the tea green leaves soaking up the morning sun, dappling rims of sunlight splatter the path ahead. It’s a rather striking moment I tend not to admire as often as I would like; China’s beauty is foreign to me yet prickles my senses of appreciation.

Dotted around the area are the older generation participating in Tai Chi whilst fathers and mothers are flying past on their bicycles ready to meet their challenges of the day (the school part of a housing complex). The school building is now imminent, somewhat plain in its design. Signs of wear and tear are apparent in its seven floors of blood, sweat and stone. Despite the simplicity in its construction, the overall layout of the school is of a picturesque quality. The buildings surround a Chinese classical garden so to speak with a serene pond, charming bridge and beautiful flowers all attributing to this aesthetic design that evokes tranquillity.

I’m at ease and I can’t wait to get to class.

By the time I reach the bottom of the stairs, I can already hear the middle school students’ yells and their thudding of steps that reverberate from the stone floor. It’s only 7.35am in the morning yet their excitement levels and youth are penetrating through my grogginess. Cheerful cries now burst from classrooms as they see me linger past through the hall; I can’t help but smile after each ‘Hey Sam… Good morning!’ The door that is now directly in front of me is the classroom that expects me. A portal? A gateway? The domain to educate an individual I ponder. Yet… why is it me stepping into a classroom thousands of miles away from my home?

China? Why? Let the stream of consciousness commence. China has an endearing quality; it’s beautiful, magnificent, and everyone here is just so nice. Chinese culture is so subtle, so profound, so complicated, and so comprehensive that I cannot cover it with my limited knowledge. I’ve learnt so many things here but there is still so much to engross myself within this magical place.

The people are exceptionally friendly and willing to assist in what ways possible, even those with limited English. The food, oh my… the scrumptious, wonderful dishes that China has to offer – especially Guangdong and Hunan cuisine.  The cleanliness and safety of the streets is something remarkable too, Guangzhou taking pride in its city to keep reminding its inhabitants that this is a great city to live in. The scenery is gorgeous, China’s views when arriving at certain landmarks breathe beauty and nothing fills me with prodigious elation than to climb up a mountain and inhale in the crisp morning air whether it is at DingHuShan or ZhangJiaJie.

Most of all, the reason I have stayed here for so long is because of the students. I’ve met some extremely impressive individuals who strive to be the best they can. I think this generation has a lot of expectation to continue the progressive strides that China has made in recent years and I believe that with the current globalisation transcending within our world, the have a good foundation to make a huge difference. Not just within China but for our world.

I use my lessons as a platform for not just the students to absorb content I produce but also as a realm to express opinions. I’m currently teaching literature here in Guangzhou, therefore we are critically analysing everything in order to understand the outcome of certain actions and plot elements that occur in the book. The way to approach literature is to strip back your disposition and put yourself in the shoes of the character whilst omnisciently scanning the story to comprehend outcomes. It’s the critical way of thinking that my students then add to their skill set, whilst also improving their English. We must never stop looking at ways to assess a situation and forming opinions and solutions. Whether this would be with how we approach climate change in our daily lives to something innocuous like, why is the school rubbish bin so far away from the classrooms. Should we change this or does this discourage students from eating in class? I want students in China to expand their way of thinking.

The outcome in my literature lessons that I wish to achieve must be formulated with precision, it's important to be clear and confident in my approach. I question myself each lesson as to what would be the most effective way for a student to obtain that result. A variety of techniques could be used: skim reading, scanning, group work, project work, workshops, lecturing, debates, role-plays, games, creative writing, homework, discussions. It's important to manage our classes successfully. We have to be aware that each student has different cognitive learning styles as to how they react in a class and it's up to use as teachers to use our intuitive and analysis to provide the best environment for the students as not just as a class as a whole but individually too.

Regarding my education, there is a huge sigh of dismay of the wasted potential I had. I did not perform to the standard expected of me and this transcends to a lot of young people these days (based on my own experience in my home country). The apathetic shrug of the shoulders regarding school when I speak to my youngest brother and his friends is disheartening. We need to implant a willingness to learn. My lessons have always been designed to be as active, educational and enjoyable to instil this positive mentality about school. Furthermore, if the students respond well to a class, the greater the respect is and the likelihood of them completing tasks (due to them being invested in the lesson/class/subject) at home or at school is far more likely. In my class, I try to inspire students not just to study English, but even a basic of want as to just to learn and for those who’ve already acquired this natural ability then I look to satiate their appetite for learning.

At that moment, the bell sounds, reality has finally won the battle against my brief serenade of insufferable meandering of as to why I am here in China.

I face the class; we get straight into tackling Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Their keenness to open up their books and confront the literary concepts and language elements astounds me. And to add to that, they are then eager to partake in discussion with one another once I have coordinated what part they must focus on. The lesson ultimately ends in paired work as they get to create a brochure for Transylvania, one of the main settings for the novel. I feel an enormous amount of pleasure from seeing how amazing

The bell rings against once more, definitely not the shrill shriek associated from my days at school but I believe a xylophone. The octaves that sound out from the speakers beautifully caress the lesson to an end. Students then burst out in a clamour. But as I walk out through the chaotic fields of young minds willing as ever be educated, I remind myself again in a moment of clarity…

I love this job.

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