Friday, December 30, 2011


While giving finals this year I encountered a surprising amount of cheating. A lot of it was discussing the questions with their classmates after taking the test (which I kind of expected). This led to some entertaining answers. When I gave the test, I would say "OK" whether the student got the correct answer or not. Sometimes I would notice a trend where a few minutes after a student got a question wrong, several students in a row would get the same question wrong with the exact same answer. For example, when defining the word "siblings" a group of students answered "brothers and sisters (at this point I thought they were doing well, but then they continued) whose mother dies" (I think they kind of confused it with step-siblings or something).
I made two versions of the final to try and eliminate some of the cheating. One test had a picture of the pilgrims and indians having the first thanksgiving and the other test had a picture of three little children trick or treating in costumes. I would ask the students to tell me some things about the picture. I had a few students, when given the second version (with the trick or treaters), instantly begin to tell me about Thanksgiving and that the people were eating turkey, etc. Then the students would walk away from the test looking confident and ready to whisper that answer to the next student.
My favorite catch was when one student was waiting in line and I saw him looking at a small piece of paper and quietly repeating the four words that I had on my test. I took the paper from him and saw that he had the words written phonetically in Chinese Characters so he could pronounce them. Sometimes the English teachers would stay in the classroom to help keep the kids quiet which helped a lot.

Korean BBQ

Last night a Chinese English teacher and her friend treated another teacher and I to a Korean BBQ. I wasn't expecting a whole lot because Korean BBQs are often kind of expensive and you have to wait a while for a little food (and I'm really impatient when it comes to food). This particular restaurant that we went to, however, was all you can eat and drink and it included all kinds of meat, fish, shrimp, sushi, and even french fries (pretty much a personalized heaven). So that was a pleasant surprise and a nice way to celebrate finishing finals.

Monday, December 19, 2011

the inconsistency of blog postings

I'm sorry about the inconsistency of my blog postings over the last month. I'm trying to get back on track but I probably overdid it tonight. If anyone has any questions or comments, please comment on this post. I love to hear from friends. Thanks for reading my ramblings.

[The following is only meant for my family to read]
For some reason when I read over my sentence that mentioned "the inconsistency of blog postings" I kept thinking about the consistency of squirrel droppings. What else do trees have to talk about?

Also, classic movie I watched last night: That Thing You Do.

my ten lamb barbeque sticks

So in light of my previous post, this post may be hypocritical but I haven't been able to get this thought out of my mind lately. Every time I read world news or even look outside my window, I realize how blessed I am to live in America, but with that thought has also started to come a nagging sense of responsibility. It also kept bringing to my mind a verse from the Bible (Mark 10:17,19-20)
"As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'" "Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy."Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

A lot of us today do pretty good at keeping the 10 commandments but I think sometimes we forget ( or prehaps conveniently ignore) this scripture. It seems like today many of us get caught up battling against minor issues and we frequently overlook major ones. What a world this would be if we all practiced the principals in this verse. This just seems like one of those responsibilities that as humans and as Christians we can not ignore. All my life I was raised to be super frugal with my money and it has been a huge struggle to give anything (always with thoughts like "I could buy ten sticks of lamb barbeque with this", etc.). Well I wasn't able to write that as clearly as it sounded in my head, but I hope I got my point across. If anyone has any comments please let me know.


My final day of this term will be the 30th of December and classes don't resume again until the 6th of February. I am getting super excited for the break, this week I have been booking flights and hostels for my trip. On the 3rd I will be taking a train to Guilin, a beautiful area famous for its mountains (if you google image it you will probably have seen before). We will spend about a week there hiking, biking, and rafting down the river. From Guilin I will fly to Hong Kong to spend about 3 days there. I am not sure yet what I will be doing there but a friend from college is teaching there so I will be staying with him. From Hong Kong I will fly to Bangkok, Thailand for about two days and from there go to Ko Samet. Ko Samet is an island about two hours from Bangkok. This is the spot I am most excited to go. We will stay there for 5 days (which seems far too short for me) and hike, kayak, and just bum around. From Ko Samet we will return to Bangkok and fly from there to Xi'an, China where we will spend the Spring Festival. Xi'an has a long history and is the home of the Terracotta Warriors. After a few days there we will return to the ShiJZ. January can't come fast enough.

the gym

I bought a 6 month membership to a gym that's about a ten minute walk from the school. This has been really nice and gives me a chance to get out of my room and use some energy. It is a bit frustrating when half the people in the gym are sitting on a machine texting on their phones but you learn to work around them. The people at the gym are pretty nice on the whole, several have come over and chatted with me in English. One kid today invited me to dinner and to play pool afterward, opportunities like that are a great way to learn more about the culture and language.


I am finally on the giving end of a final exam (quote taken from my FB page). I have the last two weeks of the term to test my 720 students. And because it is an oral English class I test the students one by one. This gives me just under two minutes per student for the exam. As an added distraction we have to test out in the hallway which is open to the outside so after testing five classes in a row, my fingers begin to refuse to bend. The only really enjoyable part of the process is giving good students good grades (and the bad ones bad grades).

Friday, December 2, 2011


On Fridays here I have two classes after lunch before I am free for the weekend. The classes are as different as a warm sunny day and the deepest dungeons of hell where demons chew on your toes. The first class I spent half the time talking over the kids and the other half asking/demanding that the kids be quiet. It is a shame because 2 or 3 girls are genuinely interested in learning English but the rest of the class kills that opportunity for them. I am considering next semester simply kicking out large portions of the class so that the students who want to learn actually can. It is one of the more frustrating things in the world when you spend 2 minutes asking a single kid to stop talking then the second you look away he begins again. Or when I write a term up on the board and immediately the kids start yelling at each other in Chinese. Then I ask them to stop and they reply that they didn't understand what the term means and they were just asking their friends. The concept that I can and will explain the term to them just does not seem to stick. Today I only managed to get through one third of my slides.

Then when I am giving up any hope for Chinese students, my final class of the week swoops down and pulls me from the brink. It is not that the students in the class have much better English (though they do), it is simply that they are really interested in learning English (which obviously contributes to them having better English). Both classes have a super high amount of energy, but the final class manages to use their energy to learn, laugh, volunteer, ask question, and make my day. I got through all the slides, played 10 minutes of games, and still had time to show them some hockey fights at the end. I don't know how the classes manage to be so entirely different, if it is because of their head teacher or some other reason. It's just quite a relief finishing the week up on a high note.

sorry if there are any problems with my spelling, grammar, etc. Too lazy right now to go back.