This academic week was simultaneously satisfying and soul-crushing, full of ecstatic victory and sorrowful defeat. It all began with an oral English lesson about music.
I had prepared quite an astounding lesson (I thought). It began predictably enough with the usual brainstorming of music genres (I’m pretty sure they had never heard that word before,) instruments, and favorite bands (they had certainly never heard of Blind Guardian.) Then followed a nice partner thing where they discussed favorite types of music, bands, concerts, etc. I found out that going to concerts isn’t really a Thing here. And that their schools don’t usually have bands and orchestras.
But all of that is rather typical. Until we got to the role play: BATTLE OF THE BANDS. Here, I had students split up into groups and pretend they were in a band. They got to come up with a name, background for the band, emblem, and even some song lyrics. The possibilities were endless!
Unfortunately, the first class I taught this lesson to wasn’t so convinced. Most of the students were baffled as to what their band names should be, and asking them to come up with a history beyond “we are four students who met at university” was like pulling teeth.
Things got real when two students asked me, “But teacher, why aren’t we using our textbook?”
I gave them many valid reasons: it’s boring, the dialogue sounds unnatural, the pictures are horrific, and it’s boring. And it’s called “Oral English: Reproduction.” Awkward. But the two students kept arguing why reading from the book would be soooo much more useful than an actually-fun activity involving creativity and drawing. Obviously, I crushed their dissent like it was 1989.
But that didn’t stop me from being extremely peeved. I had spent a solid fifteen minutes making this amazing activity for them, and they would rather read a stuffy, useless textbook? I couldn’t believe it. And I doubted myself. What if they were right, and the Battle of the Bands wasn’t as wonderful as I thought?
My doubts haunted me until the next morning, when I taught the same lesson again to a different class. Same lesson, completely different result. THEY LOVED IT. Most of the band names were four-letter abbreviations of their names, like a lot of Korean bands are doing these days (so they told me.) And two of the bands got in front of the class and performed songs. In other words, the creative juices flowed, and my self-confidence was restored.
The rest of the week had its ups-and-downs. I spent most of my classes with the grad students showing them music and failing to get Fallout: New Vegas to open on my laptop without crashing (damn you, Bethesdsa!) But the rest of my freshmen classes exceeded my expectations. My favorite band name was “Lawless,” with two lightning bolts curling jutting to the left and right.
As a side note, 100% of my students had never listened to metal, and they had no idea what Metallica and Iron Maiden were. As a crash course in metal, I let them listen to some Insomnium and Arch Enemy. Some of the students looked slightly terrified.
In other news, Chinese food is pretty amazing. As long as you accept the fact that most of your meals consist of something chopped up really small over rice or noodles, your tummy can be quite happy here! In the past week, I tried a super-spicy beef dish tasting strongly of paprika, 鱼香肉丝 (pork in a tasty bean sauce, I think?) and a chicken dish called 孜然鸡肉, which features cumin front and center. I didn’t even know those spices existed in China. Now the true question, why aren’t these dishes offered at your typical Chinese restaurant back home? Silliness, people. There’s so much more than sweet and sour pork.
Below, a really terrible dark photo of the tasty bean-maybe pork over rice. All of this, for 8RMB (about $1.30)!