One of my favourite parts of teaching abroad in China was the chance to live a fairly princely existence without going to the bother of putting together a coherent career plan which I understand is the usual route toward a life which includes a flash place to live, gadgets and exotic holidays. For two of my three years in China, I lived in a large apartment which was cleaned on a daily basis, had all my meals provided, did about three hours of work a day maximum, and spent my vacations mucking about in S.E.Asia. That was my world and, as long as the pay cheques arrived every month, I wasn’t too concerned with the overall business strategy of the school.
For a few months at least, all seemed to be going smoothly. On our level, weekly teacher meetings and guidance. A balanced and coherent workload. Observed lessons. Guidance from experienced staff. This didn’t last too long though. Student numbers dipped badly. Teachers quit.Chinese colleagues were hired and fired on a very regular basis. The Director of Studies position began to change hands so often that eventually, the job fell to anyone who fancied it. This had the effect of turning a reasonably well motivated group of teachers into a group of (largely) hungover young men who were underprepared for class at best, and whose main interest were the local female staff. We became increasingly bolshy, knowing that resistance to work and discipline were possible due the lack of teaching options. Want me to do an extra class on a Saturday? Cant say as I fancy it, thanks.
One of the more obvious signs of the school’s decline was in our staff room. By the time I left in 2003, long gone were the text books, lesson plans and inspirational teaching/language learning quotes, replaced by empty beer bottles, sleeping bodies and porn on the desktop computers. Occasionally this grubbiness was minimised when the DoS came in. Mainly not though. In short, the space was ours. Too late to turn this ship around captain, we’ve taken over. The DoS seemed to stop coming in, preferring to connect via email from his office next door, or by chats in the cafe. When he did come in he seemed wary, bracing for the latest dismissal of his requests to fulfil the basic duties of our contracts.
This situation came to mind the other day. We’ve bought a pup, and the cats haven’t taken it well. They’re not scared anymore, they’re just pissed off, so have set themselves up in my wife’s workroom. They’ve got it how they like it. Pawprints everywhere, the odd dead rodent, two cosy spots well away from any draught. I pop in for a feed and a quick chat. They don’t seem terribly pleased to see me. All of which makes feel a tad ashamed of the way I behaved all those years back in China, but I was younger then, and everyone should live disgracefully like a lord at least for a few short months. All the same, sorry, Sheriff Peters.