Starting today I work every single day for two weeks. Yes, I mean every single day. What’s going on, you ask? It’s not that the Chinese government has forced me into a labor camp, rather it’s the start of “winter session,” a three week period of intensive educational efforts. I teach kindergarten for three hours every morning and SAT Prep for three hours every afternoon, in addition to my usual weekend classes. After two weeks of this we have our break for Chinese New Year and then we’re back to the grind for another week. After winter session I’ll continue with the SAT prep class until who knows when, as I could be prepping these kids for the SAT right up until they’re sitting for it.
Last week our school’s headmaster realized that I’m an English major, had me and some other teachers take an SAT test, saw my score, and now has me in charge of expanding the SAT Reading abilities of American-university-bound Chinese teens. To prepare for this responsibility myself and three other American teachers had a three hour session with the school’s Chinese teachers (bilingual teachers who instruct some upper-level English language courses) during which we explained how we chose our answers. As I stood at the front of the room analyzing Lydia Bennet’s character faults to a room of young women who could only understand half of what I was saying it occurred to me that I could enjoy teaching. Only two of the Chinese teachers had read Pride & Prejudice and only one had attempted it in English, but being responsible for explaining a reading passage taken from one of the most important books in almost any canon of English literature was revitalizing. I could discuss the novel, actually discuss it and the thoughts behind it and why it is significant. Granted, I think most of what I was saying went over everyone’s head as might be assumed with such a significant language barrier and such elevated material, but just for a second it was nice to feel as if I were firing on more cylinders than usual. And then I spent the next day watching Dexter on Chinese YouTube, because you can only fire on so many cylinders in China.