(NOTE: This was written on June 27, the Friday before last.)
I taught my last real day of classes today. After this, I have two make-up lessons on Monday, and another week or two of evening classes. Then it’s home for a while, and then, assuming that I can get some problems with my application ironed out, it’s Beijing for a year.
I really didn’t know quite how to feel today. The last day of daytime classes seemed to call for a sense of sadness to be leaving, but to be honest I mostly felt relieved. In one class, I wrote my address and contact information on the blackboard, and then decided to add an English chengyu, with commentary: “ALL GOOD THINGS MUST COME TO AN END. …..as must all bad things.”
I’m not sentimental enough to think that I’m going to miss all of the kids. I’m very fond of some of them, of course. I’m sure that I’ll miss Tina, the third-grader with anime eyes; Andy in 3.1, whom I (unofficially) rechristened Buckwheat on account of his pronunciation*; Cherry in 5.2, who had lived in LA and had the English skills to show for it.
Then there are the kids whose names I don’t even know. In some cases, it’s because they almost never participated; in many cases it’s because I’m just bad with names. There are the first-graders, who are still young enough to find fun in learning, despite the things the school does to the process. There are even the brats, like Peter and Tom and Henry. I will not, in all honesty, miss them very much. There’s a fairly good chance that I’ll forget them.*
But they will remember me. They will miss me.
The first- and second-graders consider it absolutely hilarious to run up behind me and slap my ass, as if I am their personal Playboy bunny. I’m not sentimental enough to think that I’ll miss that. Nor will I miss the constant struggle to keep the kids’ attention, often through use of force (jumping up on the kids’ desks). I won’t miss their textbooks in the least. Nor will I miss the way I was made to teach the daytime classes – by reading, verbatim, from the textbook like a human tape recorder. I will especially not miss the textbooks, which went in for damnable little songs and chants at the expense of actual content. These are the things I will not miss.
I’m making this list because I still don’t know how I feel about my time here. Teaching was always just an excuse to come to China, and for several months after I started, I didn’t really give much of a shit about my job. Somewhere afterwards, though, I began to love teaching, and I think I got pretty good at it.
It’s almost a year now since I came to China, and I’m kind of wondering what I have to show for it.
I have greatly-improved Mandarin speaking and listening abilities.
My reading ability, too, has improved, but at the same time, my writing has gone way downhill. I’ve forgotten how to write – not read – many of the characters I knew.
I have many new friends, Chinese and otherwise.
I have a girlfriend.*
I have lost weight. I didn’t think I could be any skinnier, but now I know.
I have a somewhat better understanding of this country.
I have a nervous tic which kicks in whenever someone says “Halllo?”
And I have stories.
All good things must end, and all bad things must end, and I still am not sure which this was.