Sunday, 11 September 2016
Our courses now are ended. Six hundred odd students are melted into air, and left not a rack behind. Well, actually, no: there are stacks of files that will be chucked into some oubliette and ignored for the rest of time. To those of you who have proper jobs, it probably sounds rather pathetic to hear that back in June we were all daunted at the prospect of twelve unbroken weeks of five-hour days, but only those who teach can know how preparing 25 contact hours a week can eat into one’s evenings, weekends and dreams, and after the first eight weeks induce what feel scarily like signs of early dementia. I walked into my classroom the other week to find a colleague standing at my computer looking puzzled, first at what was on the monitor screen and then at my presence at her side. She was setting up her lesson in my classroom and hadn’t noticed that the assembled phone-prodding students were not hers. The other day I retrieved my card from the ATM on the campus, put it back in my wallet and walked off leaving my tenner poking out of the cash dispenser, flapping in the breeze. This morning it took innumerable text messages to a colleague and finally a phone call (‘You been on the fuckin piss, mate, or wot?’) to get straight in my mind which days I’m teaching next week.
The twelve weeks flew by and now for a spell I’m down to eight hours. I have a small group of students from China, Taiwan and Thailand. They are a fantastic bunch, head and shoulders above the language and maturity level of the students in my summer class. The summer bunch needed unremitting alternation of cajolement and bollocking to get them through the work: this lot pretty much teach themselves. One of the Chinese students requested that he be addressed by his family name, after the Thai contingent had delightedly informed him that his given name, Hui, pronounced (more or less) hway, is Thai for ‘penis’. I checked the register to see what his family name is. You have no idea how much I wanted it to be Wang: the odds in favour were pretty high, after all. Unfortunately life’s not like that and it’s actually Luan.