Exam stress: COVID-19 style.

How do! / 你好 (nĭ hăo) / Namaste / Welcome!

This has been the most testing semester of my time teaching within China. When we look back on the spread of the pandemic from China outwards, we can count the tragic loss of lives, the social effects and far more damage to community. Many will look back at the economic impact with aversion. There will be hatred by some, about how governments and leaders globally have failed some and their nations. Loathing and abhorrence towards such matters as travel. There may be limited opportunity to flourish in this COVID-19 era. Trouble is already rife. How many people have lost out? How many people plan right now? Is there a disinclination to trust bug business? Has repugnance crawled around the globe like a thick mist? Do many feel a new kind of animosity?

My personal antipathy is towards the setbacks slung upon education. For many students and parents, they were locked in. Properly shut away. No outreaches and limits held over their head like a noose. Some students have been apart from one of their parents for so long. A mother in China here. A father over in Singapore, or Japan, or Korea, or France there. This isn’t a way for a kid to grow up. How many families are split up by the control of disease? Some will find their father or mother as close as Hong Kong to Shenzhen is, but to their tiny innocent minds, the distance may as well be as far as Kathmandu is from Sao Paulo. These are testing times as we approach the examination periods. Students are being drilled in test papers, exams, and assessments at a rate like bullets spraying from a machine gun in battle.

These poor little minds need protecting with less demands so early in their primary life. In China, students are tested mid-term, end of semester, mid-term and end of year. On top of this there are other tests, so many tests, and very little time to stop thinking about tests. Outside of the primary classroom, they may be assessed at extra learning and training centres, or even via online teaching assessments. I don’t recall seeing a test until I was in year 6 of Chapel Street Primary School. And then, year 9 of secondary school was key for testing. After that every secondary year, college and university year had tests. Yet, outside of England, and the U.K., testing can be little (like Finland) or frequently often (like China).

The pandemic claimed weeks of teaching, then came online teaching which many believed to be near-ineffective. The excitement and rush to the classroom was filled with joy, but soon the happy faces fell away as the weight of condensed programmes filled their tiny blossoming minds. A nine-year-old girl shouldn’t tell you she feels pressure. A ten-year-old boy shouldn’t break down in tears and worry about missing his drumming class. They should be playing in sand, building towers of Lego or shoving their fingers up their nose with not a worry in the world.

Last night’s defeat in the football game between City and Liverpool F.C.’s feeder team Southampton is thrown away. The perspective I have today is clear. These exams should be lighter and easier on the young minds of primary school kids. This is not a way to learn. My first foray into contact rugby on Saturday with Dongguan Bulldogs was tough physically but mentally it was far easier than what these students are facing in China. The gloomy feel of a pandemic lurking in shadows, worries about family and life are entering the world of children too early. Let’s be sensible and try to help them out. Less exams please.

Snow White & The Huntsman (2019 Edition)

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do / S’mae / Namaste

 

This week has mostly been spent preparing for and running examinations. I’ve recorded six listening tests. I’ve assessed 76 students in their oral English examinations. I’ve also ran 26 mathematics and English papers for my class. Yes, we’re firmly into the final furlong of the school’s academic year. Next week will be spent writing 26 student reports and seeing their parents. In some ways it is a pleasure to feed back how good many of the students are behaving and how well they are achieving. My class’s students will have reports based on a school report I had at a similar age. The sections will include:

  1. Attitude
very talented / demonstrates a great capability / increasing in ability / consistent / vocabulary impressive / grammar improving / understanding of work clear / thoughtful / focused / cooperative / enthusiastic /often overzealous / observant / strong / very creative / daydreamer / seeks information independently / good organisational skills / positively curious / passionate / great listening skills / energetic / often a model student / great eye contact and rapport
  1. Interests
  2. Handwriting
excellent / very clear / very good / good / satisfactory / improving
/ needs improvement / poor at times / poor
  1. Effort
Almost the same options as per handwriting.
  1. Recommendations
  1. Read English books or comic books. e.g. Roald Dahl, Dr Seuss, Judith Kerr, Michael Bond, Judy Blume.
  2. Watch productive English videos. e.g. Blue Planet II, Our Planet, Life on Earth, ManCity.com
  3. Listen to English music. e.g. BBC Radio 6 Music, Doves, Arcade Fire, Cherry Ghost, David Byrne
  4. Keep building up their confidence. This is the beginning and we can only get better!
  5. They need more self-belief! YOU CAN DO IT! We can do this together. We need you!
  6. Try to speak English more often. Raise their hand more often. If you don’t try, you don’t do. Practice phonetics/phonics/sounds/reading aloud often.
  7. Practice and improve handwriting. Copy words and sentences from difficult storybooks. Improve accuracy.
  8. Improve teamwork skills. Be more patient. Stop shouting out! Share more. Use manners often. Follow the class rules more closely.
  9. Keep learning! Make mistakes without fear! Talk English as often as possible. Stay curious. Ask questions and look at new things.
  10. Find an interest in cultures, history, wildlife, music, entertainment, etc. What? Who? When? Why? Where? Which? Do? How? Which?
  1. General comments
WORK/CHILDREN/ADULTS excellent / very good / satisfactory / poor at times / poor
OVERALL considerate / well-mannered / positive attitude / would benefit from a little more care and attention / sometimes distracted by others / sometimes needs help controlling emotions / needs further encouragement / expresses ideas clearly / bubbly / dependable

From this, the conversation with each student’s parents will last around 15 minutes. My colleague Cici will provide a great translation service for some but not all the parents.


The raging battle for Number 10 Downing Street’s hot seat goes on. Jeremy Hunt, Tory MP said, the next Prime Minister “must be trustworthy to avoid no Brexit”. He them went on to say he is trustworthy. Is he oblivious to why people call him an obscenity that rhymes with his name? A year as Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, followed around 6 years as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. Before that he was the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport during a time when London held the 2012 Olympics. He was the Minister for the Olympics, having been Shadow Minister for the Olympics and Shadow Minister for Disabled People. Since 2005 he has represented the poor region of South West Surrey as their Member of Parliament. So what is wrong with 52 year old Jeremy Richard Streynsham Hunt?

Some would argue he is a cunt. Others just slip it into news broadcasts and interviews. As a son of a senior officer in the Royal Navy (Admiral Sir Nicholas Hunt), Mr Hunt hasn’t done bad for himself. His rise from impoverished Lambeth to the Houses of Parliament has been meteoric. It hasn’t been helped by him being a distant relation of Elizabeth II and Sir Oswald Mosley. Mr Hunt was educated at a school for the needy, Charterhouse. Here, as headboy, he read Philosophy, Politics, and Economics before attending Magdalen College – a kind of inner-city comprehensive blighted by gun and knife crime. Mr Hunt has been an English language teacher in Japan, on a TEFL-scheme but couldn’t sell marmalade to the Japanese. He needed to explore the Peruvian market.

Mr Hunt has never had trouble with expenses, rules, and has never had a topsy-turvy attitude to exiting the European Union. Nepotism and privilege are word unfamiliar to him. The News Corporation takeover bid for BskyB went well. Nor did he need to apologise over anything relating to the Hillsborough football disaster and national scandal by governments since. If he did, he could use his tax savings from his Hot Course project.

Throughout it all Mr Hunt has supported the NHS – even at the Olympics, via the proven science of homoeopathy, abortion control, chasing foreigners for lost money, hammering back any payrises for medical staff (the greedy undeserving bastards), and managed 231,136 followers on a UK Government website. He has dispensed helpful advice, championed experts, assisted Accident and Emergency departments, and backed extra weekend work. He has truly understood junior doctors, expanded medical care, followed peer reviews closely, without a worry about his own interests. After the NHS he backed the bombers and our bombs and has since battered the EU for being like the former USSR. How his Chinese wife Lucia Guo finds time to see Mr Hunt is beyond me? His political heroes are Hull-born William Wilberforce and Maggie Fucking Thatcher. Mr Hunt cannot be mixed up with the retired cyclist Jeremy Hunt because that 2001 and 1997 British national road race champion wasn’t a cunt. The now director sportif of Azerbaijani Continental team Synergy Baku Cycling Project. The cycling Jeremy Hunt would never refer to his Chinese wife as being “Japanese”. Bad stereotypes, talking about your own wife, and difficult rival nations aside, political Jeremy Hunt is a [INSERT EXPLETIVE HERE].

On the 24th of July, either The Right Honourable Jeremy Hunt or Boris Johnson will enter Number 10 as Prime Minister. The comedian and pub landlord sang. “If we’re going to go down, we’re going to go down together.” Knuckle down and strap yourself in, welcome to the new Blitz,. Snow White or The Huntsman?

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye / Hwyl Fawr / Dhanyabaad / Alavidā

The Trials of Life

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

Have you ever found your mind to be scattered almost everywhere simultaneously at the same time? Have you ever doubted the ground you stand upon as being this very Earth? Have you ever wondered why some things happen to you and not other people? Did you ever start to believe karma is real because once you threw a crisp packet into a litter bin, but it hit the side and blew away in the wind? Do bad days last forever? Has a music number from the genre of the blues been written just for you? Just exactly, how rainy is the day that never stops raining? If pain is temporary and class is permanent, then why did it hurt for so long? If good luck and bad luck are in a bar, then why does good luck choose to stay there and not visit you? How many instances of terrible fortune does it take to defy a fortune cookie? Did Coldplay write your life story? Anyway, it could be worse. I could support the Red Devils!


 

Today, a Thursday, and the fourth working day of a six-day week. Today and tomorrow are exams across the school. The midterm indicator exams. Nothing too special or worrying but amongst our foreign teacher team we have eradicated the need for oral exams at this time. Continual assessment and encouragement is of much more value. Besides it shows that you have more familiarity to the students and parents. For me, it has much more value. On Monday, Operation Greenblue commenced in class 1F. We have now five small rectangles of mint, lavender, rosemary, thyme, tomatoes and lemongrass in the process of growing. Even after two days, excited students peered upon the first sprouts of life. Marcus, the tallest boy, requested that we grow watermelons soon. We shall do our best. Victorie, the tallest girl, has given us all a huge rosemary plant. I encourage their enthusiasm and in turn their new plants will discourage mosquitoes. Meanwhile. my own small crop in my apartment is emerging well. Bye, bye mosquitoes?

 

In around 3 weeks we must stage a school drama and I am working on a script. I’ll add it after the final signature. I want something original and challenging for my 6-7 year-old tribe of talent. That’s why I am here, right? To be the CHAMPION equivalent of Pep Guardiola in the classroom. Surely, I cannot stop evolving simply because I have taught the words long, short, same, and different, this is not enough. Aim high. Later the job will be more rewarding.

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

Act 1: The dawn chorus [Music: Bring Me Sunshine, Ashleigh Wood]

Location: by a tree.

Lewson (narrator): A new day is dawning and all around the tree, sleepy nights are ending with waking yawns.

Sabrina Sunshine: Wow. Today will be a beautiful and bright day. I will make sure of that.

Aaron (bird): Yes, what a delightful day it will be.

CK/Tik (bird): I can’t wait for some yummy worms today.

Hardy (bird): I’m going to sing in my beautiful voice and wake everybody.

Doris (bird): I am a bird – and that means there is no homework!

Angela (Miss Rabbit): I love hopping, shopping and beat box popping.

Kristy Kangaroo: I like hopping too. I hope you get to see me hop all day!

 
Act 2: The Storm steals the sun [Music: Blue Moon]

Location: by another darker tree.

Allen (narrator): A naughty team is being led by Naughty Natalie. She really is very naughty!

Naughty Natalie: I don’t like the sun. It is all shiny and bright, shining in the sky so happily.

Monster Marcus: Yes, I like a dark night with the glow of the moon.

Typhoon Tyler: I like wind. Lots and lots of wind. I don’t mind of it is sunny or dark.

Marline the moon: I shine best at night. I need the sun for my light, but I can reflect with a smaller light if needed.

Tony the Tiger: Naughty Natalie, I have an idea! Let’s steal the sun and give the moon a new home.

Leon the Lion: Oh, you are naughty but I like you!

 
Act 3: The hunt for the sun [Music: Benny Hill theme tune]

Location: a tree by a small bridge.

Alice (narrator): In the U.K. people are always looking for the sun. Today, all around the world, many more animals and people are looking for the sun. Will they find the sun? Will they save the day?

Happy Henry (goat): I’m big Happy Henry, they all know me. I eat grass, whilst you sit on your…

Billy the kid (goat): Stop, I’m Billy the kid, a goat that did, not do homework, for I was chewing some grass, sat upon my…

Jimmy Jams (goat): Stop! I’m Jimmy Jams, a goat who slams, words for fun, out in the sun.

Candy the Caterpillar:  I have too many legs. It takes me an hour to tie my shoe laces. We’ve been walking for hours looking for the sun. It is too dark to find our lovely sun.

Kitty Cat: Don’t worry, I’m a cool cat and we look for food at night. That’s right. We can find anything at night. [Kitty Cat trips over in the dark]

Jumping Jessie Cat: Meeeeeoowwww, sunny, sunny sun, where are you? The sun is far too big to hide!

 
Act 4: Saving the sun [Music: Run Boy Run]

Location: A different tree, that looks like the other trees.

Allen (narrator): Many hours passed. A team of superheroes was called into action. Let’s get ready for action. Action!

Rocket Roselle: We have been flying around schools, parks, hospitals and even Manchester but we cannot find the sun!

Super Soffy: We can look around like the Old McDonald song. We can look here, there, everywhere…

Daring Dongyee: [sings] Old McDonald had a farm… [laughs] We can save the world, one step at a time. Where shall we look now?

Doctor Evan: I have been thinking and the sun is too big to hide. It must be on the other side of the world.

Kind Kelly: Okay, let’s go. Super Soffy and Rocket Roselle, you can fly there. Doctor Evan, Special Sharon and I can take a taxi.

Special Sharon: I might walk there. I don’t like taxis.

Altogether: Off we go, to save the day! We are stronger together!

 
Act 5: Altogether now [Music: Fight for the right to party]

Location: by two trees.

Allen (narrator): Our bold heroes find the other side of the world. After waiting for the taxi to arrive and making a very large payment, our heroes find the sun. The sun is trapped by Naughty Natalie.

Super Soffy: Give us back the sun!

Monster Marcus: You will not stop us. Ha ha ha. You are no Super Baby!

Doctor Evan: A baby can’t be super. I’ve never even seen a baby cook for themselves!

Typhoon Tyler: We will fight to the end!

Sunshine Sabrina: I just want to shine in the day and make everyone happy.

Daring Dongyee: Okay

Naughty Natalie: I will win this fight. Ha ha ha.

Marline the moon: I want to be alone – all by myself. No sun. Just me, the moon!

Tony the Tiger: Grrrrrreat

Leon the Lion: Let’s eat the sun. I bet it tastes lovely and hot.

Kind Kelly: You will do no such thing.

Special Sharon: I don’t want to fight!

 

[breakdancing battle]

 

[rock, paper, scissors fight]

 

[arm-wrestling fight]

 

Justin Time: Wait! Wait! Wait! Stop! Stop! Stop! We all need the sun. We all need the moon. We all need day to play and we all need night to sleep.

Doctor Evan: Yes, Justin Time, you are right. We need to be friends. We must enjoy both the day and the night.

Jumping Jessie Cat: All we need is love.

Altogether: {sings} du du du duhhh

Victoire Violin:

[sings] I love you. You love me. We love each other and we’re family.

Altogether: [sings] I love you. You love me. We love each other and we’re family. [and dancing]

 
Students bow to audience and say, “Thank you kindly for watching our performance. Have a happy day today, tomorrow and keep smiling!”

[Music: Hello Sunshine, Super Furry Animals]