I've told most of my classes that next weekend is my last. The response has been more... emotional than I had thought it would be. My TB 3As vehemently protested and flat-out said they didn't want to have another teacher and asked what would make me stay. My EF 5s were in shock and asked if I was serious. My HF Starters asked Lily if I meant I was going on vacation but coming back. It broke my heart seeing them confused and sad. My Early Learners don't know, nor do my HF 1As. I don't think there'll be much of a reaction from the ELs, due to their age, and not sure how the HF 1As will react. I've only just inherited them from Nick (6 weeks ago), so it might be an easier transition for them.
The really sad part is that within 2-3 classes of me being gone, they might remember me in name but they'll have a new attachment to the new teacher (or whoever takes over that particular class). It was the same for me when I took over Nick's classes, Michelle's Market Leader and Joe's Early Learners. Nick's HF 1As remember his name, but their attachment is to me. That's just the name of the ESL game. There are a few things I can claim to have done: Leo in my HF Starter class is writing now, Leo in my Early Learner class is addicted to saying "See you later!", and Sally in HF 1A is smiling - often and without reservation.
On the plus side, I've gotten tonnes of great pictures of my kiddie classes (up on Flickr). I can't stop looking at them. They just make me smile something fierce. They're such great kids, and teaching and entertaining them has been an enormous pleasure for me. As much as I love and miss people back home, I can't lie: I wouldn't trade this experience for anything. It's amazing how much saying "This is a short pencil, yes?" (pointing at an elephant) and receiving a boisterous and joyous "Noooo! It's a big elephant!" can make one's day. I don't think I'll find a job that can so easily keep me in high spirits, but we'll see.
Something I keep forgetting to mention is this: during Spring Festival, one of the teachers from one of the other English schools in Tangshan committed suicide. Not in a quiet kind of way either. It was quite sad, and hit the teachers at EF in a very personal way. I didn't know her, so I have to admit to not having much in the way of feelings about it. It was sad and shocking, but more in a "Wow... that shit's crazy" sort of way. Again, I'd never met her and had only hung out with her co-workers once or twice at Wu Huan or Han Li (bars).
In other news, we have a new teacher - my replacement, I suppose, though also Nick's. She's from the Philippines, and seems nice enough. She arrived on Friday and was doing observations all weekend. She watched my TB 2C class this afternoon. Hard to tell what she thought of their ummm... disability. I think she'll do alright. There's always a serious period of adjustment, and a massive learning curve. Hell, thinking of how I was teaching last summer makes me cringe. I'd never do now half of what I did then. It's like Joe said: "Teach the class, but plan the course." Hard to see the forest for all the trees in the beginning.
I had a great 1-on-1 Chinese lesson with Claire on Thursday. She was unrelenting, and didn't cut me any slack. I wanted to learn proper questions/answers dialogues for travel, so we did a train station scenario and I learned a lot that will help me immensely in the next two weeks. When I would have said "Wo yao yi piao qu Xi'an" I now know to say "Wo xiang mai yi zhang cong Tangshan dao Xi'an de piao", and how to ask for times and departures, and words for hard seats, soft seats and sleepers as well as times of day and other such things. Also, things like how to tell what they're doing that doesn't affect me: "Hao, rang wo kan yi xia... You ming tian xia wu xing ma?" (Okay, let me look. We have one for tomorrow in the afternoon (is that alright?)) "Keyi" (Works for me) or "Bu xing, tai wan le" (No good, it's too late). Etc. Just feels empowering to use the language properly, and use it outside of the boundaries of lessons. I had a good conversation with a taxi driver the other day, and today I answered a few parents' questions in Chinese. "Ta ting dong!" (He understands!) It's all the little things, I guess.
It was Lily's birthday last week, so I gave her a be-lated present: one of my hacky-sacks I'd bought in Canada. I think she's liable to pet it more than use it, but she was happy. They don't really have hacky-"sacks" here. They have... well, like modified badminton shuttle-cocks (image).
There are just so many things I'm going to miss. As much as seeing Roger and Kelly in the mornings made Distrust bearable, very little can compare to six chipper assistants greeting you when you walk in still half-asleep, followed by a class full of wee'uns shouting out "Good morning, Teacher!". The planning can be rough at times, but overall it's not a hard job. I never really thought I'd be all that great at it, and hell I guess there's no saying I am, though I'd like to think so. I'm not much of a people person, but I'm certainly coming back to Canada much different than I was with. The biggest change has been in how I think of myself. I've generally been more or less satisfied with who I was, but now I'm happy with it. You can't buy that kind of feeling. Who can say what 7,000 kms and 6 weeks wandering around the rest of China will do to/for me?
10 days left, and only 6 of them are working days.