March – Let 100 Blog Posts Bloom

Footnote 1: The title is a reference to the “Hundred Flowers” movement. The aim of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership was to start an open critique of the CCP by China’s intellectuals. In a speech that was delivered on 2 May 1956, Mao elaborated on the idea of “letting a hundred flowers bloom” in the field of culture. If you want to read more then look at pages 536 to 543 of Jonathan D. Spence’s book: The Search for Modern China.

Footnote 2: English teachers in China should never discuss history, politics or their preference of Coke or Pepsi.

March was a It was a mundane but busy month. Every line in my diary gets filled. I focused on online activity and writing.

My blog really got up an running. I had the blog re-designed in a fetching combination of green, blue and pink. I wrote an article about whether Chinese students should study abroad. I got a decent response to the article because I demanded that all my friends read it and comment on it. I was satisfied when some strangers read the article.

2008_03_29 March Coffee House_109 I also tapped into the Tianjin expats online community. I still have membership of The site works well because there is a small and motivated audience. A perfect niche. I used it to chat with other expats and publicise the school.

I started setting up the school’s new website for attracting new students. Like all IT projects, it was over budget and very very late. I hosted this month’s Coffee House, which was about Easter. There is photographic evidence below:

Economic forecast

Inflation lurches higher in Britain and JP Morgan offers to buy Bear Stearns for $2 a share. Could it get any worse? Yes – the price of bananas rise in my local street market.

Last Day Teaching


I’ve turned in my textbooks; cleared my desk; moved my photo to the “Former Teachers” wall. I hope that my students learnt some English and didn’t get bored by my jokes.

Teaching was an enjoyable experience because teachers are respected in China. Imparting knowledge to other is a satisfying experience for most people. Below are some thoughts about it all:

  • Ban on Chinese – I banned Chinese in the classroom to the point of screaming at students to use English only. This is a fundamental law in teaching theory. However, some days I gave up because there seemed to be no other way to teach. Some students can’t seem to escape thinking in Chinese.
  • Differences in Western and Chinese learning styles – My lessons are proactive and encourage students to talk as much as possible and ask questions. Traditionally, the Chinese students learn by passively listening to the teacher. Should a Western language be taught in a Western style?
  • Chinese English Teachers I’ve met students that have been learning English since before I was born but have not managed to go beyond the elementary levels. This reflects the lack of native teachers in Chinese primary schools and the emphasis on reading and writing, rather than communication.
  • Whiteboard or blackboard? – You decide.
  • Do good students overcome bad teachers, or do good teachers overcome bad students? – I’m saying that learning language is a partnership between student and teacher.
  • English is definitely harder to learn than Chinese.

If any former students wish to make a complaint then please leave a comment below:

Being British Born Chinese – A Reflection

I got requested to write a response to my culture lesson a month ago. I’m finally getting around to it. At the start of the class was an activity where students stood to the right of the class if they agreed with a statement¬†and on the left if they did not. A fellow expat/teacher/blogger called Meg warned me that Chinese students were prone to the herding effect, which means they would all stand at one side of the class. Fortunately, this didn’t happen.

The lesson itself was a little difficult to teach because using a projector to show the slides stifled discussion. It would have been better to print hand-outs and break up the class into small groups.

To end the lesson, I asked the following questions:

  • Was Susan (the British-born Chinese girl) British or Chinese?
  • Where should a BBC live?

The general consensus was that she was mostly British, which is what I would agree with. One significant remnant of Chinese culture that I have inherited is an immense weight of obligation to my parents. All non-deadbeat parents sacrifice for their children, but Chinese parents go the extra mile, with children strapped to their backs and no shoes on their feet. This, plus other idiosyncrasies, means that BBCs produce their own culture.

I was slightly shocked to find one student strongly suggesting that BBCs should live in China. It wasn’t my fault that I was born outside the Motherland. I can’t even contemplate living outside Britain.

Now, I am really interested in knowing what the Mainlander’s attitude is towards Chinese born overseas.¬† If anyone else is interested then please send me a large cheque to sponsor my PHD.