TJ is a writer living in Portland, OR.

Finals Week

Finals Week

I’m about to leave on vacation so this is going to be fast.

I’m done teaching; I’ve turned in my final grades to the school.

For the final I conducted interviews with my students, I figured since I teach ‘Oral English’ then I needed to see all the students talk. I have almost 300 students. It took two weeks to get through all my classes.

Judging the English skill of my students is difficult. It’s hard to attach a number to how well they speak.

My grading scale for the final (and most assignments): Great > Good > OK > Meh > Nope.

I am very professional. Obviously.

When finals week approached I had several students show up who had stopped coming after the first weeks of class. Technically, I can fail a student who misses three or more classes.

The woman I know who taught here before told me that I shouldn’t bother to fail students. Essentially I am a figurehead at the school, a Westerner to hold up as an example of prestige. What I actually do here doesn’t matter. Which makes sense since no real credentials are required to do this job, I have complete freedom to do what I want, and there is almost no oversight by my department. Most of the students I teach aren’t English majors, they will never take another Oral English class again after this. It’s not my job to make these kids fluent, I’m essentially a glorified babysitter. Also, if I do fail a student the school might just pass them anyway. This has happened in previous years.

So I interviewed each kid, one at a time, and decided I wouldn’t care about all the kids who never show up and don’t put any effort in. I will just give them all 60, the lowest possible passing grade.

I actually have a student who does not speak English. At all. Another student had to translate everything we both said and every time I’ve tried to talk to him in class he just looked away like I wasn’t there. That kid is going to pass because there is no point in trying to fail him.

I had quite a few students that are great and showed up to every class, I tried to make sure to tell each of them that I appreciated them.

I have no idea what the kids think of me as a teacher, they are a hard group to read, though the dean of my department apparently asks the kids about me and quite a few said they really enjoyed my class. I felt like slightly less of a joke.

Also, I got bronchitis during finals week. Because I had the flu. It made interviewing 300 students very difficult.

I do have two freshman classes of English majors. I decided to give them the same final because the school doesn’t really pay attention to what I do.

On Friday, the last day of interviews, in the last class I would teach that semester I lost it on two students. They were English majors and had not shown up since the second week of class, they were boys of course. Instead of asking them about what they would do during the winter holiday, which I had asked every other student, I asked them why they didn’t come to class. Unsurprisingly they could not come up with an answer and so I berated them for being lazy, asked how they thought they would pass a final with such poor English skills, and then told them to get out of my face and stop wasting my time.

I think I am too petty to be a teacher.

I think I need a vacation. Fortunately, that starts tomorrow.


After a stressful week of finals I treated myself to my first Dunkin' Donuts.

After a stressful week of finals I treated myself to my first Dunkin' Donuts.

Other writings about life in China

Other writings about life in China

Boyfriend Mountain

Boyfriend Mountain