New year, new influenza. The first week of the new year has seen the greater part of the foreign teaching staff bed-ridden with assorted Chinese variations of the winter flu. My turn came in the middle of last week, though I had to teach through it as my three sick-days were used up as far ago as July. Sadly my bug-addled brain led to me slipping up and making one of the biggest mistakes of my teaching career.
I’d been teaching an adult class in the afternoon with only seven students – one never turned up and the others seemed to get to every other lesson. On average there were three in the class, but sometimes as many as five and sometimes as few as one. This is not at all unusual for a daytime class, especially such a small one.
Last Wednesday the inevitable day came when nobody was there at the start. I stuck around in the classroom for fifteen minutes, then left a note on the door for late arrivers and went upstairs to the teachers’ office to see if the internet had been fixed.
At this point the head of the ‘teaching center’ came in and for some reason I told her about the lack of students. This was the mistake. While I taught the one student who arrived a few minutes later the other six were phoned and quizzed as to why they hadn’t come and how the class could be improved. An hour-and-a-half later I stood at the reception and asked what the students had said. Unsurprisingly I was told they all had things to do that day and hadn’t been able to make it.
All the same I’d managed to get a couple of panicking staff on the case. No students being there is a problem and a problem needs a solution; the solution in this case being to take me off the class and put an American on instead as “perhaps they will understand an American accent more easily than an English one.” The American in this case being Kevin, one of the least comprehensible people in the city.
With my other classes ending within the week I now have the prospect of “no teaching hours at all” looming. I suppose I could be pleased about this. But I’m not.

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