Pressing onward into the American & Chinese Winter Holiday Season, Teachers & students alike prepare diligently for the end of the semester &, in particular, Final Exams. Exams in Oral English for Sophomores are calculated in different ways depending on the Level of competency that students started with & have achieved, thus far. Generally, Sophomores are graded in creativity, fluidity, pronunciation & function while Freshman tend to have a more uniformed method, focusing intensively & specifically on pronunciation with easier functions of sentence structure & conversation. Having the good fortune of being able to experience teaching in both my own Sophomore classes & substituting in 3 Freshman classes, I’ve decided for the 2ndsemester, starting in February, to implement more Pronunciation skills development for my Sophomores similar to the Freshman along with additional instruction on IPA, the International Phonetics Alphabet & how it compares to Pin Yin consonants & vowels. Thus, I’ve made the creation of an IPA to Pin Yin to American English comparison chart as a goal of mine for the long break that we all have before classes resume in February. I’ve decided too that I’ll implement many of the pronunciation lessons that I’m learning for the Freshman into my weekly Sophomore classes. The other SIAS inhabitants formulate plans to return to their homes in China & America, to work, travel visiting other Asian regions & countries, or spend quiet times on the SIAS campus.
Before the testing & break begins, the Peter Hall faculty is invited to one of the 5 mansions on the grounds to celebrate Christmas together on the evening of December 17th. Wow this is an experience beyond my typical life’s wanderings!! In all of the beautiful homes I’ve lived in while working or caring for well cared for widows during my Dad Hagin years of Rhema commitment, I’ve never stepped foot into what would be considered a “real” mansion such as this! I felt so very much at home too; as if GOD, HIMSELF had invited all of us to have CHRISTMAS with HIM this year! It was really very wonderful, as we all enjoyed each other during the celebration of our Lord JESUS CHRIST with delicious foods, a white elephant gift exchange, Christmas carols, karaoke, pre arranged music ensembles & just “hanging out”. I felt so loved & genuinely cared for while Worshiping JESUS in this way too! As if HEAVEN had descended just for our party to HONOR CHRIST! Thank YOU Gracious Father GOD & Dr Chen for your Christmas gift to Peter Hall this year!
The students too, want to share in some of the gift giving amongst themselves & with Teacher. They continue bringing fruits to my apartment which we all happily gobble up together! They bring little toys, candy, home made & deluxe cards of Christmas & New Year greetings, scarves, journals, candles, trinkets, etc to express their affections. Having 274 students that I’d like to find a gift of some kind to give to each, I scour the internet & discover darling wooden bookmarkers that seem perfect, however, alas; I can’t find a company that delivers within China though, even when they are located in China! Finally, prayer & persistence pays off & for the girls, I discover in a local shop on Campus, lovely hand made Chinese red bracelets that I can afford & that will benefit the SIAS entrepreneur, as well. For the young men, I do find something online that seems good, which is pens imprinted with a Benjamin Franklin $100 bill picture on each as a reminder to be good providers for their future wives! That has to be TRUE LOVE too, in action, of course! Wish it could have been a 100 RMB or Yuan bill on the pen, but I am an English Teacher so I think they will tolerate the US money reminder rather than their own beloved currency....After all, time is money no matter how you count it!
Another delightful Christmas activity that I volunteered for & was selected to participate in, was to play Mr or Mrs Santa Claus in Zhengzhou @ one of their premier 5 star Hotels located conveniently in the western commerce district only 4 minutes from the Railway station & 40 minutes from the airport! What an exciting & busy Christmas Eve & Christmas morning that I found myself to be a part of! We are driven for our overnight assignment by Hotel personnel, on early Christmas Eve afternoon after having been measured a few weeks before for our Claus costumes. Upon arrival to the Yuda Palace Hotel towering high above the city & featuring 365 deluxe rooms which are offered free to children under 2 too, we are greeted by Joanne, a former Beijing University graduate who speaks English well & who instructs us about what we should expect for the evening after a light snack @ 4:30 pm & getting “suited up” as Santa & Mrs Claus. Of the 9 "chosen" to carry out the “merriment” & “good cheers”, Judy & I are the only 2 older single women who represent the North Pole Team & as it turns out, Judy is uneasy about donning Santa’s pants, so despite her wider girth, she selects the dress that I was measured for & I jump into Santa’s trousers in order to keep her comfortable for the evening. Naomi, Melodie & Dwight Duckins are our only African American, dark skinned Claus family; while Troy & Coral plus Conner & Tana fit their roles perfectly. We enjoy a soup, salad & sandwich meal before beginning our shifts that start around 5:30. At that time, Joanne has each of us hand out delicious candies to children & a few “sweet toothed” adults that get in line for the treats, while ringing our bell & ushering in the Christmas spirit American style. We all canvas varied floors with banquet rooms to share the delicacies with families who have children that are celebrating together for varied reasons. My “HO HO HO” resonates quite naturally, along with the bell ringing & photos with children, which made the quiet Mrs “Judy” Claus much happier. Joanne kindly works us rapidly for about an hour then generously gives each up to an hour rest before going again to another floor for another hour before another break, until we are all finally brought together again to pose for photos with happy faces of all ages. Finally, before turning in for the night, we are given the most delicious meal I think I’ve ever had from a sumptuous & extravagant buffet. Sushi, meats, soups, vegetables, fruits, desserts, beverages, wonderful delicacies are available for our desired choosing until we are satisfied! OMG!!! I want to sample all of it & I almost do!
After my own personal late night Holy Communion to Worship JESUS & a restful night’s sleep, Christmas morning invites us to another buffet of amazing breakfast foods & beverages! OMG!!! Again I’m overwhelmed with the extravagant choices that are before us!!! I would add too that even though I didn’t determine online if the Hotel has an indoor pool, I had brought my swimming suit for a possible leisurely swim sometime during our Christmas visit. Regretfully, I didn't go, even though I did find out too late that I might have been able to indulge that favorite activitiy too had I pressed in further to inquire of Joanne about the pool. Oh had I only known! Regardless, what an impressive, enchanting & unforgettable Christmas of both work & pleasure!!! My my my, how the “rich & famous” must love & soon expect so very much all of the pampering that they indulge themselves with!!! Upon arrival to Peter Hall, we are greeted by all who have gathered for Becca’s Traditional Family Brunch! Her “monkey breakfast bread” is quickly devoured by those present to share in the Christmas Love of Peter Hall. Bidding adieu to Christmas isn’t easy this year, I must say, as I’ve never felt quite so Blessed again, almost as a Child graciously cared for!
December can’t end well until all grades are entered into the SIAS Information System, thus the “crunch of timelines” is felt by, maybe too many. Some have maintained records on a daily basis, others weekly, which has been my habit, & those who collected their data sporadically were maybe a bit more frustrated & harried in the race to the finish line so that December 27th & later deadlines would be met. Being required to keep all grades within a B-C grade point average bell curve proved to be for me, both confusing & also, liberating at the same time. I don’t yet understand the purpose of this maintenance procedure, however, I quickly learned that I had worked my students much too hard each week thinking I would be issuing several A’s & no D’s, however, I find that the SIAS grading requirements are much different that what my Grand Valley State U Education classes geared me for. Simultaneously, I find too that the students are happy as long as they pass. Consequently, I question why they use a grading system at all, for Oral English, when what I entered for student grades didn’t reflect the work or growth of my students’ performances, whatsoever. Instead, I think, why not use only a Pass/Fail system as the most fair approach for all OE students as I recall Thomas Jefferson College did for their students @ GVSU. OE is required of all Chinese college students for 2 years & the levels of competency vary so very much that Pass/ Fail seems a more accurate & genuine analysis of whole class capability. I, personally, didn’t issue any D’s since all students improved to a degree from the 70% or C weekly grade we first started with & most were quite diligent with weekly tasks, particularly since the Midterm Exam. On the other hand, I couldn’t issue what I considered well deserved, meritorious A’s either. An A in my class wouldn’t have defined English Speaking perfection as Journalism & England define such; however, it would have meant that the student had increased his or her vocabulary, pronunciation, descriptive word usage, interest & focus, creative, spontaneous conversation know-how & perhaps an increase of SLA Level protocol, as well. “Live & Learn”, as the saying goes, with the many different practices that organizations & cultures support & encourage or require. Life itself is a never ending school of learning, so I bite the bullet & am grateful for issuing B’s & that the students don’t expect much more than passing anyway.
At last, we are all ready & eager for the much needed & deserved “brake” that New Year’s Eve & 2012 offers, so we proceed with plans for the Chinese Winter Holiday season before us. Until next time, I pray that you continue to enjoy your families, friends, & the pleasure of each others company with the precious time that GOD gives to you with each of them.