My first day working at Tsinghua University’s Academic Bridge Program was Tuesday, September 1. The timing was fortunate because I had spent all day Monday recovering from my illness and would have had to miss work if it had started on Monday.
Our first week was all about preparing for the school year. It had elements of a normal US teacher workshop week, but it also felt a little like new student orientation at college because the students were also getting situated. All of the students live in dorms on campus, so there are a lot of extra things to do to get them settled. Below is the overview of the week.
My first day began with a two hour teacher meeting in the morning where I met most of my colleagues. We discussed the plan for the week and also got a vague idea of academic orientation week (week of 9/7). I was treated to my first lunch on campus because they didn’t have a meal card ready for me. It was pretty good, though not quite up to MPA standards. To everyone’s surprise, the day turned from a planned half-day into a full-day at the last minute (common in China) in order to hurry up student placement interviews. So that afternoon my colleague, Bill, and I ended up doing English interviews with about 20 students to determine their level. Bill and I had a fun time working together.
Having been trained in on the interview process with Bill on Tuesday, I graduated and got my own students to interview individually, which I did for the morning. Then after lunch, I got situated in my office, got introduced to my computer, met with some other teachers, and began planning my classes for orientation week. I also gave myself a tour of the classrooms to start getting a sense of what the space was like.
Luckily I got to “work from home” on Thursday, which really made up for the extra half-day on Tuesday. I spent my time preparing five 2-hour introductory lessons for my Tutor Group (think homeroom) on things like building community, classroom expectations, reviewing school policies, expectations for essay writing, etc… As I planned these classes, I didn’t know when, where, or to whom I would be teaching them, which frustrated me a little bit but was par for the course in China I was told.
Friday began at 9:00 with a formal 2-hour opening ceremony for the Academic Bridge Program. It took place in an auditorium that felt like fancy hotel conference room. The important people in the school spoke, almost all in Chinese, and they welcomed the students to the program. It was a long haul. What saved me were my Chinese flash cards and the bottomless cups of tea they served. After the ceremony, I walked home for three hours and then reported to the school at 2:00 for our first all employee meeting, which I was told could last four hours. Luckily, it lasted about two hours. After the meeting, the school took us out to dinner at a spicy Hunan restaurant. I tried a lot of things, including donkey, which I really liked.