A long, long day for the Chinese teenagers
31.03.2009 13 °C
To be a student at a boarding school in China is, it seems, not an easy task. Going by Western standards, in fact, their daily schedule is little short of eye watering.
They rise at around 6am, and breakfast is served at 7.10am. First class starts before eight, and the morning lessons are only punctured by little five-minute breaks in between and the collective morning exercises performed en masse in the school yard at 9.40am.
Lunch is served super-early at 11.35am - I imagine it's sorely needed though after all that. They do get two hours off for lunch, but it seems a lot of people take the opportunity to snooze. Then before they know it, they're back on again at 1.30pm, with only their compulsory eye exercises at 3.15pm to look forward to before classes finish at 4.10pm.
Their what? I know - at first glance, it's very weird to see them all rub their eyes in rhythmic unison, but soon enough you realise they'd probably be half blind without doing them given their workload.
Dinner is served right after the end of lessons, and then the students have about two hours to run around - this mostly consisting of basketball, the sport of choice around here - before they're whistled back into class at 6pm for three hours of 'self-study', which is actually supervised study in the classroom.
After that, if they have any energy left, they get to go mad for 25 minutes before they have to get into their rooms, and then it's ten minutes before lights out at 9.40pm. Then Exeunt, with no exceptions. From myself and Megan's perch on the hill, we can hear the teenage madness for a short time every evening, then like clockwork all is dark and perfectly quiet until the next day. It's like how I picture military school.
For us though, living on campus is an advantage in this place I think because you get a proper sense of the students' daily grind and you can aim for a realistic mid-tempo in the lessons. Unfortunately, it also means we're within earshot of the bells, which ring around campus 26 times a day by the schedule, if not more. There is a two-minute warning bell as well as a start- and end-bell for every lesson - there's even a bell marking half-way through lunch! Granted we don't hear them all, but the pa-rum-pum-pum marching music for the morning exercises in particular is hard to miss.
As for the weekends, well they're a bit of a wash for the students. Some or all of them appear to have classes on a Saturday, and self-study is back on from 6-9pm on Sunday. This coming weekend is a holiday weekend for Qing Ming Festival (comparable to All Souls Day) - one of the Chinese teachers told me she had no confirmation of the Monday off but was looking forward to her 'two holiday days', otherwise known as Saturday and Sunday.
For us, meanwhile, it's a bit of a life of privilege as a foreign experts. We're contracted to do 18 teaching hours a week plus five extra-curricular hours per month, and so far we're only doing about three-quarters of that. However our grandly titled boss Mr Chen, the school's head of Foreign Affairs, is wont to call us at any hour and summon us to his office straight away. More about that and the life of a teacher at Xueyuan Fuzhong next time, dear readers. Until then, thank God you're not a Chinese boarder!