January 23, 2019


Home again, home again

January 23, 2019

Thirty six hours ago I quit the balmy bearhug of a beachside Australian summer and have fetched up again in the chill embrace of Chinese winter. All the things that seem so hard about leaving China behind look so easy to solve if I were still in Australia. The biggest single discovery is what I really want is some way to get on the road with this teaching program I’ve developed. If I could carry it out of China with me, I’d leave.

So I guess that’s the next phase, Operation GTFO, or How to Make All That China Experience Count In Some Place That Isn’t China.


December 17, 2018

Cash in hand, worth pretty much nothing in the bush

December 17, 2018

  I wonder if I didn’t just screw the pooch.

  Today was supposed to be routine. I’d be accompanied to the bank, me and the accomplice would therein perform an open and routine dodge of the law and my earnings from this year would be transferred out of China.

  Instead we hung around the office debating the merits of different money transferring schemes. Banks were called. Experiences were shared. Conclusions were reached, largely negative, about the ability of any Chinese citizen these days to send a large amount of a foreigner’s money abroad anymore. The accomplice would be questioned, genuinely, it seems now. If the citizen didn’t provide a genuinely adequate explanation for where she acquired this large sum of money and why she was sending it abroad, the transaction would be declined or the citizen would be in trouble. Concerns over actual consequences for the citizen were sufficiently real the secretary went to the Accounting office and came back with actual tax certificates and bid me attempt a correct and legally documented act of remitting salary according to contract. In fifteen years, she’s never done that before.

  The Accounting office sucks balls, however. They’re not actually able to immediately account for anything other than the current month. The bank, when we finally went there, required the full year’s worth. When we got back from the bank, the secretary and the fao conferred at some mistaken length on why I might want all those tax certificates, but eventually it was determined that this seemingly arbitrary requirement wasn’t actually mine or Australia’s but China and the bank’s. At this point we all lamented how the Accounting Office would be going on holiday from the 25th of December and there wouldn’t be enough time to discover a year’s worth of documents in the tremendous piles of everyone else’s monthly documents from the entire year. (And it’s only just now occurred to me, that means they said a week wouldn’t be enough time…. wtf do they have in the accounting office that they can’t account for documents?!)

  Anyway, at some point in all this wandering about among the high flyers and their offices, the fao asked me to be an accomplice in a corrupt act.

  At the time I said no problemo. (The fuck was I thinking?!)

  The corrupt act is a classic of the genre. The office has had a lot of out-of-pocket expenses over the last six months, mostly related to wining and dining assorted visiting foreigners and student delegation. Well, according to current regulations they can’t write up their expenses that way anymore (or ever…?), and what they needed was for someone – a staff member – to lay claim to imaginary overtime. A lot of overtime. Ten thousand smackers worth. And when the school paid that staff member for that (my) claimed “work”, that staff member would send the cash on over to the secretary and she’d use it to pay the restaurants, who are by now quite in an uproar over these quite considerable unpaid meal tickets.

  And I said yes, ffs.

  Only, just now, I also said no. I sent a message to the fao saying all this overtime I’ll be scheduled to do, I really don’t know how it’ll affect me in the future and it feels like a mistake. (Yes indeed, I worded it as if I had been asked to do actual overtime. I did not ever, nor will I ever, in recorded form attributable to me, say I’m declining the corrupt act you suggested.)

  Thankfully, maybe, the fao sent a message back saying no problemo even though there’d probably be no “affection” (by which s/he means no “affect”, but hey, it’s a good punchline.)

  Couple of reasons why.

  One, in a quite paranoid moment I wondered if I wasn’t being set up. Sure, the explanation is likely real. But how easy would it be for someone to prove I didn’t do any of the claimed overtime? Probably mighty hard if they weren’t particularly determined. Or really easy if they were connected well enough to make it look right. That is, no one really would come looking for me unless they knew I had this dirt, and the only people who would know are everyone in the FAO office…. these are the people who not six months ago were hanging me out to dry over a fucked up visa application…

  Two, if I am ever going to send my money out of China, I’ll need the Accounting Office to follow the law. I’ll need the FAO to insist they follow the law. I’ll need everyone to be motivated by impersonal concerns for the rule of law and good bureaucracy. How will I ever be righteous and insistent if I’ve been slippery before?

  But really it’s three, that while everyone was “helping” me today no one actually caused the accounting office to provide the right documents. So I won’t be sending 15,000 AUD to my home bank account. And I won’t be paying my credit card bill. And that credit card won’t be available for easy use when I travel to Australia in three weeks. And I won’t be funneling all the remaining money into my retirement fund.

  The fuck kind of patsy am I supposed to be anyway?

凸(⊙▂⊙✖ )

November 18, 2018

Teaching Capabilities Statement #4 (400-600 words)

November 18, 2018

The reason I want to be a teacher

  To pay the bills?

  But initially I got into this racket because there wasn’t really anything else. Office jobs horrified me, manual labour just isn’t me, and am I qualified for anything else really? Teaching was being an academic without any of those godawful research projects…

  These days…

  I want to be a teacher so there’s people I can speak to. You don’t know what it’s like walking around with all this sophistication locked up inside my head. It’s like I’m the only one. But none of what I know is especially idiosyncratic, so why aren’t more people thinking and talking this way?!

  Fact is though, I don’t want to be a teacher.

  I want to be a professional teacher.

  I’ve been the guy who stands up in front of the classes. I’ve made up instructions for people to follow. I’ve gotten pissy when they didn’t. I’ve changed what I know and how I present it. Yet I still can’t make a program that works all the time. I still don’t know where I fit. I still want something that doesn’t just rely on me. I don’t want just to push people around. I want to teach.

My understanding of the role

  Isn’t that what I was going to learn when I got into your teacher training program?

  Well if it’s not, then I think a teacher organizes onboarding to the knowledge train. Facts and figures and all that jazz appear in textbooks and a quick enough kid can pick all that up by himself. But if someone’s around to introduce how it all works as a larger whole, then the connectedness of knowledge begins to appear and may even become accessible.

  So I’m saying a certain amount of the work is meant to be done by the learner but that learning is a skill and why not have someone on hand to show you the ropes?

  I wonder if that’s not an unusual idea these days. For a while there it was looking like people thought knowledge was some kind of deliverable, like it came from the teacher without being constructed by the student. Teacher has to inculcate constructive skills of course, and that gets shoveled under the catch-all of “critical thinking”, but we surely knew that a student with critical thinking skills is one who can create their own knowledge, right?

My personal qualities and communication skills

  Attributes and aptitudes for teaching? Well I have all the basics. I get to class early. I regulate the environment and seek to coordinate activities with curriculum goals. I spend time thinking about how to make a match up between what happens in the classroom and what was supposed to happen in the students’ heads. I’m not especially personable but I have a certain charisma when I get onto my favourite topics. I’m eager to see others display the constructing of what they know.

  And I’ll call myself a fraction impatient as well because how many times do I have to write this statement? Just give me the fucking job already.


October 26, 2018


October 26, 2018

  Said some probably unforgivable things in class today. That the best punishment I had to hand for “you” was to leave you as you are…

  I think I know the source of my frustration and the reason I’m taking all this personally (and acting badly in class). It’s that I’m offering, repeatedly, to be the monitor in these communications. I am, selflessly and with a now bounded joyful heart, setting myself up as an arbiter, and these punks are saying no thanks. I want to be involved and these…. students! are saying eww.

  And I reply with contempt?

  Why yes, I do.

  Argh, it’s so mixed up. On the one hand, it’s the classic teacher faux pas – taking shit out on the students. On the other hand, these fuckers are a great deal more capable than they think they let on, and they are choosing the anti-communicative path.

  So which side do I choose: their actions say they’re adults or however big they act they remain innocent like babes and still need caring instruction?

  Preferably whichever side doesn’t see me being childish about my own personal involvement.

  This idea of how case studies plus a discourse model stimulates communication practice is new to me. I only discovered its astounding efficacy last semester. So my teaching practice is by default lacking. I don’t know the better way to introduce and build up these ideas yet. I don’t know how to make them available without inserting myself into the practice so much.

  Someone pay me money and I’ll find out how to fix it.


October 26, 2018

  Bitching on the school wechat about my discoveries and how the students aren’t taking to them this semester… the other teachers complained. They said, pretty much in real words, don’t bother us with your teaching issues, and tell someone else about your discoveries. The principle complain was how hard it is to read all that text and oh the swiping…

  blah blah blah, one thing I did work out is there’s no middle concept of teacher here. There’s a low concept – “oral english teacher” – who is a teacher assigned to some language class and given no instruction. You know, the basic idea of teaching here. But this school has recently started using a high concept of teacher too – “subject teacher” – who is some superlatively qualified person with publications and entree into research study groups. There is no such teacher here currently, and likely never will be, but the school uses the idea as a kind of totem of magnificence. It’s what we were supposed to be when we were hired as oral English teachers.

  But see, there’s no middle concept, the teacher of the way from low to high. There isn’t a concept of development for staff. These academic dreams the school has of lengthy publications lists authored by the foreign teacher and stamped with the school’s identity, they don’t come from any academic nurturing taking place here. You bring these things fully formed and the school takes possession of them.

  I believe I know where all of this comes from, and in a colloquial nutshell it’s “no zuo, no die”. The students didn’t learn that by themselves, it was created by the teachers. And the teachers didn’t learn it by themselves either, it was created by being a communitarian society rendered inhuman by overly capable authoritarians. The authoritarian model of “teacher speaks, students listen” not only creates an anti-communicative environment, it exists in all places at all times, and not because it came from the classroom.

  Well, either all that or the unfair deal strategy has worked out so well for so long that now everyone wants it. We’re just a developing country, you’d better give us some discounts; we can’t look after human rights because there’s too many of us; we had a cultural revolution so we can’t be expected to be good to each other until we recover, oh we’re not recovered yet just give us some more technology…. and so on.

  Anyway, the death of agency, that’s where it comes from, the endless use of the unfair deal on each other. And now on me. It’d be a massive case of Free Rider syndrome if it weren’t backed by neverending threat to the psyche.

  It’s fairly self-sustaining, this model.

  Anyway, not only do I know some of why I was so successful at creating week after week of student led discussion last semester, but I know probably nothing of why it’s tanking this semester, and if I were going to look into it with a view to building a suitable theory and a sustainable model, well shit son, do it on your own.

  Motherfuckers want academic achievement and here I am with a seeds of plenty and yet somehow I’m the one who should be quiet.

  It’s very draining.


October 23, 2018

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