So Steve has survived the first 45 minutes of his buxiban teaching career. He is feeling confident that things are going well. A loud klaxxon whirs into life and the kids scream and fling themselves at the door.
“What the…” but he has no chance to finish his sentence before the Loaban swiftly takes him from the room and dumps him back with his new Western counterparts. “Break time” he announces gleefully. Pointing at the clock he says, “You got ten whole minutes, absolutely. Its your time. Have fun. Ten minutes. Ask them, they love me!”
Steve realises he is the last one in the room, even though he left his ‘assroom’ pretty swiftly. All four teachers are on their phones. Steve eavesdrops into their lives…
“So I told Tommo, I want one lump of coffee and two bags of tea, and he says ‘tomorrow,’ but I got customers tonight…”
“Yeah I miss you darling, see you tonight. I know your mum wants me to bring home those chicken claws. And I will get her some money from the bank…”
“…I pushed the blue button, but it still says there is no connection…”
“Wei. Ni hao. Wo yao…”
What interesting lives they must lead, Steve mused. Finally the person who seemed to be speaking to a wife puts down his phone. “Hi, Im Wade. Sorry about the elephant warning dude.”
“Yeah for a minute there I thought it was real.” Steve felt some ice breaking. Good. “Where do I get my workbooks for the second part?” he asked. “I’m teaching pre-intermediate senior 7.”
“Oh, you got the ‘piss’ class.” Wade laughs. Steve is puzzled. “You’ll figure that one out later.”
Wade picks out a phonics book, then a student work book, followed by a letter writing book, a homework book and finally a verbal reasoning book. “And they should have their home book and their comment book in their bags.” Steve gulps. “Seven books?” “Yeah, the second half is pretty fast paced. We are lucky. This school places very little emphasis on reading and writing skills.” Another gulp from Steve.
Steve puts his head into the first book. He is grateful for the ten minutes. Even though they are unpaid. The klaxxon goes again and Steve looks up. His new colleagues are gone and he is alone. Steve climbs the narrow stairs back to his room. The thuds and pranging noises are heard once more. A sentry shouts, “Teacher wei li” and once more nothing changes. The Laoban scuttles up aside Steve. “Steve you late. How come? Kids should be doing book 2 already. You gonna have to catch up… Let you off this lesson ok. Kids can do as homework today. I know you think I am a great boss now. It’s true.” Loaban is very contented with himself.
Steve is happy, but hungry. He awaits the end of the lesson, and his lengthy twenty minute break…