journal reading report 001

Journal Reading Report 001


I am teaching two classes, Senior Grade 1, this semester. Class A has 74 students; Class B 72. My student assistant in Class A is a girl while the job is done by a boy in Class B. I have got two different class teachers, too. One is a man while the other a woman. Both are serious people.


The students had their military training for about a week. After that we spent about a week on reviewing what was learned in junior high school. Following the reviewing was a test, whose purpose it was to help the students adapt themselves to teaching and learning in high school. At least we told them so. However, there was another purpose, which we teachers did not tell the students about at all. We hoped, through this test, to find out the students’ real level of academic achievements. Yes, they passed the all-city high school entrance exam in June. But our experience told us that the test organised by the city educational authorities was riddled with cheating and unfair practices.


I started a journal-keeping programme among my students this semester. They have to put at least one entry in their journal a week. They have, of course, to write in English. Every Friday afternoon, the journals are collected by my assistants and taken to my office. I try my best to read all of them on the weekend and hand them out on Sunday or Monday. After reading each entry, I will comment in English.


This weekend I did my first journal reading. Well, a very rewarding experience it was. The two classes are special classes of the grade and so most of them write good English. Mistakes are still found but they do not prevent me from understanding the writer.


The following topics are most covered by the journal keepers. I’ll report what is written about them as follows.


The School


Almost all writers say the school is their right choice. It is beautiful, clean and tidy. My principal has made special efforts at building the school. My school was relocated from a town to the city proper in 1998. A lot of funds have been spent on the construction. Most of the school facilities are in place now – the classroom buildings, the labs, the library, the web centre, the dorms and the canteen. The campus is well designed and constructed with great care and skill.


Every year different high schools here compete to recruit the best students from middle schools in different parts of the city. As far as I know, some schools buy their students in. Probably you do not believe it. It is true. A high school is willing to pay a good price for a candidate who has performed well in the high school entrance exam. The leaders in my school do not believe in buying students in. As a result, a lot of staff say we have lost a lot of good candidates to other high schools. Well, from the journals I read, I think the school is good indeed.


Meals in the Canteen


This is a boarding school. The rule is that all the students live on campus. They cannot go home every day. They have to study in the classroom, live in the dorm, and eat in the canteen. All the writers except two say the meals served in the canteen do not taste good enough. “Compared with my mother’s cooking,” one writer comments, “food here is horrible.”


Some students even skip their breakfast because they don’t like the food. Another problem they complain of is that it is too crowded at mealtimes. It is true. The canteen is a building of four floors with three different dining halls. But I believe still they are not big enough to accommodate all the students’ needs. I do have my breakfast there sometimes and I know how crowded it can be. For this reason, some students do not have their breakfast.


The Dorm


Most dorms are shared by 6 to 8 members. The writers think the dorm is clean and well facilitated. They sleep in bunk beds. Each member has a cupboard. They share a washroom too. But there is no TV and no Internet access. TV and computers would not find their use in the dorms for the students spend most of their waking hours in the classroom.


Some writers say that in the beginning they had trouble falling asleep at night because they used to sleep in their own room back at home. Most are doing fine now and they like the dorm very much for the fact that they have made friends with each other.




“Our teachers are very good,” one writer gives his opinion. A lot of positive words are found in their description of the teachers – kind, helpful, good at teaching, friendly, hardworking, warm, knowledgeable and so on.




This is heavily reported by the writers. It is the first time ever most of them have left their parents and have lived in a boarding school. Some still can’t look after themselves. Some do their first washing, make their first bed, or even wash their first head. Haha. Tears and a lot of tears. One boy writer reveals sadly, “I called my mom last weekend. I cried hard over the phone.” It was a boy, let alone those frail girls. Another girl writer shares her secret with me, saying “I miss the quarrels I had with my younger brother back at home. Without those quarrels now with him, I find life is boring and colourless. Some colours are missing”.


My Teaching Style


The feedback on it is very good. They enjoyed my lessons. “It is lively and fun,” a lot of writers tell me direct. “You are funny and I find English interesting now,” a student declares.


A teacher’s ability to speak well is too important to ignore. I have been working hard for so many years to improve it, in various ways. I have confidence in myself now. I know well what I am doing and where I am going. No giving up and keep going on ahead. I was encouraged especially by a comment from a writer, who says, “Shengliver, I thought you must be a foreigner teacher hired by the school the first day you taught us.”


They find me easy to talk to and willing to relate to them. A class teacher seldom smiles or laughs. So my smile and genuine laughter make them completely at home. One writer confides, “I do wish my class teacher would borrow some smiles from you. He always keeps a long face.”


Their feedback convinces me that good teaching results from two factors – good English skills and a genuine will to try to understand the teenagers.


The Exam


Despite the fact that we told the students repeatedly that the exam was not important at all, a lot of them are concerned about their performance. Quite a number of students regret they didn’t do well enough. Actually some students’ results did not match their performance in the city-level high school entrance exam at all. The gap is too huge. It once again testifies to the irregularities with the city-level high school entrance exam. We didn’t announce the result and we use the result only as a reference for our teaching in the coming months.


I told those worried to forget about the past exam. “It is over,” I say, “Put your heart into what you are doing now.”


Living Away From Parents


For the majority of students, this is their first time to be away from their parents. They find it hard to live alone. But many are optimistic about this experience. They have realised that, though food here is not as good, work is harder, and sleep is lacking, it does them good to live away from their parents. They are learning new skills. They are making new friends. New friends make their life less lonely and more colourful.


I still remember my first time to be away from my parents. I left my parents when I entered junior high. A lot of tears and homesickness. But once I got used to it, I learned fast. In many cases here in China, too much care from parents does more harm than good. It deprives a child of many learning opportunities. Without my parents nagging all the time, I enjoyed my junior high and senior high very much. I hope my students will have the same experience. Good luck to all of them.




Homework has overwhelmed all of them. Almost every teacher leaves homework daily and some homework takes a long time to get done, especially maths work. They can’t meet the deadlines and it makes them feel down about themselves. All the trouble, in my opinion, results from the leaders’ brainwashing of teachers at the training session at the start of the semester. They all preached teachers have to be strict with the students from DAY ONE and that homework must be given. No leader says you should give the right amount. So homework, homework and homework. One student remarks in his journal, “I have finished my journal. But my maths homework is asking me, ‘When are you going to do me?’” Poor kid.


It is imperative that the amount of homework be reduced. Who will listen?




The students are going through the process of adaptation to the new lifestyle. Pain is unavoidable. But the teachers must help them, and make them move smoothly through this process. Probably I will pass on their complaints to the school leadership and I hope some action will be taken. Once the adaptation is over, they will feel better and everything will come to normalcy.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Sep 11, 2007 @ 03:06:08

    your writting is more humorous reads so pleasant.
    Happy Teachers’ Day~(l feel sorry l can’t convey my wishes in time) 


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