A STING

A STING

Shengliver’s Note: Does Shengliver sting? This entry was written around this season four years ago after a celeb teacher visited my school on his tour of the country. The demo and promo of his ideas and learning methods lent fresh impetus to Shengliver’s own endeavour. Now, four years on, has Shengliver grown further? Will he sting again?

 

THE DRAMA

 

It was a Friday the day before yesterday. On the morning, a yelling TEACHER came to my school to sell his idea and his book at the invitation of whomever I don’t know. To call him a teacher is complimentary; to call him a businessman appropriate; and to call him a hooligan derogatory.

 

At the very beginning, a young member of the selling team was yelling at the teens thronged in the square. He yelled, announcing who the teacher businessman was, how renowned he was, and how important he was. The boys and girls clapped their hands in the air fast and hard, welcoming the TEACHER onto the stage.

 

The TEACHER’s appearance was instantly greeted by enthusiasm unheard-of in this small town of China. Similar enthusiasm poured out when CCTV’s Heart-To-Heart Variety Show was on in town a couple of years ago. Pop stars and celebrities on the show commanded reception of the same level. The teens’ passion at the moment was reminiscent of many a scene during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), where Chairman Mao, standing on the tower of the Gate of Heavenly Peace and waving his hand, received Red Guards in the Tiananmen Square in the Chinese capital.

red guards 07 

The TEACHER’s funny remarks brought on waves of laughter and cheers from the youths. He yelled, “Your school is better than Tsinghua and Beida. You are the Tsinghua of your city.” Cheers.

 

"You speak better English than students at Tsinghua and Beida. I have visited numerous high schools and colleges around the country. You are the best!” Cheers.

 

Then five English teachers from the school were invited on to the stage. I was one of the LUCKY ones. We five took our seats behind him on the stage. Wow, this is a perfect opportunity to witness a drama.

 

Next, he ordered the audience to look at a certain page of a pamphlet, us five teachers included. He yelled, “Let’s memorise the paragraph, OK?” Everyone read the paragraph after him sentence by sentence, or rather phrase by phrase, loud, except me. I remained silent for I wanted to save my breath for what was coming up.

 

The pamphlet had a red cover. When the audience were holding it at an angle the TEACHER directed them to, a striking picture presented itself. I was seated on the stage. When I glanced across the square, my eyes were met by a sea of red pamphlets. His selling squad immediately took photos of the red sea, and photos of this kind often appear in their advertisement.

 

He was screaming hard when abruptly he stopped. He turned around and fastened his eyes on the five teachers before he asked the first one what subordinate clause there was in a sentence. My colleague looked at the sentence for a while and said there was no clause at all in it. The TEACHER was incredulous. Actually it was his own fault, for he hadn’t given clear-cut instructions.

 

The TEACHER thrust the mike at my mouth. “What clause is there, man?” he grinned.

 

"It’s part of the sentence,” I boomed in English.

 

Hardly had I finished my speaking when the mike was pulled back. It was withdrawn as if the holder had been stung by a scorpion. The TEACHER hollered, “BBC, a BBC journalist!”

 

I beamed. When he turned and eyed me again, I gave him a thumbs-up.

 

After doing the paragraph, the TEACHER went on to some multiple choice questions and a cloze test passage. He boasted that his method had worked wonders in some high schools in China. “A student in Shanxi followed my yelling way, and he scored 148 marks in the National Matriculation English Test.” Wow, Wow, Wow, the audience were aroused.

 

Two more stings followed as the show progressed.

 

The TEACHER put another question to the five teachers. The question was: “Read the sentence: He is likely to come today. Tell me what grammar role TO COME TODAY plays in the sentence.”

 

He said everything in Chinese. The question was put to me first. My answer was: “I don’t know the answer to your question. But when I learn the sentence, I learn it as a pattern.”

 

Cheers from the teens. My students roared. They applauded. They applauded because their teacher Shengliver sounded fabulous on the mike.

 

The TEACHER turned to the audience, commenting, “Wow, great! You learn it as a pattern. What a learner!”

 

I don’t know why, but the following questions were always fired at the other teachers. I was given no turn at all. At some point, my pupils complained madly in the square, yelling, “Give the mike to our teacher!!!!!!!”

 

The TEACHER responded, with the mike away from his lips, “No way. He is too good.”

 

Ha-Ha, Ha-Ha, Ha-Ha.

 

The climax came when he suddenly flung a question over, “Have you ever been abroad?”

 

My answer: “Yes. I worked in London for three years.”

 

While my sentence was being spoken, I saw out of the corner of my eye shock on my younger colleagues’ faces. They knew I was lying.

 

No sooner had I finished than the TEACHER yelled, “No wonder! You are—”

 

Unluckily my older colleagues stopped him in the nick of time. One whispered, “You are deceived.” The other chimed in, “It’s not true!”

 

My answer was met with waves of roars and cheers from the teenagers. My students got thrilled. They came to know their teacher Shengliver speaks better.

 

Throughout the show, I fixed my eyes on the boaster when he was looking at me and when he was not. My co-workers were a bit nervous, I noticed. Anyway, the TEACHER is BIG.

 

THE TOPICS

 

Trying to sell his learning method was only part of the show. He combined with the selling several topics appealing to the teenagers. The effect was psychedelic.

 

Patriotism

 

His message was that we are learning English for China. We are learning English to beat the Americans, and to beat the Japanese. We are learning English to spread the Chinese language and Chinese culture all over the world. He said that Chinese is hard for westerners while English easy for us. “Let’s torture foreign devils to death with our language!” he yelled.

 

Gratitude

 

He said Chinese teenagers are not grateful to their teachers and parents. They should learn to be independent. They should express appreciation to their teachers and parents. He yelled, “Who provides for you? Who toils long hours for you?” His voice was enchanting, and flattered by his own audio system and the music, his speech here was contagious. Many faces in the audience were glistening. Did I shed tears? No, dear. This is part of his selling trick. Why should I cry?

 

Idols

 

He criticised computer games. He yelled, “Down with SHENGDA video games. Smash their servers!” He ridiculed Jay Chou, a Taiwanese blues rapper, commenting, “Zhou Jielun is no good guy. He is up to something dirty.” He poked fun at HAPPY BOYS, a talent show on Hunan TV, saying boys on the show are idiots. He derided PEP, the People’s Education Press, proclaiming that English course books by the publisher are nothing but junk.

 

Guaiguai, only his books are the best under the sun! Only he himself deserves Chinese teens’ idolisation.

 

Individuality

 

He said the youths should be hard disciplined. They should have military training every week. 15 students should share one dorm. This way they could learn the value of collectivism. He mocked those with their own hairstyles. He said, “Boys with long hair are good-for-nothing.” Lord, he forgot his own past, when he wore long hair and had his hair tinted red or brown or whatever. I saw him that way on Hunan TV one year.

 

REFLECTIONS

 

This TEACHER has a talent for public speaking. His voice is powerful and his energy seems limitless. His speech is driven by a talking machine in the brain. It is automatic, fast, and delivered in a bewitching tone. Actually his speaking is not what he feels like saying at the moment. It is there, and he switches on the talking gadget, and then the speech is on like a firing machine gun. If you have heard him a couple of times, you will be bored. It is bombastic and meaningless. Talking without feeling is pompous and therefore false.

 

Teenagers are easily influenced by his style, and they tend to subscribe to his ideas readily.

 

But in fact, what he does contributes to only one purpose –selling his MAGICAL books and ideas. One way he is explicit about his aim; other ways his aim is so well packaged that the teenagers are hardly aware of it. However, money talks loud and clear. Is he a millionaire or billionaire? Where does his money go?

 

Learning is a pleasure. Yelling English is one way of teaching and learning English. I didn’t yell. I didn’t read his books or follow his MAD ideas, but I have learned English well. I have learned English well because I work hard, I am humble, and I am genuinely interested in the language. Speaking is only a part of the endeavour. Those who can only talk are considered illiterate in most civilisations.  Learning English takes time. It is a long process of accumulation. It can’t be done overnight.

 

A good learner has his own motivation for learning the language. Does everyone have to learn English for China the motherland, to beat foreigners, or to dominate other nations with Chinese culture and Confucianism? A hundred learners learn the language maybe for a hundred reasons. A 5-star learner does English simply for the sake of it, for the enjoyment of it.

 

A good teacher inspires. He talks but he doesn’t impose his ideas upon his students. If a teacher blabbers all the while and allows his students no time for thinking, is he GOOD? It is brainwashing, ruthless brainwashing. Does it do good to the nation if everyone thinks the same thought and learns English the same way? Everyone thinking in uniformity would be detrimental to a nation’s growth and welfare.

 

Guard against his crazy ideas. Extremism takes various forms but in essence it is the same whatever shape it is. It attempts to simplify the complexity of human existence, and it believes in solving human issues in its fanatical simplistic ways. History has taught us many such a lesson – Quick fixes don’t work. Do we still have a fresh memory of Red Guards in China, Japanese fascism, and German Nazis? We have a responsibility to counterbalance extremism and fight back.

 

Shengliver, you are strong, but not strong enough. Work hard, and stick to the dream. You shall rise to the challenge someday. And the day is not far away!

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