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Ways to be More Humorous in Class
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Shroob



Joined: 02 Aug 2010
Posts: 960

PostPosted: Fri Nov 15, 2013 4:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

chryanvii wrote:
Ouch! I was just let go by the school! Never in my life did I think that I would be let go from an ESL teaching job in China, as I always prepare well for my classes, show up on time, and work very hard outside of class to revise the materials to make them more engaging.

I see it as kind of a special gift: I don't think that Chongqing is really suitable for me, as I haven't been exceptionally happy here, and it's too big. Maybe I am a small city person. Maybe I am also a little unlucky.

But...I think that I am just in time to be able to apply for a January/February start at a university. Maybe take off for Japan for a couple weeks?

Anyway, has this ever happened to anybody else? Should I see it as a sign that I shouldn't be teaching ESL anymore, or just as a small "hump" along the road? After all, I have a degree in Landscape Architecture [but has remained unused since 2009, with no skill sets in this field].

I think I might have at least learned some things that might be helpful for the future. In addition, the training center life is completely different from university life. You never know what students might say to the tutors about you, and anything and everything goes straight back to your supervisor [and hence the head office]. In fact, I think the tutors are the real teachers at training centers anyway [at least at this training center].

Quite frankly, since I have been teaching at university for the past 3 years, I find it quite difficult to re-adjust to the corporate/training center lifestyle. They can be quite demanding, depending on which kind of center you work for, and which city you live in.

One last question...why do the Chinese tutors at training centers not get so much pressure to be humorous? It seems to me that several of them are quite monotonous and serious in nature.


I've never seen your lessons so cannot comment on the quality of them, but it sounds to me like your job was never to be an 'English teacher'. Rather you were expected to be an entertainer.
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Bud Powell



Joined: 11 Jul 2013
Posts: 853

PostPosted: Fri Nov 15, 2013 4:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

chryanvii:

Don't take it too hard. Try another city or go back to working for a university. Your supposed "lack of humor" may be an excuse for something else that has absolutely nothing to do with you or the way in which you teach. If you were successful in a public school/university setting, you have what it takes to be a teacher in China. Your situation isn't unique.

I experienced a similar situation in the U.S.. My contract wasn't renewed because (I found out later) a faculty member who had been in the school longer than I had a newly-graduated niece who needed a job. That was it. All of the reasons given for my contract not being renewed were pure BS. (Interestingly, the school wanted my original lesson plans before I left. They didn't get them. They got a bound set of memoranda from the principal instead).

Don't take it personally. There are probably a lot of schools that would love to have you. Just keep on keepin' on.
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Harbin



Joined: 19 Feb 2013
Posts: 161

PostPosted: Fri Nov 15, 2013 5:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

chryanvii wrote:
Ouch! I was just let go by the school! Never in my life did I think that I would be let go from an ESL teaching job in China, as I always prepare well for my classes, show up on time, and work very hard outside of class to revise the materials to make them more engaging.


I'm sorry for your bad luck, but teaching, planning, and having good materials isn't what "teaching" EFL in China is about.

chryanvii wrote:
I see it as kind of a special gift: I don't think that Chongqing is really suitable for me, as I haven't been exceptionally happy here, and it's too big. Maybe I am a small city person. Maybe I am also a little unlucky.


Maybe China isn't suitable for you. Think of this as a chance to go somewhere that offers professional development and actual career opportunities instead of China.

chryanvii wrote:
One last question...why do the Chinese tutors at training centers not get so much pressure to be humorous? It seems to me that several of them are quite monotonous and serious in nature.


Because they're zhonguoren and you're laowai. You're not here to teach English; you're here to reinforce stereotypes about "Western people."
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ippollite



Joined: 13 Mar 2013
Posts: 30

PostPosted: Sat Nov 16, 2013 5:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dude, youre taking the whole "funny" thing too literal. They just want you to be more approachable and make more interesting activities for the students to enjoy.

Heres a few warm ups you can do off the top of my head, from any class:

1. Get them to all stand up, ask questions, they answer, they get to sit down. Amazingly simple. The key thing is to throw in some very annoying trick questions that lightens the mood when they realise youre just screwing with them (whats my name? (if they dont know it), whens my brithday (they figure out they need to guess), what color chalk is in my hand? Today is wednesday, yesterday was tuesday, tomorrow is thursday, so what day is Friday (blank faces for hours as they try and figure it out - its Friday). Just use your imagination a bit and be a little sneaky with your questions and theyll like you.

2. Crossfire: Classic classroom game. Going to be hard to explain, but again ss stand up. You have to think of the classroom in rows and columns to understand this. Columns are top to bottom, rows are left to right. This is purely a conceit to help you undertsand it.
Again, any questions you like. Try to keep them simple. S answers, s/he sits down. Then have EVERYONE in that column sit down. Now theyre interested. Smile
Next question, this time youre going across instead of up. So student who answers entire row sits down, and just as theyve sat down you go to the poor student who was already sitting (because their column sat down in the earlier question), and get them to stand up. Bewildered face and now they probably get it.
You go up then across every time until youve got a few people sat down/stood up. Then explain that the object is for them to get to zero people standing. Help them out a few times by picking the best person to answer the question so they can see and theyll usually work it out. If you cant get to zero, or you just want to end it, get to a point, then let people sit down for answering the question without anyone having to stand up.

3. Two line games: Split class in half. line them up, ask question, first one to answer gets to sit down, loser goes to the back of the line. Play until a line reaches zero.
Variation1: Noughts and crosses. Ss dont get to sit down, the winner can place an O or an X in the grid. Then they both go to the back of the line. First team to win 3 games is the champions. Smile
Variation 2: connect 4: Draw a grid, first team to get 4 in a row wins. Play as many rounds as required until youre happy that everyones had a turn.
Variation 3: Blockbusters. One team has to go top to bottom, other team has to go left to right. Make a big grid (dont bother with hexagons unless you really want the authenticity of it all) Ss rock/paper/scissors, winner chooses a letter, you ask them a question about that letter. Winner gets the square. Once they complete a chain line from top to bottom or left to right, they win! Yay!
Variation 4: Actually i forget this, but there is one... use your imagination.

4. Relay/telephone games:

Dumb category game. Divide board into however many columns of students (if 6 columns of ss you need 6 divisions obviously), get them to pick a team name and write it up (or you write, or even choose it - a good opportunity to be a little cheeky with names - not TOOOOO cheeky mind you). Give each of the people at the front of each column a piece of chalk or a white board marker. You pick a category, they then have to write a word for that, then pass the marker to the person behind them who then has to write a word, etc etc. Very simple. Either set a time limit or if you have equal numbers in teams, you can decide on first to finish. I personally like them to go for a minute or two. Do a couple of rounds and dont fret about drawing attention to appalling handwriting or illegible words. They find it funny too. Try not to single them out. But if its a nice class you can take some of the sting out of it by rps (rock paper scissoring) against the student who wrote it to decide if they get a point for it. Dont try that though if you cant keep it casual or you have a class that are terrified of each other. You should also use your common sense if its a shy kid and suddenly notice all the good points in it Smile

Play a couple of rounds because its usually more interesting that way, then declare the champions and dish out whatever reward system you use.

ETA: I shoudl add as well that the categories dont have to be classic english things like animals, colors, sports, subjects, things in a classroom etc etc. You can also use things like singers, actors, groups, tv characters. You might be thinking that this is PREPOSTEROUS, but if youre struggling to know what things your kids are interested in, welcome to an education.

Variation 2: Alphabet relay game. One of my favs. Can be a pain to organise. This is a classic telephone/chinese whispers game. Ss at back are given a letter, they then have to draw it on teh back of the person in front of them. The next student has to figure it out and then they in turn draw it on the back of the person in front of them. It goes until the person at the front figures it out. They then write the letter on the board. Yay! point to the fastest team. Rotate the students (i usually have the person at the front move to the back and everyone else move one seat forward and play until appropriate time). You can vary this with numbers (maybe you have a key word list on the board, or you want them to find the 15th word in the paragraph on the text youre reading through, or maybe you can just use the 12 months). Or you can go for translation. They write the chinese character, the person at the front has to translate it into English. Whatevers works. Its just a warm up. Smile

Gesture games: Now you COULD do it the classic way and bring someone out to act something out, but that sucks for them. So instead have everyone else do the gesture while they guess. And heres how:

Ss in teams along their columns (again). Person at front stands up and faces away from the board. You write whatever it is you want the students to guess up on teh board, the rest of the students have to gesture it out for them. They cant use english or chinese (of course). Person at front sticks their hand up, guesses. If incorrect keep playing (dont let them turn around to guess - or if you do, erase or cover the word/phrase before they start). If they guess right, yay! 1 point to that team. Rotate them out a few times so they take turns guessing and well done you!

Now youve got some basic things you can do at the start of a lesson to make them think youre a fun/funny teacher. Its just a warm up so its entirely up to you how long you want to spend on them or how to tie them into the previous/following lesson. But thats the gist of genki clowning Smile Just dont repeat the styles every week. Youve essentially got three styles there. Just rotate them around, vary them up a bit and that should keep you going for a term before you get to do it all again.

Something else, reward systems are always a good way to students hearts. It costs you a bit, and my advice is instead of just giving out candy/stickers every lesson, just make a reward card, get some little smiley face cheapo job lot stickers (or even a stamp), and then give them reward points. Bu a load of cheap things and maybe even some cool things (one of my mates used to download the US charts for example and burn them onto a cd which is kinda desirable), and put costs on them. Kids can come to you at lunch time or break time and trade in their points. Not only is it a good way to buy their affection and motivation. Its also a good chance for them to come chat to you, however briefly and feel comfortable around you.
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ippollite



Joined: 13 Mar 2013
Posts: 30

PostPosted: Sat Nov 16, 2013 5:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

ETA2: Sorry, didnt read past the first page Smile Good luck in your new ventures.
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Non Sequitur



Joined: 23 May 2010
Posts: 2314
Location: China

PostPosted: Sat Nov 16, 2013 7:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

ippollite wrote:
Dude, youre taking the whole "funny" thing too literal. They just want you to be more approachable and make more interesting activities for the students to enjoy.

Heres a few warm ups you can do off the top of my head, from any class:

1. Get them to all stand up, ask questions, they answer, they get to sit down. Amazingly simple. The key thing is to throw in some very annoying trick questions that lightens the mood when they realise youre just screwing with them (whats my name? (if they dont know it), whens my brithday (they figure out they need to guess), what color chalk is in my hand? Today is wednesday, yesterday was tuesday, tomorrow is thursday, so what day is Friday (blank faces for hours as they try and figure it out - its Friday). Just use your imagination a bit and be a little sneaky with your questions and theyll like you.

2. Crossfire: Classic classroom game. Going to be hard to explain, but again ss stand up. You have to think of the classroom in rows and columns to understand this. Columns are top to bottom, rows are left to right. This is purely a conceit to help you undertsand it.
Again, any questions you like. Try to keep them simple. S answers, s/he sits down. Then have EVERYONE in that column sit down. Now theyre interested. Smile
Next question, this time youre going across instead of up. So student who answers entire row sits down, and just as theyve sat down you go to the poor student who was already sitting (because their column sat down in the earlier question), and get them to stand up. Bewildered face and now they probably get it.
You go up then across every time until youve got a few people sat down/stood up. Then explain that the object is for them to get to zero people standing. Help them out a few times by picking the best person to answer the question so they can see and theyll usually work it out. If you cant get to zero, or you just want to end it, get to a point, then let people sit down for answering the question without anyone having to stand up.

3. Two line games: Split class in half. line them up, ask question, first one to answer gets to sit down, loser goes to the back of the line. Play until a line reaches zero.
Variation1: Noughts and crosses. Ss dont get to sit down, the winner can place an O or an X in the grid. Then they both go to the back of the line. First team to win 3 games is the champions. Smile
Variation 2: connect 4: Draw a grid, first team to get 4 in a row wins. Play as many rounds as required until youre happy that everyones had a turn.
Variation 3: Blockbusters. One team has to go top to bottom, other team has to go left to right. Make a big grid (dont bother with hexagons unless you really want the authenticity of it all) Ss rock/paper/scissors, winner chooses a letter, you ask them a question about that letter. Winner gets the square. Once they complete a chain line from top to bottom or left to right, they win! Yay!
Variation 4: Actually i forget this, but there is one... use your imagination.

4. Relay/telephone games:

Dumb category game. Divide board into however many columns of students (if 6 columns of ss you need 6 divisions obviously), get them to pick a team name and write it up (or you write, or even choose it - a good opportunity to be a little cheeky with names - not TOOOOO cheeky mind you). Give each of the people at the front of each column a piece of chalk or a white board marker. You pick a category, they then have to write a word for that, then pass the marker to the person behind them who then has to write a word, etc etc. Very simple. Either set a time limit or if you have equal numbers in teams, you can decide on first to finish. I personally like them to go for a minute or two. Do a couple of rounds and dont fret about drawing attention to appalling handwriting or illegible words. They find it funny too. Try not to single them out. But if its a nice class you can take some of the sting out of it by rps (rock paper scissoring) against the student who wrote it to decide if they get a point for it. Dont try that though if you cant keep it casual or you have a class that are terrified of each other. You should also use your common sense if its a shy kid and suddenly notice all the good points in it Smile

Play a couple of rounds because its usually more interesting that way, then declare the champions and dish out whatever reward system you use.

ETA: I shoudl add as well that the categories dont have to be classic english things like animals, colors, sports, subjects, things in a classroom etc etc. You can also use things like singers, actors, groups, tv characters. You might be thinking that this is PREPOSTEROUS, but if youre struggling to know what things your kids are interested in, welcome to an education.

Variation 2: Alphabet relay game. One of my favs. Can be a pain to organise. This is a classic telephone/chinese whispers game. Ss at back are given a letter, they then have to draw it on teh back of the person in front of them. The next student has to figure it out and then they in turn draw it on the back of the person in front of them. It goes until the person at the front figures it out. They then write the letter on the board. Yay! point to the fastest team. Rotate the students (i usually have the person at the front move to the back and everyone else move one seat forward and play until appropriate time). You can vary this with numbers (maybe you have a key word list on the board, or you want them to find the 15th word in the paragraph on the text youre reading through, or maybe you can just use the 12 months). Or you can go for translation. They write the chinese character, the person at the front has to translate it into English. Whatevers works. Its just a warm up. Smile

Gesture games: Now you COULD do it the classic way and bring someone out to act something out, but that sucks for them. So instead have everyone else do the gesture while they guess. And heres how:

Ss in teams along their columns (again). Person at front stands up and faces away from the board. You write whatever it is you want the students to guess up on teh board, the rest of the students have to gesture it out for them. They cant use english or chinese (of course). Person at front sticks their hand up, guesses. If incorrect keep playing (dont let them turn around to guess - or if you do, erase or cover the word/phrase before they start). If they guess right, yay! 1 point to that team. Rotate them out a few times so they take turns guessing and well done you!

Now youve got some basic things you can do at the start of a lesson to make them think youre a fun/funny teacher. Its just a warm up so its entirely up to you how long you want to spend on them or how to tie them into the previous/following lesson. But thats the gist of genki clowning Smile Just dont repeat the styles every week. Youve essentially got three styles there. Just rotate them around, vary them up a bit and that should keep you going for a term before you get to do it all again.

Something else, reward systems are always a good way to students hearts. It costs you a bit, and my advice is instead of just giving out candy/stickers every lesson, just make a reward card, get some little smiley face cheapo job lot stickers (or even a stamp), and then give them reward points. Bu a load of cheap things and maybe even some cool things (one of my mates used to download the US charts for example and burn them onto a cd which is kinda desirable), and put costs on them. Kids can come to you at lunch time or break time and trade in their points. Not only is it a good way to buy their affection and motivation. Its also a good chance for them to come chat to you, however briefly and feel comfortable around you.


Great stuff. Wish there was a China teaching forum - sigh...
Another one which fits with the bolted down desk format is Word Race.
Two rows in two aisles same number.
Teacher puts a word on the board which is hidden until you call 'Go'.
If the word is 'board' the first student must write a word beginning with the last letter in your word.
So 'board' could lead to
'dark'
followed by 'kitchen' and so on.
First team to go through all students wins.
Good to fill in the last 10 mins of an otherwise boring class.
Students exit in a +ve mood.
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mw182006



Joined: 10 Dec 2012
Posts: 238

PostPosted: Sun Nov 17, 2013 2:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

OP, I wouldn't take it as a reason to reconsider your career, it just wasn't a good fit. I think Bud Powell and Shroob hit the nail on the head. But out of curiosity, why did you make the change to the training center after 3 years at a uni? Needed a chance of pace/perspective or...

ippolite and NS: thanks for the ideas! And Harbin is starting to sound a lot like A8675309.
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NoBillyNO



Joined: 11 Jun 2012
Posts: 1494

PostPosted: Sun Nov 17, 2013 4:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I have NEVER cared about my popularity (or lack of same) with students. I'm an English teacher, I teach English. If that's not good enough for the school, so be it.


A few of my fellow co workers across the big pond have changed their classes to be more entertaining and easier due to the lack of enrollment in their classes.
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Harbin



Joined: 19 Feb 2013
Posts: 161

PostPosted: Sun Nov 17, 2013 4:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

mw182006 wrote:
And Harbin is starting to sound a lot like A8675309.


Touche. I've become bitter and it certainly shows.
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chryanvii



Joined: 19 Jul 2009
Posts: 98

PostPosted: Mon Nov 18, 2013 3:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

mw182006 wrote:
But out of curiosity, why did you make the change to the training center after 3 years at a uni? Needed a chance of pace/perspective or...

ippolite and NS: thanks for the ideas! And Harbin is starting to sound a lot like A8675309.


Sometimes I feel that working at a university can be a bit isolating, as I don't work very much, and tend to stay in my home a lot. I thought it would be a good opportunity to keep me busy during the day.

Additionally, when moving to a new place in China, I thought it would bring me the opportunity to make some new friends. As the classes are relatively small, I could have more face-to-face human contact.

This worked my first year in China, but it seems that Chongqing is a harder-edged city than other places. Working at a training center I think depends on luck. You never know what the students are going to be like, and what your colleagues are going to be like.

I think I decided that working at a training center part time might be a better way to do it.
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thechangling



Joined: 11 Apr 2013
Posts: 76

PostPosted: Mon Nov 18, 2013 3:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

chryanvii wrote:
mw182006 wrote:
But out of curiosity, why did you make the change to the training center after 3 years at a uni? Needed a chance of pace/perspective or...

ippolite and NS: thanks for the ideas! And Harbin is starting to sound a lot like A8675309.


Sometimes I feel that working at a university can be a bit isolating, as I don't work very much, and tend to stay in my home a lot. I thought it would be a good opportunity to keep me busy during the day.

Additionally, when moving to a new place in China, I thought it would bring me the opportunity to make some new friends. As the classes are relatively small, I could have more face-to-face human contact.

This worked my first year in China, but it seems that Chongqing is a harder-edged city than other places. Working at a training center I think depends on luck. You never know what the students are going to be like, and what your colleagues are going to be like.

I think I decided that working at a training center part time might be a better way to do it.


I agree. I always advise newbies to go the Uni route as there's less likelyhood of being taken advantage of which mostly happens at training centres. The conundrum lies in the fact that having too much spare time in China whilst being isolated causes boredom and loneliness so finding a good and reliable TC (with more teaching hours and money) would be my preference, having already worked for a great one in Taiwan for 3 years. However, without directly getting a good heads up about a good TC from somebody with integrity, it's just too dangerous a route to go down.
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Non Sequitur



Joined: 23 May 2010
Posts: 2314
Location: China

PostPosted: Mon Nov 18, 2013 4:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

thechangling wrote:
chryanvii wrote:
mw182006 wrote:
But out of curiosity, why did you make the change to the training center after 3 years at a uni? Needed a chance of pace/perspective or...

ippolite and NS: thanks for the ideas! And Harbin is starting to sound a lot like A8675309.


Sometimes I feel that working at a university can be a bit isolating, as I don't work very much, and tend to stay in my home a lot. I thought it would be a good opportunity to keep me busy during the day.

Additionally, when moving to a new place in China, I thought it would bring me the opportunity to make some new friends. As the classes are relatively small, I could have more face-to-face human contact.

This worked my first year in China, but it seems that Chongqing is a harder-edged city than other places. Working at a training center I think depends on luck. You never know what the students are going to be like, and what your colleagues are going to be like.

I think I decided that working at a training center part time might be a better way to do it.


I agree. I always advise newbies to go the Uni route as there's less likelyhood of being taken advantage of which mostly happens at training centres. The conundrum lies in the fact that having too much spare time in China whilst being isolated causes boredom and loneliness so finding a good and reliable TC (with more teaching hours and money) would be my preference, having already worked for a great one in Taiwan for 3 years. However, without directly getting a good heads up about a good TC from somebody with integrity, it's just too dangerous a route to go down.


I think you need a uni with at least 6 other FTs.
There should be a kindred soul with the same afternoons off as you during the week and Sunday brunch at a decent watering hole is worth promoting.
Look for a city with a functioning expat association ie Qingdao Expat.
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mw182006



Joined: 10 Dec 2012
Posts: 238

PostPosted: Mon Nov 18, 2013 6:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I can relate to the above posts; I thought that being 20-30 minutes outside Chengdu may be pushing it and I was right. There's only one other foreigner out here and he's been here for 7-8 years and does the mahjong thing most of the time. Fortunately the campus has basketball courts, decent gyms, and a few other things to keep me somewhat occupied. But like you said chryanvii I do find myself spending more time than I thought in my room. Part of that is trying to force myself to devote more time to developing effective lessons, but after one month in I'm still trying to wrap my head around that. The fact that nobody else around here seems to give two shits about what goes on doesn't help the motivation level either. Oh well, I wasn't expecting it to be easy.

And Harbin: Why so bitter? Keep calm and carry on, or something. Cool
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fat_chris



Joined: 10 Sep 2003
Posts: 2534
Location: Chengdu, Sichuan, PRC

PostPosted: Mon Nov 18, 2013 9:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

mw182006 wrote:
And Harbin: Why so bitter? Keep calm and carry on, or something. Cool


I know it's easier said than done; nonetheless, I second this.

Keep keepin' on everyone! Travel season is in about a two months! That's what I'm talkin' about--Cambodia and SW China are on my radar--should be good.

Chips ahoy!

Warm regards,
fat_chris
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chryanvii



Joined: 19 Jul 2009
Posts: 98

PostPosted: Thu Nov 21, 2013 3:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Maybe I will just go home. It seems that as I have progressed throughout my 4 years in China, that I am getting pickier about which university to teach at. I don't want to make such a low salary. After my bad experience at this training center, I certainly don't want to try again at another.

I am only applying to 2 or 3 universities, as I don't want to pick up and move to a brand new city and start all over again. Most of the universities here in Chongqing pay really low, and well, it's a huge "expat" scene here anyway, which is really not my thing. My chinese skills are very poor, and even though I enjoy learning on my own, it seems that I have not made nearly enough progress over these 4 years. I have a bad ear, and I must write everything down to remember it. I am also a high-level introvert, which doesn't make learning the language any easier [I have heard people who like talking to others and making friends pick it up much more quickly].

I have not used my degree since I graduated in May 2008. What are the chances I could go home and swing a landscape design/landscape architecture job without any experience? Could I find someone who is graceful enough to understand my situation?

As an overly truthful person, I have realized that I am here for the wrong reasons...I thought it would be easier to make a "new friend" here. This is the truth. Is this the only reason I should stay in China?

I hate leaving China empty-handed. It will take a long time for me to recover...going home single and everything. But there's really nothing happening for me here at this moment.
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