So we just finished our first weekend of teaching in Tangshan.  Erin and I both had basically 9 hour days, with 10 minutes between classes, with 1 hour for lunch.  Our kids ranged in age from anywhere between 4 and 15, with some outliers.  The biggest outlier was a 2 year old in one of Erin’s classes, causing Erin to ask the Chinese speaking teacher,”Why is there a baby in our class?”  The kids are grouped by skill level, although this will vary GREATLY in each level.  I initially thought I would prefer the older kids, but I am not so sure any more.  I really liked having the very little kids, giving them English names (which had to be an incredibly confusing experience for them), and not having to deal with the annoying attitudes of the teenagers.  Think of a Chinese teenager as similar in attitude to an American, only couple that with a massive fear of failure and usually being totally petrified of being different.  This is obviously a large generalization, and I have some great teenage kids (especially my favorite Hilda, who there is a picture of in a different post with Erin), and I hope that I can win the rest over in a few classes.  We shall see.

I think most Westerners think Chinese/Asian students are usually unbelievably well behaved and quiet in class.  This is definitely not always the case.  There are good kids, bad kids, hard workers, teachers pets, class clowns, etc.  Things can get crazy very quickly, especially with younger kids, so you really have to keep them stimulated or else you can lose total control.  It is a balancing act, especially when you don’t speak any Chinese(!!!), but I found myself improving over the course of the weekend.  I would say that overall I am extremely impressed with how hard the students work, how interested most are in the material, and how much respect/admiration they give to the teacher.  I suppose it isn’t too different from the USA, but these kids are going to school year round, and also taking English classes on the weekends.  They have literally hours of homework a night, and then have English homework to boot.  I imagine it would be a tiring and stressful life.  The effects of this lifestyle can be seen in many of their habits, even from just a single class.  About half of them are INCREDIBLY shy, but luckily most have figured out that the English school is not a place where you need to be shy or afraid.  They are all morbidly afraid of making mistakes, or even attempting something for fear of making a mistake.  This can really complicate class, because you will try to ask for volunteers, and get a sea of blank stares.  So I usually don’t ask for volunteers, I just call on someone.  Then they feel the eyes of the whole class and teacher on them, and usually spit something out.

There are many funny anecdotes from the first weekend.  The names of the children are often pretty hilarious, which is a combination of the Chinese Teacher’s (what we call the Chinese speaking teacher in the class) spelling and the name that the child decides they want.  Some great ones have been Jachary (a girl), Sweet, Caesar, Golden, Baron, Garin (who was called this for 3 years, only because they all thought the V in his name was an R), Ely (a boy, pronounced Ellee), and many others.  A popular one for younger kids has been Leo, primarily because the movie Titanic is very popular here.  I got the chance to name my first batch of preschool kids, which I did by listening to their Chinese name, and then giving them a similar English name.  It is almost hard not to laugh when the first three kids in your class introduce themselves as Garin, Baron, and Sweet, but nobody ever said you couldn’t laugh.

Another fun part of the teaching experience is the comments you get from kids.  Chinese people are very blunt, which has actually been pleasant so far.  I have gotten a lot of “You are handsome” and “You look like Harry Potter” or, my favorite “SPIDER MAN!  SPIDER MAN!  You are Peter Parker!”  I guess we all look alike to them.  It is not just the students saying hilarious and ridiculous things though.  I have only spoken to a few parents (if you can call a Chinese teacher translating every word we say “speaking), and they usually think that I am 15 years old.  I had one grandmother of an “active” boy come to me, ask the CT (Chinese Teacher) if I was smart, and then literally grab my arm, start pulling me towards her grandson, talking to me in Chinese.  I asked the CT what she wanted, and she said that she wanted me to give her my phone number, and wanted her grandson to get it from me.  The parents take this stuff pretty seriously, which is a little intimidating when you have 8 parents sitting in the back of the class, but it definitely makes the kids behave better!  Its a double edged sword.  I am sure we will have some more interesting parent stories to tell by the end of this, probably by the end of this week.

We have the week off until Friday, so we will hopefully be able to travel around the city a bit, clean up the apartment, and keep updating the blog.  If anyone wants to skype, send Erin or I an email or skype message.  Hope everything is going Sweet back home, enjoy the Golden sunshine.  Jachary.

Advertisements