The school year has finally started!
On Monday night around 9h30pm I finally got my teaching schedule for the semester, which was to start at 8am the following morning. I ran to find out which buildings the classes were in, then ran home and threw together an intro powerpoint that I hoped would work for both 2nd graders and 5th graders. It was basically made up of my self introduction (my name is miss lamb. do you know what a lamb is?), hello, how are you, what is your name…things like that, and making name cards to put on thier desks. I also had a game in there where they would pass around a little knit lamb I have while I played some music and when the music stops, that person has to get up and say ‘my name is blah blah’ and the class would have to answer ‘nice to meet you!’.
On Tuesday morning I woke up, went over my lesson one more time, and zoomed off to my first class of 2nd graders. I got there about 10 minutes early and was mobbed by little 2nd graders yelling things to me like ‘you’re a foreigner aren’t you? look everyone! its a foreigner with a big nose!!’ ‘will you be our oral english teacher?’ ‘are you from england?’ ‘are you Anthony (the previous foreign teacher)’s wife?’….yes little children, I am a foreigner. Yes, my nose is rather protrusive. Yes I am your oral English teacher. Please don’t go through my bag, wait for class. Sit down. No, I am American, and I have never met Anthony (An-Dong-Ni) even though he is American too. Not all American’s know each other.
You get the idea!! So finally the bell rang and I had my powerpoint all set up, and I spent the next 10 minutes trying to calm them down and get them to sit in their seats. Then spent the next few minutes introducing myself and having them repeat back to me ‘What-is-your-name? My-name-is-!’ They soon got bored of that, so I had them play the ‘Stand-Up, Sit Down’ game. In this game I teach them the words ‘stand up, sit down, jump up, turn around’ and then have them follow my commands and see how fast they can do it. This first class of 2nd graders seemed to like it, though instead of tiring them out, it just got them more excited. I decided against doing the ‘pass-the-lamb’ game, since I didn’t think the results would be very good. Finally the bell rang and I had 40 minutes till my next class of 2nd graders.
At this point I was thinking, ‘Oh, well this isn’t so bad! I can do this!!’, so I went to my next class of 2nd graders. Let me just say this class was a complete disaster. Absolutely nothing got done, and I had to put a kid outside of the classroom with his chair. Basically all the kids on one side near the windows were running around and when i would get some to sit down, the others would already be up and running accross the room to hit one of their classmates, then the classmate would get up and run to hit them back and throw things at them and whip them with their jackets. The kid that I put outside was hitting his neighbors with his jacket, so I took his jacket and put it at the front of the room. 10 minutes later he ran up and grabbed it and starting whipping the nearest classmate with it. I ran over grabbed it, and banished him. The other half of the class was a bunch of little girls, some sitting with hands folded and wide-eyes (they got more well-behaved the more they saw the boys badly behaving, and kept looking at me to make sure I knew it). The rest of the girls and boys in the class were drawing and sleeping and wiggling and whining. The bell rang and I realised I had got nothing done except for made a few kids shout hello, how are you, what is your name a few times.
After that, I was incredibly discouraged but trudged off to my class of 5th graders. This class was a breath of fresh air. Although they were still a little noisy, they knew how to sit still, knew that they weren’t supposed to run around everywhere, and could understand a little English which made it a little easier for me. They really liked the ‘stand-up, sit-down’ game, and when I said sit down when they were already sitting down, they all laughed histerically. I decided I would try the ‘pass-the-lamb’ game, and that also worked really well, though towards the end the lamb was getting thrown clear across the room. I felt pretty good after that, though very tired. It was lunch time after that, and I slept until 2pm.
I had two more second grade classes in the afternoon, one of which was cancelled for a class meeting. The 2nd grade class in the afternoon was almost as nuts as the one in the morning, and I was still exhausted so that didn’t go too well either. That night I was feeling horrible and thinking to myself ‘What have I done? Why am I here? Why did I ever leave Montreal??’ I was tired and having trouble remembering why. All I could think about was that I used to be much more energetic and happy and laugh hysterically at least 5 times a day, and here there was none of that. I realised I hadn’t laughed much in about a week, and that’s always a good gauge of how things are going in one’s life. (for me anyway!)
Anyway, I slept well and woke up the next morning refreshed and more optimistic about the coming day because it was all going to be 4th grade classes. As I thought, the day went really well, and the classes I had were all really, really well behaved and easy to teach. I even tested out some new games on them, which all went smoothly, and I learned to relax a little about the noise level. I figure so long as about 1/3 of the class is paying attention, it’s a huge success. I also got a lot of kids saying ‘THree, THere, THis’ instead of ‘Sree, Zere, and Zis’. I also learned which classroom words in Chinese work, and what the student’s teachers usually say to get them quiet. It’s good for my Chinese, and it seems to help them understand what’s happening in class a little better, so they are more likely to pay attention.
I have 4 classes before lunch on Wednesdays and then I’m done for the day. This afternoon was great, because I was able to rest up, re-do some of my lesson plans, and think about the next two days (all 1st grade classes). It’s only been two days and already it’s getting easier and I’m seeing what works and what doesn’t, and what can be improved. I think the first few weeks are going to be hard, but once I get some sort of regular class structure, it’ll be super easy.
My list as of now:
1. refine class structure
2. make some friends
Oh yeah, I almost forgot!! I found out my old Austrian friend from Taiwan is living in Beijing until November. So if circumstances permit, I might take a trip up there over the National holiday on October 1st. If that doesn’t work out, I’ll be going around Hunan, to Zhangjiajie, Heng Shan, and Mao’s Birthplace probably.