The rest of my teaching week went rather well, since I didn’t have any more classes of 2nd graders!! On Thursday I had two classes of 5th graders before lunch and a class of 1st graders after lunch. Since the 5th graders are the highest grade that I teach, and I already taught that one class on Tuesday, I wasn’t worried at all about them. On Wednesday night I re-planned my intro lesson to fit what I thought might work for the 1st graders, trying to ignore that deep fear in the pit of my stomach that they might be even worse than the 2nd graders. I made a power-point with everything I could think of, and all kinds of easy songs, the full alphabet with lots of pictures, etc., and tried to get a really good nights sleep.
The next morning I woke up and went off to teach the 5th graders, which went really well. They liked all the games, played them well, and didn’t get too noisy. After a few days I’ve kind of got the classroom commands in Chinese down pat, so if things start to get out of hand, I can nip them in the bud in a language the kids understand, which is a VERY big help. After the two 5th grade classes I had three hour break to think about the 1st graders.
After lunch I went to find class number 28, full of 1st grade kids. When I walked in, I was amazed at how much smaller these kids were than any of the kids I taught before. When I walked in, some of them crowded around me and were asking me questions in Chinese and whispering to each other. When the bell rang, they all ran to their seats and sat quietly and waited for me to say something. I said, ‘Hello!’ and they all responded, wide-eyed and in unison. The whole period went amazingly well, and these little kids were so cute and well-behaved. I swear something horrible evil must happen between 1st and 2nd grade……maybe they get comfortable in the school environment and start testing everyone’s limits? I hope they stay this good all year!
The only awkward point in the lesson was when a little kid started crying for his mum and then I went over to pat him on the head and tell him it was ok, then another little girl started crying and it kind of caused a domino effect…..I had to go get a teacher in the office and ask her what to do. She just stormed in and yelled at the kids to shut their mouths, dry their tears and start paying attention in class. The kids sobered right up and were fine for the rest of the class. I don’t think I could bring myself to yell at a little 6 year old who is crying for his mum, but I guess it’s kind of necessary since the kids spend five nights a week at school, and they either get used to it or have a really hard time. They’ve got to realize early on that they are going to be doing this all year long.
So after that class ended I just went home to hang around for a while when Monica gave me a call and suggested me and Craig go meet her downtown because it was Ghost Day in China and we ought to do something special. So me and Craig started the walk down the dirt road to the big tarmac-y road to look for a taxi. For some reason, there were no taxis in sight so we walked and walked and walked, and finally we saw a taxi go by so we tried to flag it down, but it kept on going. A guy on a motorcycle, who had his baby son balancing between his legs on the front, stopped and told us to hop on. I pointed at Craig and was like isn’t he too big? Do you mean both of us? And the guy nodded and said ‘Hop on! Hop on!’ So Craig climbed on first, wrapped his arms awkwardly around the guy’s waist, then I perched on the back edge of this guy’s tiny motorcycle and away we zoomed, all four of us, down the big road, right through a stream of heavy traffic, and into the downtown. The motorcycle kept sputtering and I thought it was going to fall apart, but somehow we made it all the way downtown, all intact! We just hopped off and thanked the guy, wondering if we should give him something in return, but he just drove off. I was giggling like mad the entire way, and I felt like I was in one of those pictures you see of India where an entire family of 10 is balanced on one moped.
Anyway! We got downtown, met Monica, and walked around for a while, talking about Ghost Day. She told us that on Ghost Day the Chinese burn special ghost money that the ghosts can use in hell. Me and Craig wanted to burn some with her, so we went to a Buddhist shop along the river and bought some ghost money, complete with the words ‘Hell Bank Notes’ spelled across the bottom. We took the money and went to find a good spot to burn it. There was a little stone dock that you could climb down to right on the Liuyang River where boats were tied. There was a man and his daughter down there burning piles of ghost money, and lots of piles of already burnt money everywhere. We found a clear spot and Monica instructed us that we had to burn the money in groups of three. We peeled off each sheet of money, gathering three together, lighting them and throwing them in a pile. While doing this we had to talk to the ghosts, telling them we are giving them money and that we hope the can use it to get into the afterlife, or to go to good places, or to wish their crimes away. When we had burned all of it, we sat watching the embers die down, said the last bit to the ghosts of Liuyang and climbed back up to the road. After that we just walked around a bit more then went to a juice bar to have some tasty juice.
The next day I had 1st graders all day. Again, all those classes were quiet, well behaved and great to teach. They loved all the pictures I had on my power-point, and the kids who knew the English words triumphantly would yell them out as loud as they could. I had one class after lunch, right before all the kids would go home for the weekend. Normally the first class after lunch is at 2h35, so I was taking a good old Chinese afternoon ‘xiuxi’ (siesta), when I heard some frantic knocking at my door. It was only 1h30 so I wondered what was going on. I ran to the door and Craig yelled through it ‘Aimee! We have class early on Fridays! We are supposed to be teaching right now! Classes started at 1h15!’ and he ran off to his class. I quickly got everything together and ran as fast as I could through 100 degree heat to my class as well. When I got there, Cindy was apologizing, ‘I’m sorry! We forgot to inform our foreign teachers that Friday’s after lunch class is earlier! Please forgive us!’ I was thinking that it was my fault, so I kind of just apologized as well and ran into class, jumping right into the lesson. I think the 1st graders were happy to have a 20 minute lesson instead of 40, as was I! After that, I was done for the weekend even before 2h30 when I thought I was supposed to start!
I immediately went home and took a long nap. That night me and Craig went to downtown and went to that same disco we went to the Friday night before. Some of the people remembered us, and we had a pretty good time. I even got some pictures and a video of it before a guy ran over and said, ‘It is not permitted to take photographs! It is not permitted!!!’
On Saturday we met up with another foreign teacher who teaches at a school called TianJiaBing about 20 minutes outside of the city. Her name is Michele and is from Somerset, Mass., really close to Connecticut! It was good to hang out with another westerner, where we can all talk English at our own speed. She might come with me and Craig to meet Katie in Changsha next weekend, which should be really great!
That’s about it up till now. Tomorrow I have all 3rd grade classes, which begins a whole ‘nother week of teaching……maybe I’ll be half a pro at the end of this week??
P.S. I’ve inserted pictures into this blog entry….I hope it works because I have to post by email because Word-Press is blocked in China….