Another week has come and gone in China, and I have finally started teaching. With the sudden routine, things are starting to settle down. But even my first week was not quite the regular routine.
Tuesday was technically my first day of teaching, but Tuesday also happened to be the day of a major outing for the school. All the students, parents, teachers, and staff of not just my branch of Big Apple, but a second branch as well, piled on to 12 charter buses to take an hour bus ride into the countryside outside Qingdao to dig up sweet potatoes. As far as I can tell, this has to be the Chinese version of blueberry picking.
At least 300 people attended this outing. We had a great day weather-wise–the wind from the weekend had blown the smog away, and the sky was completely clear, the temperature peaking at about 75 degrees. Sunny and I grabbed our shovels as the mass of people descended on the unsuspecting potato fields, ready to dig up as many potatoes as we could manage. In the first five minutes we filled up our bag, then sat back and took pictures of the scene.
I had an enjoyable day, and it was a neat way to meet the parents and the kids before I really started teaching. Plus, the countryside was beautiful.
Wednesday I started officially teaching. I teach seven classes in 2 hours and 40 minutes every morning, and lead games for an hour and 15 minutes three afternoons a week. The morning is a whirlwind tour of the entire school as I teach four different age groups, utilizing a variety of games, songs, and flashcards for each lesson. So far, the kids have been responding well. I’ve been teaching all my classes the “itsy bitsy spider” song, which was such a staple of my childhood. I’m pretty good at making up motions on the fly, too, so I haven’t had to think too hard about motions before class.
Today I discovered that play dough is magic. I am teaching the 3-4 year olds their colors, and today I held up a glob of green play dough, had them repeat the word “green,” then stood in front of each child and had him or her say “green” before letting him or her touch the play dough for a few seconds. It worked like a charm–the kids were quiet and eagerly waiting their turn to touch the play dough. I also led activities for the 2 year olds today, so I brought along play dough and gave each child a wad. They were absolutely riveted for an easy 20 minutes.
Currently, much of what I am doing is trial and error. For instance, I found out that Duck Duck Goose does not work on the 3-year-olds, but works really well with the 4-6 year olds. For the younger kids, I am going to have to find other creative activities to occupy them when I teach in the afternoon.
One great upside to this job is that the lesson planning is minimal. Currently, it takes me about 20 minutes to prepare for the next day, and as I get more used to teaching, I imagine the amount of time will drop.
Friday was also unconventional, as it was Halloween–which people do not celebrate in China. But, because the students learn English, they also learn about American holidays. So, as the American teacher, I was expected to dress up along with the students–so I dressed as a tree and taped paper leaves to myself. Because I’m brilliant.
I joined the group of 24 six-year-olds as we paraded them through the neighborhood, all dressed up in their costumes. We were quite the spectacle, because not only did we have a bunch of preschoolers in costumes, there was also a white foreigner (me) in the mix. People were pulling over in their cars to take pictures, and we gained a following of mothers, grandmothers, and their children as we walked. Every now and then we would have the kids wave and say “trick-or-treat” to gawking bystanders.
The kids were unbelievably cute in their costumes. Finally, we paraded into the basement of an apartment building, where four men were waiting with candy bags for the kids. It was quite the day, but the students had a blast.
So far I am feeling very positive about this job. I have enjoyed my few days of teaching, and I can only hope and pray that the classes continue to go well. And that I can find the creativity I will need for this job.