Day 179: The Last First Day of Teaching in Baoding

17 Feb

Nimen hao!

It was our first day back to teaching for the semester, and what a wonderful day it was!

The sky was clearer than it’s been all week, the sun was shining, and we realized this morning when we woke up before seven for the first time in two months, that the sun is no longer still down when morning classes begin (at the end of last semester, sunrise was always during first period).

Over the weekend, I was a little bit nervous about teaching again. It had been two months since I stepped foot in one of the classrooms or interacted with my students, but the nerves went away as soon as I stepped into the classroom and was greeted by the shocked and smiling faces of my sixth grade students. I guess we were all surprised by just how happy we were to see one another! In one of my classes I got into a conversation with one of my best students (he’s actually the student that informed me a while back that the “girls wear dresses” and he has phenomenal English; if I could I would hang out with him all day because he’s such a great kid) about different kinds of books we like to read. When he didn’t know the English equivalent to a word, I let him look in the Chinese-English Dictionary on my phone and the rest of the conversation he kept saying he loves reading “New-Age” books (he meant fantasy fiction).

Classes went great; the students were enthusiastic to participate; and, to top it all off, it seems like the students gained confidence and English ability over the break. They were all really wowing me whenever they said something in class (Duncan said the same thing about his kids). I also have two new assistant teachers that I’m really excited about because they are personable, good with the kids, and seem to have an acceptable grasp on the English language (since they are English teachers, after all).

The only mishap today happened when I unintentionally embarrassed one of my best students. This kid (his English name is Kevin) has some of the best English at the school (yes, I’m considering all of my students 5-8 grade and the teachers) and has brightened my day every time I’ve seen him with his huge grin, big hellos, and desire to tell me all about everything as well as he can. Today, before class, he was talking to me and was actually slipping in and out of English and Chinese just so he could finish his story. I loved it. But then during class, he got frustrated that I was calling on other students (giving those with less English ability more chances to practice speaking) and he loudly put his head down on the table, clearly very upset. The next round I called on him even though his head was down and it turned out that he was kind of tearing up and me calling on him embarrassed him and made the whole situation worse. I felt really bad because I didn’t mean to upset one of my most eager students but after a couple more rounds he tentatively put his head up and I called on him and once he answered correctly he was back to normal. I typically try very hard to give all students equal opportunity and the same amount of talking but I also wanted to restore his confidence since he does do so well and being publicly embarrassed is one of the worst punishments for these kids (the importance of saving face in Chinese culture). By the end of class he was completely back to normal but I discretely went up to him afterwards and apologized for embarrassing him. At first he seemed confused, but once he understood what I was saying, he smiled real big and said “meishi meishi” (it’s nothing), which made me feel a lot better and just like that the embarrassment was over and the enthusiasm returned.

The day went by really fast as I’m sure the rest of the semester will. To top the whole day off, Li Laoshi told me my Chinese was coming along well. The studying I’ve been doing seems to be paying off!

But for now, we’re so happy to be back in the routine and to have the second half of our adventure underway.

Thank you for reading and until next time,


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Posted by on February 17, 2014 in Baoding


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