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Day 50: Dinosaurs & Popsicles

Hey everyone!

Another week of teaching has flown by and we’re spending the weekend in Baoding. The weather (in the classrooms) is no longer the stifling heat it was the first couple of weeks we were teaching and is progressively getting cooler. Though not time for our winter coats just yet, the evenings (especially on Kuai Long) necessitate a little something more on our arms.

Remarkably, we still haven’t found facemasks yet. You would think that with the smog being so bad so consistently that they would be easy to find and relatively cheap but this is, unfortunately, not the case. In the near future we may be pooling our money with two other friends to buy a case of high-quality masks off of Taobao. We just can’t go the entire year without facemasks of some sort (especially considering the smog gets even worse in Baoding winter).

Low lying smoke in the field next to the school:
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My eighth grade classes were enjoyable this week – something that I’m very relieved about. I taught them the same Hoobastank song lesson that I used on my seventh graders and it seemed to be successful. I also learned that the students are much more engaged in class if I begin by asking them personal questions such as “How was your holiday” and it encourages them to use their English in a natural and individually constructed way rather than just using the memorized sentences they’ve learned in their classes. I’d like to believe that it will encourage them to want to talk to me and in turn will motivate their English learning.

The Hoobastank “The Reason” lesson:
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I was certainly encouraged when in several of my classes, some students took the conversational style I started the class with and were asking me how to say certain words in English. I’m not exactly sure what was going on but in one of my eighth grade classes, students kept drawing turtles on their paper and asking me what the English word was. As soon as I told them “turtle” they all immediately pointed to one kid in the back of the class and said, “his name is turtle!” Right after that, they spent the next ten minutes trying to figure out how to say, “Dinosaurs with small eggs lived in a big forest”. (I figured this out through pantomiming, drawing on the board, and having students write the desired characters in my phone’s Chinese-English dictionary.) They seemed quite content when I wrote down the dinosaur sentence so I assume that’s what they were after though why, I have absolutely no idea.

When I asked another class what their favorite music was they kept telling me about some artist that is very popular in China and in Korea. They did not, however, know the English word “Korea” and so they pulled out a map and started pointing to Korea over and over again. And, again, another class, wanted to know how to say “Popsicle”.

After one or two classes, I realized that asking the kids what their favorite music and computer games are at the end of class was super successful and I did it with all my classes, including some seventh grade classes. I was very amused by the favorite music answers I got in every single class of eighth graders – Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga, PSY (Gangnam Style), Backstreet Boys, and Avril Lavigne. Who would have thought that Avril or Michael Jackson would have been on their list of favorites. Their favorite computer games were always – LOL (a DOTA game), CF (Cross-Fire), Angry Birds, and Plants vs Zombies. I was surprised that none of them knew what WOW (World of Warcraft) was seeing as it is pretty popular in China as a whole.

After classes were done for the week, we went out for dinner with a whole bunch of other foreign teachers at a restaurant called “Philly Story”.

The GIANT pizza from Philly Story (one pizza took up one whole table):
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It’s so much fun to hang out with this group because we have Americans, a British guy, an Australian guy, Chinese people, and one Chinese guy that has lived in New Zealand, South Africa, and, of course, China. It really is an outstanding group of people with so many interesting stories to share and with such great perspectives on life. Really, it is a unique type of person that decides to embark on an adventure such as this and as I meet more and more interesting people doing the same thing as us, I’m encouraged to think, “Hey, maybe we’re interesting people too!”

But speaking of food, earlier in the week we found a new restaurant that ended up being pretty cool! It’s a hot-pot place, which in our book is always a good thing, but it ended up being a nontraditional hot-pot place which was even better They take a glass hot-pot dish, stick a melon inside of it, and then they put all sorts of delicious meats and vegetables inside the melon. The one we got came with chicken and celery inside the melon but we also ordered a side of mutton slices to cook in the hot-pot. If you put the meat inside of the hot-pot dish, it takes on the taste of the melon but if you put the meat inside of the melon it, interestingly enough, takes the flavor of the meat. We will definitely be going back there again!

Melon Hot-Pot:
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Today started out as any normal Saturday in Baoding should start – with coffee and fireworks. We slept in a little bit and headed to QLH planning on having a quiet day of planning and hanging out when all of a sudden we hear what sounds like the rope of a bomb going off and then hundreds of fireworks exploding. We look out the window and, sure enough, people down the street are setting off these fireworks on the sidewalk in between cars (because the sidewalk also means the parking lot in China). The best, though, was when one guy had a whole roll of firework tape that he accidentally lit all at once, and he threw it and ran across the street before it started going off. You could see his eyes from down the road they were so big!

Fireworks, of course:
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And for one more food story, tonight we went out to eat at a Sichuan style restaurant we frequent. We ordered our usual stir-fried green beans and rice but we also decided to try a new meat dish and they brought us “hua cha” (flower tea). The meat dish and the tea was good and the green beans were great as usual. Last time we went we got a “special friend price” (a discount they gave us because we’re frequent patrons), but this time I got a juice box with my change! It seems to be a normal box of peach juice but the lady behind the counter looked so pleased with herself I couldn’t not take it. Maybe it will be a midnight snack.

For some unhappy news, happy baozi man’s food tent and neighbors have been missing recently and we’re quite saddened by our lack of baozi from him. We do, however, believe he will return and when he does we will tell him “we missed you” and “women hui lai” (we have returned!)

For some happy news, Duncan has started drinking coffee with me, which is a dream come true for me, so to celebrate (and to prepare for the coming winter) I bought a coffee maker for the room! I also got a “special friend price” on it from QLH because I’m probably keeping their business alive despite the new competition down the road.

To everyone in Asheville, go up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and see the leaves for me before it starts getting too cold. I hear Nutcracker rehearsals are starting soon and, with me already missing dancing, I’m sad that I am not there to participate. If anyone knows of some phenomenal Nutcracker ballets to see here in China, let me know. I need to continue my annual Nutcracker tradition even if it’s just as a spectator.

Have a lovely weekend!
Alyssa

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4 Comments

Posted by on October 12, 2013 in Baoding, Uncategorized

 

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Day 47: Hello, Goodbye

Since I last posted, we have had three more days of teaching and we are now back in the routine. The thrill and excitement of having a packed day every day in Beijing was a stark contrast to the quiet routine we have here in Baoding and, as a result, we have been bored and a little homesick; the past couple of days. We pushed through the slump, however, and today we had a good day.

Monday, I taught all of my sixth graders and spent the lessons reviewing prepositions and teaching the song “Octopus Garden” by The Beatles. That song has a lot of repetitive prepositions in it and allowed me to teach vocabulary in a more organic manner. Though a simple song, I realized the kids did not know a lot of the vocabulary related to “under the sea” so I spent a good portion of class just drawing an underwater scene on the board and labeling everything. They really enjoyed my drawing of a little fish being chased by a bigger fish with sharp teeth and a pointy dorsal fin like a shark. The kids enjoyed singing with me in class and now they definitely know the phrase, “I’d like to be under the sea in an octopus’ garden in the shade”.

My schedule this week and next is a little unusual because of a request by three of my seventh grade classes to have me more. Due to communication difficulties I’m not 100% clear on the whole situation but I believe, from what I have gathered, that these three seventh grade classes were going to have to miss my English class at some point in the future because of exams, but they requested to have my class at a different time this week rather than miss it in the future. Regardless of what the situation actually is, this means my students enjoy my class enough to make sure they don’t miss it! Despite their teenage eye rolling and their angsty teen expressions, I must be teaching them something or at least be enough of an amusement to them to not want to skip. I’m quite touched and very encouraged by this quiet success!

Because of this schedule change, however, Tuesday I taught from 8:00 – 6:00, easily making it the longest teaching day I’ve had. In my seventh grade classes, my lesson used the song “The Reason” by Hoobastank to teach different ways to apologize, ways of expressing regret, and the concept of “I wish”. Though somewhat difficult for them to understand at times, I think it was a great success and I am actually going to use the same lesson on my eighth graders tomorrow and on Friday.

Today, I had all of my fifth graders and they were absolutely delightful. We talked about what they did over the National Day Holiday and went on to learn and sing along together to the song “Hello, Goodbye” by The Beatles. Super easy to hear the English and with an upbeat tune, the kids had a blast singing along and doing outrageous pantomiming with me. I bet The Beatles never imagined that their music would ever be used to teach English to kids in China!

I’ve been encouraged this week by the realization that my kids are enjoying my classes and that I am, in fact, teaching them new English. All of my kids, aged 10+, are now coming up to me in the hallways and attempting to have conversations with me. And I’ve also now realized that any misbehavior from the students’ was an expression of boredom and disinterest in what I was doing and that it is my task, as the teacher, to find ways to engage all of the students as well as to teach them. These students have drills and facts hammered into them all day, every day, all year and they don’t (nor do I) want my class to be the same. It is my task and my responsibility to conduct my class in a way that makes them want to learn English regardless of a grade or other coercion. So if, by the end of this year, I have managed to make one originally disinterested kid somewhat more interested in learning English, even if it’s solely in the context of my class, then I will have been successful.

On that note, I hope that my eighth graders tomorrow will find the use of American pop culture interesting enough to learn the lesson; it definitely worked well on my seventh graders (even on the students who had been disruptive in every prior class).

Other than teaching, Duncan and I have just been getting back into our daily routine. Violin is coming slower to me than I’d like (mainly because I have no dexterity in my left hand) but my Chinese is coming along swimmingly. I got my hands on a workbook used by the international students here learning English and I am going to do some of it every night so I can start learning characters along with my oral language skills.

One final note about cultural differences that I noticed in one of my classes today – bodily noises are not nearly as humorous here as they are in the States. For example, today in one of my classes, a kid burped really loudly and I kind of started laughing but none of the other kids in the least. Whereas bodily noises like sneezing, yawning, burping, and farting are considered impolite social breaches in the US, not much attention is paid to them here. This made it pretty clear that the reason we laugh, especially middle school students in the States, laugh when someone burps or farts in class, is not because the noise is particularly interesting, but rather because someone of breaking a social norm. This tiny moment in one class had me thinking about the social construction of humor the rest of the day. I wonder what other situations are similar that I just haven’t noticed yet…

I’ll let you know how the rest of the week goes in a couple of days. Have a good rest of your week and thank you for reading!
Alyssa

 
7 Comments

Posted by on October 9, 2013 in Baoding, Uncategorized

 

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