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Tag Archives: seventh grade

Day 282: Bye-bye, Baoding!

Nimenhao!

We’re three days out from departing Baoding and making our final touring journey to Hong Kong. This week has been eventful and filled with last classes, exams, goodbyes, pictures, Children’s Day festivities, packing, and last suppers. We even ran into Samantha at QLH (a change of her plans meant that we get to see her one more time before leaving – yay)!

We’ve received multiple gifts of thanks from the primary and junior middle schools on campus as well as from boss man at QLH and some individual teacher friends. Earlier this week, the primary school took us out to a really delicious lunch and we had a great time hanging out with most of the primary school teachers and Li Laoshi. And last night, we had our “last supper” with Enkui and his family before we spent the evening together in a typical Chinese park soaking up the communal love and dancing fun that is a unique Chinese experience and one that we will sorely miss.

Instead of narrating a week of events, here are some of my favorite pictures from the week:

P6-3:
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Fifth grade notes (the top one drew what I drew on the board that day and the bottom note drew one of the games we played frequently):
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“Bey-bey”:
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Love notes from fifth grade:
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Selfie with fifth graders:
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P5-1:
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This is a camera with a picture of Alyssa Laoshi inside plus a note from the student underneath that – how creative!:
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Lots of girls from one class signed this:
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Special letter from a fifth grader:
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Chinese fortune tellers:
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P5-5:
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J1-3:
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J1-5:
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P6-2:
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P6-4:
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P6-6:
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Selfies with sixth grade boys:
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P6-1:
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P6-2:
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Video compilations I made of the Children’s Day performances Thursday and Friday –

Kindergarten: 

Primary: 

Art Classes: 

We will spend the rest of this weekend packing, cleaning, and saying goodbyes and then we’re off to Hong Kong. My next post will probably be when we’re no longer in mainland China, so join us in saying farewell to Baoding.

Thank you for reading and until next time,

Alyssa

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Posted by on May 31, 2014 in Baoding, Uncategorized

 

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Day 250: Teacher, I love you!

Nimenhao da jia! (Hey everyone!)

The happy days just keep on coming!

We taught through the weekend in preparation for May Day holiday and the classes were great. Saturday, we met up with Samantha and Johnson for the first time in two months and had a wonderful dinner out together while we caught up. Plus, the weather has been so gorgeous recently we haven’t had to wear masks the past couple of weeks. The sun is shining, the wind feels amazing, the birds are chirping delightfully, and the trees are releasing these giant white puff-balls that are coating the ground in a layer of white and filling the air with what we’ve come to call “Springtime Snow”.

Since Haley has been leading my classes recently, I’ve been sitting in the back observing and reflecting. When it’s all said and done, I really couldn’t be happier about this year in China, especially in regards to teaching. The winter was harsh and there have been many ups and downs, but what I take away from this experience, now that it’s almost over, is overwhelmingly positive and I’m grateful for all of it.

Today was the first time I sat in on my seventh grade classes and I have to say it was a blast to be a half-way participant in the class and to be amidst the students rather than up at the front teaching, for once. Students that typically aren’t very engaged with English were trying to communicate with me either by talking or by passing me notes with questions (which was so much fun for the students to have Alyssa Laoshi participating in note passing – but it was more beneficial for them than they realize since it was all in English) and some even got a rare dose of positive attention from their classmates when they answered Haley’s questions right (after I secretly whispered the correct answer to them – again, it was more beneficial than they realized because even though I was helping them, they were getting to experience what being the smart kid in the class is like and be encouraged further because of it, which, for these particular students, never happens even in their Chinese classes). I talked about earrings and piercings with a group of girls in one class and I spent another class discussing the fact that Haley is not my teacher from America even though she is a teacher at this school and that she is my friend, even though she has “scary eyes” (for some reason, many of my students think her eyes are scary – I think it’s because they’re not used to seeing eye make-up on their teachers and because her eyes are a deep blue). I even got into a debate with my students about whether or not my eyes are blue or grey (apparently, I don’t know what color my eyes are).
My last class before lunch though (a class in which I have a personal relationship with almost every student), was the really heartwarming one. After I spent the majority of the class sitting in the back so as not to be a distraction and to help with classroom management, I moved into an empty desk towards the front of the room and spent a while talking to the students around me. This group of kids, in particular, has always had some of the best English in the school, but today they impressed me even more than they usually do in our mini-conversations.

Students: Will you be our teacher again?
Me: Yes.
Students: Will you teach with the new teacher? (Meaning, both of us up at the board at the same time.)
Me: Maybe.
Students: We don’t love the new teacher as much as we love you.
Me: Why not?
A boy named Scot (leans real close to my face looking very serious): Teacher, I love you.
Me (laughing): Well, thank you. I love you all too.
Students: When do you go home?
Me: I got home to America in June.
Students: When will you return to China?
Me: I don’t know.

[This is when the panic began setting in…]

Students: Will you teach us in September?
Me: No.
Students: Will you teach us in October?
Me: No.
Students: Will you teach us next year?
Me: No. I’m going to America.
Students: WHY!? No, teacher!
Me: My family is in the US.
Students: Do you want to see your family?
Me: Yes, I do.
Students: How will you go to America? (This is a surprisingly common question and they do, indeed, mean transportation.)
Me: By airplane
Students: Do you like us?
Me: Yes, of course.
Students: Will you come back to China after you go to America?
Me: Some day.
Students: When?
Me: I don’t know.
Students: Will you come back to the Bilingual School to see us and teach us?
Me: Maybe.
Students: Teacher! I’ll miss you!
Me: I will miss you too!
Students: Will you remember us?
Me: Of course I will.
Students: Teacher I LOVE YOU! Teacher, I will be sad!

They seemed not to understand when I clarified for them that I will teach them again before I leave, because as I walked out of the room the kids kept saying “good bye, teacher!” and one girl gave me a card attempting to say, have a good trip:

Recent gifts from students:
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A postcard that wishes me a happy flight (in broken English), anime me, and three post cards – one of which is meant to say “forever” friend not “never” friend. 😛

When I reflect on the past year of teaching, I can see just how much confidence I have gained in the classroom compared to the first few weeks of classes. I can see things that I should have done different as part of my classroom routine, and I feel like I’m beginning to grasp the best way to handle these students kindly but without letting them walk all over me. But I think my greatest accomplishment this year as a teacher has been the relationships I’ve developed with my students. I’m going to be very sad to leave them and say goodbye, especially when the reality is that I will probably never see nor hear from these kids again. But I was very excited to share with some students today that I want to keep in touch with them through QQ and email and that it will be possible even when I’m in the US.

Feeling so confident about teaching and proud of our time here, especially at the school, has even tempted part of me to want to stay here for another sixth months just to take advantage of the confidence and experience I’ve gained along with making practical use of the reflecting I’ve been able to do about what works, what doesn’t work, and what I should have done more of in the classrooms. My pride for my Chinese language ability, our traveling, and our other success during this China-life adventure, makes extending our time here even more tempting with the possibilities of even more growth.
But, in truth, we will be back in the States in 41 days and I am even more excited about that! It will be great to see friends and family and to relive the entire year as we share our pictures and stories.

Look at these goofballs:
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Tonight we are having our last dinner with Samantha and Johnson (probably) before we go back to the States and tomorrow the four of us (Duncan, Haley, Caitlin, and I) are going to Beijing for the week. Duncan and I are really looking forward to playing the role of tour guides in this city we’ve come to know pretty well (who would have ever thought I would ever be able to say Beijing was once “my old stomping grounds”?) and to have some time out of Baoding. We’ve been really happy with everything recently, but it will be nice to go on a trip anyway. This is likely going to be our last touring trip in China before we head out of Baoding permanently and on to Hong Kong, Macau, and then home.

Look for another post in the next few days (probably including the Forbidden City and the other big sites of Beijing) as we replicate our first big China touring trip. The first time we over National Day holiday with our old American friends and now, as our last time, it will be over May Day holiday with our new American friends. I can’t wait!

Thank you for reading and until next time,

Alyssa

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2014 in Baoding

 

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Day 116: The Christmas Man & Snow

Nimen hao!

This morning as I was getting ready for class, I looked out the window and thought I saw a snowflake. As I sipped my coffee and slowly awakened to a semi-conscious stupor, I thought a saw another one. And another. And when I bumped into Duncan in between buildings after his first class and before mine, we thought we saw another couple of snowflakes. I walked into my first seventh grade class of the day, not five minutes later, and there was a flurry of the tiniest snowflakes I’ve ever seen dancing outside the classroom window. What is normally a class of rambunctious seventh graders beginning their week back at school, after a long weekend at home, with me playing Jeopardy for exam review back, became a very happy and excited class (with not one angsty scowl to be found). As that class ended and the mid-morning break began, Duncan and I joined the entire school in their parade to the soccer fields before the 3,000 students begin their “morning exercises” (aka “running” laps around the school). By that time, the snow had settled on the ground and it was hard to tell whether the students were more excited about the snow slowly falling or the camera the bigger laowai teacher was pointing at them. The snow didn’t end up sticking around for much longer after that but we sure did have fun joining in on the unique joy that snow seems to bring to childhood (and adulthood if that’s what you call me). 

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Also, Duncan has started a blog to keep up with his photography over the next year. Check it out so you can see some other photos inspired by our life in Baoding, China: http://gdbarnes.wordpress.com/

For some other exciting news, we have masks! And what a delight it is to have the feeling of restricted yet safer breathing strapped to my face. Plus, it brings me the joy that dancing as a rat in the Nutcracker brought me with the full head masks – being able to make the most gruesome faces possible at others without them ever knowing. While riding down the street I attempted to touch my lower lip to my nose but no one else could see the attractive face I was making. (Speaking of, merde and congrats to all the Nutcrackers happening this month all over the world!)

It’s amazing what parts of Western culture have crept their way over to the “East” and how other parts haven’t made the passage. The Nutcracker and widespread sanitation concern (again, I say, do not touch the ground), for example, have no presence here (at least in Baoding), but even Christmas plays an ever-increasing role in modern Chinese society and traditions. All 6th grade students at the school made Christmas cards in their Chinese English class and today all of the students wanted to wish me a Merry Christmas (and they thought today was December 25th even if they were reading from the board that today is December 16, 2013). One student, Kevin, gave me a Christmas card last week and two (kind of creepy) Santa (the “Christmas Man!”) dolls today in class. All the shops on QLH street have “Nihao Santas” in their shop windows and other Christmas and New Year paraphernalia bedecking the storefront windows. We’ve even heard (the most obnoxious rendition ever made of) Frosty the Snowman and Jingle Bells blaring from shop speakers as we drove by on Kuai Long.

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Another week is flying by as we review, prepare for exams, and begin to bring the semester to a close. It’s been a good week so far and it looks like it will continue to be one. For now, it’s off to bed for some much-needed sleep.

Have a good day and thank you for reading!

Alyssa

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2013 in Baoding, Uncategorized

 

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Day 78: Baoding in Teaching (Teaching in Baoding)

Hello everyone!
I can’t believe we’ve already been here for 78 days and have completed our tenth week of teaching.
This week’s classes were a lot of fun! We had fewer classes than usual because morning classes on Wednesday for primary school students and Friday morning classes for middle school students were cancelled because the students had exams. This meant that I saw only one fifth grade class on Wednesday and only taught five eighth grade classes this week.
My lesson for the sixth graders covered months, seasons, weather, appropriate clothing, and seasonal things to do outside. Though most of the vocab was review, they seemed to enjoy learning “swim suit” (which they would not stop calling a “swimmy suit”), “umbrella” (aka “umbreller”), “rain boots” and “rain coat” (which they called “rainy boots” and “rainy coat”).
The past several weeks I have been teaching two or three different lessons to my seventh grade because cancelled classes have made it so that all of the classes have not had my class the same number of times. For some classes this week I combined two lessons and for other seventh grade classes I just played games all of class to try to get everyone on the same page. All of my seventh grade classes have now had the same material, but because of the class cancellations this week (and last), now I have one fifth grade class ahead of all the other fifth grade classes and another class two weeks behind the others (on top of them already being the class of transfer students that have a lower English level than the rest of the grade).
I played the same game with all of my classes this week just at varying levels of difficulty appropriate to the most recent lesson material and grade level. It proved to be a very successful game that I will definitely play again in the future. I divided the class into three or four teams depending on size and divided the chalkboard into sections according to the number of teams. I then wrote down some words that the students had to unscramble into a grammatically correct sentence in order for their team to get a point.
Before I played the game I was doubtful that they would see the game as fun and would see it more as a classroom exercise, but their enthusiasm (in all classes) astounded and encouraged me. My most advanced seventh grade class played it almost the entire class period because they were enjoying it so much. It really seems to be a great game because the entire class gets engaged and really into telling their teammate at the board how to write the sentence correctly and they all end up speaking in English without even realizing what they are doing. For this reason, I used more practical sentences for my eighth grade (such as “I would like a ticket to Beijing, please” and “I am learning English”) to give them practice saying phrases they are likely to use in real-life rather than the lesson-appropriate sentences I used with my sixth graders (“Fall is cool” and “I like to go swimming in the Summer”). One of my favorite moments from this week’s game was when I had the students unscramble words to form the sentence “Alyssa is my favorite English teacher”. As I went through checking each team’s sentence I said, “thank you!” as if they had done it on their own and they all thought it was very funny.
On Wednesday when I had my one fifth grade class, the Chinese teaching assistant never showed up so I taught the entire class by myself. I was very proud of my students for how well they did understanding what I was saying and participating in the class without relying on a Chinese translation. When I started the class with my usual routine of asking them what they did over the weekend, one girl told me that it was her birthday. After she sat down, another girl stood up and said in front of the class that she went to her friend’s birthday party. It seems like a simple situation but keep in mind that these are 10 and 11 year olds telling me in correct English about their weekends. They really do astound me.
I’ve started hanging out with my students in their classrooms in the breaks between classes rather than reading in the hallway or in the teacher’s offices and this has proved to be very valuable and a lot of fun. During this time, I always have some girls messing with my hair, some boys pointing at different things either around the room or in books asking me for the English words, and other students just trying to tell me different things in English and Chinese. I get so encouraged by my students’ attempt to speak in English with me about normal everyday things rather than just following a memorized script or only talking in English when they have to in class. The more relaxed interactions with me in between classes rather than just with me as the English teacher at the front of the class is probably more valuable than anything I could teach them as a class.
My eighth grade classes, usually a source of much worrying and anxiety for me, were hugely successful this week and I couldn’t be happier with how they went. Some of the students are still troublemakers and seem to spend the entire class talking, throwing things, or messing with people, but as a whole they were all great. Because of the game I played with them, even the kids that normally sit in the back scowling at me with teenage angst came to the front, participated, and did really well.
I had a lot of funny moments happen in classes this week too. One eighth grader kept trying to flatter me however he could in English so that I would give his team more points and another kid’s voice cracked so loud and high that it scared me and I jumped. One boy, rushing back to his seat after writing on the board, slipped and fell on his back in the middle of the aisle in between desks as if he had slipped on a banana peel. And in another class, in the middle of the game I heard a loud pop like a mini explosion from the back of the room and I couldn’t figure out what it was. There were a group of students (where I suspect the noise originated) that kept looking at me and telling me “don’t worry about it” while all the kids around them were staring and pointing at them. I asked what the noise was (assuming a stool had broken, but no one seemed to be missing a stool) but I still have no idea what happened. It was pretty funny though.
I am so excited about this week because it seems I finally learned how to connect with my older students and play with them at the level they want to play at while (sneakily) forcing them to use English. Next class I am going to take my eighth graders outside – an option I gave them at the end of class that immediately made their eyes bug out of their heads and get super excited and become well-behaved.

For non-teaching news, it’s really cold here. I clearly wasn’t using my brain when I packed because I left my smurf suit (a blue wool body suit), leather gloves, and long underwear in the States. It seems that I forgot I was moving to the North of the globe when I was packing and, for a reason I cannot explain, decided it was better to pack a couple of sundresses rather than my winter coat. I’ve always thought I was a good and practical packer but after this oversight, I’ve decided I’m never allowed to pack by myself again.
But, we do now have heat in the room and it is the most amazing thing I think I’ve ever experienced. We were getting so cold at night before our heat was working that we were genuinely concerned for our safety come winter. Our washer was also fixed this week and now we can do a load of laundry in half the time and without the bathroom flooding because there is no longer a missing pipe on the underside of the sink (you have to turn the faucet on to get water in the washer). We discovered how to dry our clothes fast when we moved the drying rack by the window in our living room and turned on a fan that sucks air out of the room (like bathrooms in the States).
And though happy baozi man still hasn’t returned, as we’ve seen more and more street vendors disappear with the changing weather, we have become more confident that we will see him again in the Spring.

We’re spending the weekend in Baoding again just resting and staying warm. Soon, I am going to make another post about cultural differences I’ve noticed and more about what it’s like living in China as a meiguoren (American).

Have a good weekend and thank you for reading!

Alyssa

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2013 in Baoding, Uncategorized

 

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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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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

 
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Posted by on October 9, 2013 in Baoding, Uncategorized

 

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Day 34: Blue Autumn Skies

Yesterday and today were two more beautiful days in the neighborhood. The sky was cloudless blue, the sun was shining brilliantly, and the air was crisp with tinges of fall. It was so nice outside all the windows in the school were opened to let the autumn breeze fill the classrooms. Taking advantage of the nice (and smog-less) weather, we turned the AC off and opened the windows in our apartment as well. We ate our dinner outside in the Military Square Park and watched as dozens of high-flying kites filled the sky.

Yesterday, I taught all fifth graders today and all of my classes were great successes. I’ve been pretty pleased the past few days being able to conduct class without the need for a translator regardless of whether or not they are in the room. We talked about the parts of the family, how to correctly say whether or not you have siblings and how many, and how to describe people. In my last class, the kids generously described Ms. Alyssa as having blonde hair, big eyes, a big mouth, and a big nose! Another kid, mispronouncing a word, said that another classmate had blue ears! They all also thought it was great fun that I included great grandparents and great aunts and uncles on the family tree we created on the board. I have no criticism about yesterday’s classes; they were all wonderful and I enjoyed them a lot. Plus, I found out that some students from my classes told one of the administrators that they enjoy my classes because they have a lot of opportunity to practice their oral English. Thus, as far as the students are concerned, I’m doing my job right!

Today I didn’t teach until 2:30 and then I only had three seventh grade classes, which went well. I finished teaching basic greetings and started teaching idioms. Today I taught the kids that “break a leg” means “good luck”. Because they were so great, I told them that next class I would teach them an American song. What song should I teach?

Duncan’s problem from the other day has been handled better than we could have expected. The administration listened to both sides, agreed with Duncan, and, after observing one of Duncan’s classes, told him he is one of the school’s best teachers. On top of this, they are going to encourage the other Chinese teachers to sit in on his classes to learn from him how he conducts his classes and interacts with the students. Administrators openly agreed that positive reinforcement is the best way for students to learn and they acknowledged that too little of it happens in China, in general, and they would like to encourage more positive reinforcement in this school. The entire situation has been handled professionally, personally, and efficiently. Maybe we really can make a lasting impact on our school!

And as I sit here writing this I keep asking myself, “Have we really been in China for 34 days?” I still can’t believe it – we’re living in China! This adventure has been nothing like what I imagined it would be, but now that I’m in it and living it every day, I cannot say what would have to change to make it more like my previous expectations. Despite the challenges we’ve had already, I wouldn’t change a thing, because even in this short amount of time, I can tell I have grown and changed through these experiences. I am certainly becoming more patient and my tolerance for the unexpected, unplanned, and nonsensical increases everyday. This journey, even only one month in, is making me a better person and I couldn’t be more grateful that we have the opportunity to partake in on this life-changing adventure. Thank you to everyone who encouraged us, supports us, and helped make it possible.

The next two days are weird because of our week off next week for National Day. We will both be teaching next Monday’s class schedule tomorrow and this Friday’s schedule on Saturday. We have high-speed rail tickets to Beijing for Monday morning and our first big travel adventure will begin with our friends from back home, Lindsay and Steven. We are all very excited and many pictures are sure to follow!

Thanks for reading!

 
4 Comments

Posted by on September 26, 2013 in Baoding, Uncategorized

 

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