Tag Archives: Teaching English as a foreign language

Day 282: Bye-bye, Baoding!


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:


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):


Love notes from fifth grade:

Selfie with fifth graders:


This is a camera with a picture of Alyssa Laoshi inside plus a note from the student underneath that – how creative!:

Lots of girls from one class signed this:

Special letter from a fifth grader:

Chinese fortune tellers:







Selfies with sixth grade boys:



Video compilations I made of the Children’s Day performances Thursday and Friday –



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,



Posted by on May 31, 2014 in Baoding, Uncategorized


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Day 274: Tribute to Eighth Grade


The fastest week of our time in China has now (already!) passed, and we officially have one week of school left. This means that as of 4:10 this afternoon, I will never teach my eighth grade students again.

So, to honor all the fun (and patience-trying lessons I learned) experienced in my classes, here’s a tribute post to the eighth grade classes at the Hebei Baoding Eastern Bilingual School in the 2013-2014 school year.

J2 -2 (“Alisha” has to get in the picture too!):

J2 – 3 (some of them, at least):
J2.3 - Version 2

J2 – 4 (half of them; this class definitely knows who Cobe Bryant is – they may or may not be under the impression that I personally know him…):

J2 – 5 (happiest class who no matter how hungry they were, would not let me send them off to lunch early):

J2 – 6 (those two in the front, may have the best English in their grade):

J2 – 7 (some of them saying goodbye):

Next week, we might only have Monday – Wednesday classes because of Children’s Day Festival celebrations (plenty of pictures are sure to come from that – of us and by us) and then we’ll be leaving the following Tuesday. 17 fun-packed days until we’re on a flight back home…

Thank you and until next time,


(Happy 100 posts!)

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Posted by on May 23, 2014 in Baoding


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Day 263: Teaching in (Baoding) China

Nimen hao!

We’re 28 days from leaving and have between one and three classes left with each group of students depending on the grade. Teaching new material is effectively done and now (at least in my classes) we’ll be reviewing, taking my final exam, and saying goodbye. It seems that just as I was getting the hang of “this teaching thing” the WKU teachers got here and now, after they leave on Wednesday (how has their month here already passed?!), the semester and year are officially concluding. We’re in the home stretch.

As I’ve been observing Haley’s classes and advising her as best I can on the “different beast” that is teaching English to Chinese students, I’ve come up with a list of things I’ve learned about teaching (in this specific environment) this year:

-Your class may not count, but you do:
My classes have not been worth a grade or had any “official” impact on the academic careers of my students, which has made engaging disinterested students even more difficult, but as the students realize I’ll be leaving in less than three weeks and that I will not be their teacher next year, there is no doubt that I, personally, matter to (most of) them. Just as relationships with the students have been really rewarding to me, I think the students have relished the personal attention Duncan and I strive to give to them. We interact with the students very differently than their Chinese teachers do (most characteristically by emphasizing positive interactions – whether it be creating a positive, shame-free, and fun learning environment or rewarding correct answers and good behaviour) and making ourselves accessible and welcoming to casual interaction has clearly been important to the students. They’ll miss us as much as we’ll miss them.

-You have to adapt your vocabulary to words and phrases the students have likely encountered or been taught before:
You have to bring yourself, your lesson, and your teaching to a level that is understandable, accessible, and relevant to them. For example, our students were taught “water-closet” or “W.C.” instead of “bathroom” and before I taught them that the American equivalent is “bathroom” or “restroom”, I had to acknowledge that they were correct and that I understood them. I taught them “Earth friendly” rather than “environmentally friendly” because they had already learned the word “Earth”. I have simplified my spoken English in the classroom to make them more able to understand what I’m saying without relying on a translator. My goal with this was to get them understanding and using as much English as possible independently rather than relying on a translator or losing their interest in my class because I was just speaking at them incoherently.

-No matter how ridiculous it feels, talk slowly:
I’m a fast talker with my English-speaking peers so slowing down my speech enough that non-native English speakers could have a chance at understanding me took quite a bit of adjustment. It wasn’t until I really started trying to communicate on my own in Chinese that I realized just how big of a difference it makes in whether or not I can understand and continue to communicate with people. I really appreciate it when people are patient and considerate enough to slow down their speech so I can catch the individual words and phrases in Chinese and so I have made a deliberate effort to do the same with my students learning English. In turn, they’ve even slowed down their Chinese enough to teach me new words and phrases.

-Become a mime:
One of the hardest things to get used to about teaching, other than speaking at (what feels like) a glacially slow pace, is learning to be exaggeratedly expressive. Often to help explain the rules of a game or a concept, I have been very literally demonstrative. Whether it’s just pointing or miming an action with your entire body, expressing yourself with more than just words is very helpful to students. This also took me a while to adjust to, but once I did, my students began understanding me and getting more out of my classes almost immediately.

-Get used to embarrassing yourself:
This applies to pretty much every aspect of living in China, especially if your language ability can’t be categorized as fluent, but it is especially true when teaching kids. Talking slowly and literally acting out everything in your lesson sometimes turns you into a comedic variety show, of sorts, in your classroom, but it’s worth the embarrassment and self-consciousness since it often is beneficial to your students’ learning. One of my lessons was on health words and this meant that for every “cough”, “sneeze”, “help”, “sick”, and “sleep”, I was essentially acting out a charades game by myself. Whereas this benefitted the older kids by their learning the English equivalent to a visual thing rather than to the Chinese translated word, the younger kids joined in on the acting and they learned the new English words through total-body engagement in the lesson. Now, if I asked my students what I’m doing with my hand over my mouth, they know I’m acting out “mask”. It’s weird; it takes some creativity; but it seems to work and makes class more fun.

-There is a ton of variety in your classes:
In all of my classes, I can expect and have found an enormous amount of variety in age, ability, patience, learning style, hygiene, interest in school, background, interest in extracurricular activities, willingness to speak in front of the class, willingness to speak just to me, comprehension, and speed of learning amongst many, many other factors. This is especially true in my older classes in which I have eighth graders who can barely count to twenty in English while their desk partner is having full conversations with me in English and wishing me to “have good dreams” at night when I go to sleep. This makes creating a lesson even more difficult (than it already is considering how infrequently I see the students). While some kids may want only to learn about hobbies and computer games, others want to learn about American culture, others need to be tutored in basics such as colors and numbers, and others could genuinely care less about your class or ever speaking English for that matter. Do I cater lessons to the advanced and interested students or do I cover basics but leave the advanced students bored? This is not a situation unique to ESL teachers in China, but it has presented me with some challenges that I wish I had been better prepared for.

I have also learned a lot about what I would do differently were I to teach these classes again. For one, I would focus more on teaching frameworks rather than vocabulary, at least at first. For example, I wish I’d spent more time teaching phrases like “I like ____”, “I feel ___”, “I want____”. In the long run, I think this would have been very useful for the students and, though what I taught the students certainly was still beneficial, frameworks would have been more universally applicable. I also wish that I had taught phonics from the very beginning. One of my biggest criticisms of how Chinese students learn English, at least from my experience at this school, is that they memorize how to say a new word but since they don’t have a firm grasp on phonics, they are unable to sound out new words they see or how to hypothesize how to spell words they recognize orally but not visually. I wish I had taken the time every time I taught a new word to sound out and focus on the phonics. Maybe that would even eliminate the frustrating “-a” added to the end of every word(-a).

Another thing I’ve come to see in a new light is technology in the classroom. When we first arrived at this school, we were frustrated (I was a little panicked) about our classrooms. We were told that we would have multi-media classrooms but lo and behold, when we entered our classrooms for the first time, we found a chalkboard, fifty desks, and about 3 pieces of chalk. Since I can’t even remember the last time I had a class in which the teacher only used a chalkboard, I was dumbfounded on how to teach a class without technology. In the US, teachers and education majors are increasingly expected to use technology such as Smart boards, PowerPoint presentations, and YouTube videos in their classrooms. And before this experience teaching in China, I was fully on board with all of that and more in the classroom – in an increasingly globalized and technological world, of course technology should be utilized. Though I still agree with this, I’ve become aware of a different angle – that maybe we’re too dependent on technology. By writing on the board and making my own flashcards, I’ve effectively taught 25 classes a week without a single electronic aid and now that I look back on it, I’m not sure how a Smart board would have taught the students any more vocabulary than I did without it. I was talking with the other teachers the other day and they mentioned another interesting aspect I hadn’t thought about before – patience. With technology in the classroom, lessons are sped up, students can switch focus (and get distracted) quickly, and, teachers can lose the attention of students even faster. But in our classrooms here, where students are accustomed to waiting the few extra seconds it takes to write a sentence on the chalkboard rather than it almost instantaneously flashing on the screen, students are required to have a little more patience, a little less entertainment, and a little more focus for a longer period of time. Perhaps, in the midst of our ADHD “epidemic”, we should try teaching without instantaneous gratification and flashy Powerpoints, and instead teach our kids, in the classroom, how to listen, how to wait, and how to be behaved and patient while they wait for a few quiet seconds.

To end this post (much longer than I originally intended when I sat down to write it), here are pictures of some of my classes from last week:


Thank you for reading and until next time,



Posted by on May 12, 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:
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:


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,


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Posted by on April 29, 2014 in Baoding


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Day 247: Five Weeks Left


We’ve had a really enjoyable past couple of days here in Baoding. Having the opportunity to show the sites around to Caitlin and Haley has reminded us a lot of our first couple of months here when every day was an adventure and we weren’t in a routine yet. A lot of our exploring disappeared as we got more and more settled into the routine and as the weather got colder and smoggier, but with the girls here we’ve regained some of that adventuresome spirit.

Over the past few days we’ve tried new bread in the He Da alley (where I thoroughly embarrassed myself linguistically), we ate at an anime themed pizza restaurant with the other foreign teachers in Baoding, we got a kick out of all of the tacky clothes for sale along the road, and I finally worked up the courage (with the group) to play darts at one of the street vendor’s stands (where I won two prizes for consistency).


Street vendors:

During international class on Tuesday, Haley and I discussed the differences between and characteristics of Chinese and American education systems:

Thursday afternoon we were all given another tour of the school’s art classes (which I got to join this time) and we had a wonderful time visiting with our students and seeing all their creations. My students, in particular, were super excited to see me since I hadn’t joined the previous art tour. And today, even though it’s Saturday, we have classes (to make up for the classes we’ll miss over May Day holiday) and my fifth graders seem even more excited than usual to see me and let me know that they saw me in their art class.

Oil pastel drawings with Duncan’s kids:

A paper tank from one of my kids (look at that shirt!):

My kids making music:

Some fifth grade girls learning calligraphy:

Today, Haley has been teaching my fifth grade classes and I’ve been observing. It’s been really fun watching my students from the back of the classroom. Along with the entertainment that comes from them spending the entire class turning around to seek my approval and watching my reactions to what’s happening in the class, it’s been really rewarding to see how much they’ve learned. I’m very proud of the relationships I’ve developed with many of these students because I can see their desire to learn and communicate in English and most of them seem a lot more confident interacting with me and the other foreign teachers than they did at the beginning of the school year. Even if they don’t remember any of the English I taught them, hopefully they’ll remember that foreigners (including teachers) can be fun, friendly, and enjoyable to communicate with. I truly have loved this part of my job here and hope to foster more relationships with students wherever I go next.

Students’ interpretations of “market” (one of them says “How much is the apple?”):

With five weeks of classes left, we’re beginning to mentally prepare for our return home and along with that comes realizing some of what we’re going to miss. I’m definitely going to miss all the traveling we’ve been fortunate enough to be able to do this year but at a local level I’m going to miss how easy it is to get places. Here we can walk to pretty much every place we go to regularly even though we live on the outskirts of town. And if we want to go somewhere a little farther away, Kuai Long (easily the best purchase we’ve made all year) has made that an easy and (mostly) fun mini-adventure. I’ve enjoyed being outside so much this year (despite the smog) since we haven’t had a car and almost all local traveling takes place “in the elements”. And I’ll miss the life and energy of parks and communal spaces. Outdoor spaces just don’t seem as lively or friendly in the States. I’m certainly going to miss all of the street vendors that, even with the burgeoning presence of food trucks in the States, just can’t possibly be replaced. And maybe most of all, I’m going to miss a lot of my students. But for the next five weeks, I’m going to continue to make the most out of this adventure and try to absorb as much of my remaining China life as I possibly can.

Jump rope class in a park at night:

Thank you for reading and until next time,


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Posted by on April 26, 2014 in Baoding


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Day 243: Chinese English Class & A Gifted Watermelon


We had a great weekend introducing the girls to some more of Baoding.

During our adventures we found a new restaurant in the He Da (Hebei Daxue/University) alley (where our bread people are) that served what’s essentially sweet and sour chicken (plus two more dishes we ordered)!


I got to see Duncan teach a class for the first time:

And I had my first experience with a Korean restaurant when we went with the girls and Lex. I tried Kimchi, a Korean tea, a kind of potato pancakes, kimchi bread, marinated peanuts, some mysterious green stuff, and super squishy tofu all for the first time (I liked all of it but the tofu). And while everyone else ordered one-bowl dishes, Duncan and I, in the way that is quite normal for us, ordered a bit more extravagantly and got a dish called “the whole pig”. The middle of the table had a grill in it and a waiter cooked our platter of pork right in front of us. It was probably the most delicious meat I’ve ever eaten and I would go back their daily if I could afford it.


My students have been hilarious when they see Caitlin and Haley in the hallway talking to me in between classes or when I introduce them to the class. All of the students gather in the doorway to catch a glimpse of them when we’re in the hallway and once we’re in the classroom, the students are torn between being really excited about a new teacher they want to get to know and being afraid and nervous. Almost all of our classes have been better behaved than they normally are because Haley or Caitlin is sitting in the back and the students aren’t yet sure what will happen to them if they misbehave in front of the new foreign teachers.

When I introduce them to the class all of my students ask them the same few questions: What’s your favorite food? What’s your favorite sport? How old are you? But yesterday one of my sixth grade students asked me a question I wasn’t expecting – “Aiisa (Alyssa) why do you have yellow hair and your friend has brown hair?” She worked so hard to say that correctly in English that I felt bad when the only answer I could give her was “I don’t know”. But that question really highlighted a unique feature of American people. Since Americans, historically at least, are a mix of many different groups of people, our features can vary dramatically. So while we, as Caucasian Americans, expect diversity in our looks (such as brown and blonde hair, brown and blue eyes, different nose, eye, and mouth shapes), Chinese people aren’t used to that kind of variation. Almost all Han Chinese people (and many other homogenous racial groups) have black hair and black eyes. Of course they have variation in their features as well but it’s not nearly as dramatic as two white girls from the US both with drastically different hair and skin colors as well as feature variation. In the same class, many students kept asking me if Haley and I were sisters. At first I laughed at thought that it was a ridiculous question but then once I thought about it more I realized that they might think we look a lot alike as foreigners just as a lot of people say all Asian people look alike if they’re not used to seeing it. For example, when I first got here, I confused a lot of my students because I wasn’t tuned in to how their features are different but now I notice the differences in my students without even thinking about it. I’m sure they were doing the same thing I used to do.

Today I sat in on a Chinese-English class and was very impressed and interested to see how Chinese teachers teach English to Chinese students. Though it wasn’t what I was expecting, this particular teacher, I thought, did an excellent job at making sure the students really comprehensively understood the English words and phrases they were learning. Still, as in all of my classes, students tend to add an –a sound to the end of words that end in consonants. Whereas we say “park”, Chinese students often say “park-a”. I suspect that this is because Chinese language words don’t often end with a hard sound and I don’t think they even hear themselves adding the extra sound a lot of the time.

After the class Caitlin, Haley, Li Laoshi, three Chinese teachers, and I had a meeting that ended up lasting almost two hours. We spent the time giving feedback about the class that we watched along with the classes the girls have watched and then had a really long discussion comparing the two education systems. One of the things that struck me the most that came out of this meeting were the ideas of respect and educational entitlement. In China, getting a good education is definitely seen as more of a privilege and thus leads to some more respect for the teachers from the students. In the US, students often feel entitled towards their education and frequently have an attitude of “the teacher must earn my respect”. I think this combined with the characteristics of individualistic and communal societies, respectively, has a lot to do with how the students behave in the classroom in each system. Developing your individual person and asking the question “why” is a big deal in the US and while I think that is a great thing most of the time, it can also lead to students believing or saying, “I don’t see the point behind doing what this teacher says so I’m not going to”. That situation is almost unheard of in the Chinese system. Students do their homework when it is assigned and they pretty freely give the expected authority and respect to their Chinese teachers. However, when respect isn’t used to maintain the student’s behavior in the classroom, it seems that fear fills that gap. The Chinese teachers we talked to today said that they assign more homework to bad students but throughout our time here, we’ve also become aware that corporal punishment is not absent in Chinese schools and is also frequently a source of fear for these students. China, as I learned from Li Laoshi today, is actively making a conscious effort to eliminate corporal punishment from within the schools, but still seems unsure of how to maintain good classroom management in its absence.

Today has been a very educational day. Thursday I’m hoping to see some of the art classes offered at the school and at some point in the future I hope to sit in on a middle school Chinese English class and also a regular Chinese class. I’m very interested in seeing how the different classes are taught to different ages and with different subjects.

To finish the day, Li Laoshi called me into her office after my last class and said she had something to give me. Once in the office, she reached under her desk and plopped a giant watermelon into my arms. I said thank you but then asked her why because it seemed really random and she said “because you have been so good”. And then when I said thank you again she said “what do you think about the reason?” Confused, I said, “it’s very nice”. She laughed and as she walked away she just said “you can decide on the good reason!” So I said thank you again and carried my gifted watermelon upstairs with me. I think it was intended to be a gift of thanks since Duncan and I have helped her a lot with acclimating the new teachers to Baoding and the school, but I was very confused. It’s a great way to end the day though.

Next week we are going to Beijing for a few days over our May Day holiday. We’re excited to revisit some of the places we toured when we first went to Beijing in October over National Day with our friends from North Carolina. This year seems to be rounding out quite nicely.

Thank you for reading and until next time,


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Posted by on April 22, 2014 in Baoding


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Day 238: Welcoming the Americans


We both had such a great day today! The new teachers from WKU (Haley and Caitlin) got here late last night and we’ve been helping them get settled and adjusted all day today. It’s been so much fun to be able to pass on all the things we’ve learned onto them.

I didn’t teach classes this morning so I got to sleep in and enjoy my coffee before heading down to a meeting with them and Li Laoshi to discuss their teaching arrangement. It’s been an interesting experience realizing how much we looked like them (all wide-eyed and slightly frantic) during our first days here and comparing that to how we are now. By comparing ourselves to them (representing our past selves) we are beginning to see some of the personal growth we’ve accomplished during this adventure. We seem much more laid back, accepting of going with the flow, and actually quite competent and capable (at least we seem that way). And while we’ve been interacting with other Americans more consistently than we’ve done since we were actually in the States, I’ve also discovered that my natural inclination to talk fast hasn’t disappeared out of disuse (I almost always speak slower English when talking to Chinese people so that they can have an easier time understanding me) and is just as expedient as it always was when speaking to native English speakers. What a relief!

Now that we’re with people that don’t speak Chinese, I realize just how much Chinese I do use on a daily basis and that, considering the relatively little time I’ve actually spent studying the language, I speak much more Chinese than I’ve been giving myself credit for. Even Li Laoshi commented on it today telling me that I have learned a lot of Chinese very well for the short amount of time I’ve been here and that all my pronunciation is correct (that’s quite an impressive statement, I think, considering tones and pronunciation are most of the difficulty with Mandarin).

My classes the past two days have been going really well also. Yesterday, my entire P5-1 class stopped class and applauded me when I wrote the Yuan character (元) on the board (they must think I’m simple-minded) and today my J1-6 class cheered when I walked into the room. When I asked them why (because I was really confused why one of my worst classes seemed so happy to see me), they told me they thought I wasn’t coming back to teach them and they missed me. That’s definitely one-way to make me feel all warm and fuzzy. To add to it, that class was the most engaged in my lesson they’ve been all year and I even got “beautiful” drawings of their friends from two of my boys in that class.


Another girl, from my J1-7 class, drew a picture of me that I think looks a lot like me. She even got my dimple!


After classes I was able to have several conversations in English and in Chinese with some of Duncan’s third and fourth graders and even some of my fifth grade girls surprised themselves when I asked them what they were doing and they responded with words they learned in my class this past week (like “drawing” and “painting”). It was a very rewarding teaching day, for sure. One of my favorite things about working here is and has been interacting with the students. Whether we’re being silly in the classroom by deliberately confusing he and she (as some of my seventh grade boys did today) or one of Duncan’s students is proudly telling me his name and age because he learned how to in class, interacting and relating with the students is definitely one of the best highlights to this job and this year.

Impromptu Gangnam Style dance party in one of Duncan’s classes:
IMG_2964 IMG_2965

While I was teaching my last class, Duncan and the WKU girls went with Li Laoshi to explore the arts classes available to students in the afternoon. Unbeknownst to us this entire year, it turns out the Baoding Bilingual School offer 49 art classes including drawing, dancing, singing, calligraphy, stone carving, stamp making, and musical instruments classes, plus more. They only saw the “traditional” Chinese arts classes today, but were thoroughly impressed by the quality and variety of arts education offered at this school. It was an eye-opening experience and Duncan came back telling me that this is probably one of the biggest reasons the Hebei Baoding Eastern Bilingual School is consistently rated the number one boarding school in Hebei Province. As different of an experience this has been to what teaching in the US would be like, I have learned so much about education, students, teaching, and myself throughout this process. And despite any complaints I’ve voiced along the way, I’m so grateful I’ve had this experience teaching abroad and I’m honored to have been a part of this school and these students’ lives.

Martial Arts/Wushu:

Stone Stamp Carving:

Traditional Chinese Calligraphy:

Music time:

Paper cutting:

Drawing of the school and paper cutting:

To top off the past two happy days, we found a new street food vendor making magically delicious sandwich things. These unique creations are made up of freshly baked bread with sausage in it, eggs, and fried hot dogs all made on an outdoor grill, of sorts. I definitely need to get a picture of the creation process but for now, here’s a picture of the final product:


We had the first heavy rain of the year last night and it made the air refreshingly clean and moist – a welcome change from the arid, dusty air we’ve been used to.
I’m done for the week and have a short week next week. We’re planning to join the girls on a traveling expedition sometime in the near future. We have a few days off for May Day in a couple of weeks so we’ll probably be venturing out again then. Since we’re going to help them meet their travel goals, we’re may not be visiting Shanghai again and may, instead, be visiting Xi’an again. We’re happy to visit pretty much any place we’ve been so far and having accomplished all our traveling goals, we’re more than happy to add our knowledge to their experience.

It’s been a lot of fun talking to people other than just Duncan (no matter how much I enjoy talking with him, I’ve had only him to talk to extensively for the past eight months and some new faces and voices is a welcome change). We’re really happy that the other teachers are here and we’re looking forward to their month with us. It should be quite an educational experience for all of us and I, for one, couldn’t be more excited!

Thank you very much for reading and until next time,


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Posted by on April 17, 2014 in Baoding, Uncategorized


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