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Archive for the 'School' Category

A day in the life of…

Some of the kids have been a bit troublesome lately. Here is one incident from today.

One of the Year 8 boys, ‘Fred’, was somewhat vexatious today. It was English class, and I saw him writing his Chinese homework on a sheet under his English book, so I took it away and gave him a warning. Five to ten minutes later I saw he had a Chinese book on top of his English book! So I confiscated that too, and told him to see me after class. We have a 10 minute break between each class (so the kids can run around and burn off energy, and teachers can finish all matters with teaching, etc), so I got him to bring his English books and a pen to the English office, and he sat and did some English to make up for the time lost by doing Chinese in English class.

At the end, I spoke to him and he understood the punishment and its reason. I also asked him to apologise (’Sorry Miss Gail for doing Chinese in English class’). He understood what I was asking him to do and why, but stood there, looking at me defiantly. I told him that he could apologise, or I’d speak to his homeroom teacher. He didn’t, so after the next lesson, I did just that. I explained the situation to my Chinese English Teacher who could tell him off properly in Chinese, which he did.

In the course of the next half an hour, Fred refused to apologise point blank. At one stage he offered to write double the lines I’d set him (as part of a separate punishment for earlier in the week - he completely ignored me when I asked him to stay behind after the lesson and finish his classwork) instead of apologising. I explained this was unacceptable, as writing lines is easy compared to telling someone you were in the wrong. He also wanted to learn English his way, by ’sitting in class and not listening to the teacher, but reading books and learning English that way’. ?!?!?! I couldn’t believe anyone would suggest something that. And still he refused to verbally apologise.

About 25 mins into all this I’d had enough, and told him that he had the choice of apologising to me there and then, or he, the Chinese English Teacher and myself would call his parents, and he would have to explain the situation to them. He gave his Dad’s work phone number and we went to the English room to call him, when the lady who teaches the Foreign English Teachers Chinese was in the office. My Chinese English Teacher explained the situation to her and she said she’d handle it (she’s the official behaviour-type person).

Ten minutes later I was given a very nice apology.

When discussing this later with the other FE Teachers, they said that the boys in the Year 8 class had a problem with apologising for some reason, and thought this stemmed from a Chinese teacher in one of their previous years, who never demonstrated this trait. They also told me of another of the Chinese teachers, who had prize-winning Chinese language students he/she was very proud (and boastful) of, instructing their students to do their homework in English class. Strange but true.

It goes to show that actions often speak louder than words.

Well, I’ve decided to take a bit of a survey of my health.

I consider myself generally blessed with a very sturdy constitution, and get sick infrequently. This has been true for our time in Shenzhen, with the exception of my throat, for some reason. Since beginning school, especially, I’ve had things ranging from mildly irritated to quite sore throats to almost being incapable of talking. They have furthermore been much more frequent than I’d like. Because of this latest occurrence I’ve decided to keep notes on the calendar to have a proper record of them. It will be interesting. I’ll keep you posted.

The contaminators are about 3 feet high, have cheeky smiles, are of Asian appearance, love seeing and touching Miss Gail at any opportunity, and are found at the Kindergarten. I’ve noticed that every day I’ve taught for the last 8 weeks or so, there are at least a couple of kids with ‘red tags’ by their names because of sore throats/ infections. I wash my hands before eating, but there seems only so much you can do to keep the germs at bay. I guess ‘what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger’ (but as Pratchett fans will note, ‘what does kill us leaves us dead’ ) ’ .

PS. It seems that Andrew now has it.

Open Class

The other week I had my Open Class.

All teachers are required to give one Open Class per semester, for the purpose (I think) of other teachers to see how you teach, and to constructively criticise and get tips on how to do different things.

It went quite well. I’d chosen the Year 9s, because they are the most stable and mature class, and easiest to work with. - good enough reasons for me. ) The Year 7s and 8s are still hit-and-miss some days; you get your good days and unproductive ones. The year 9s, with about 13 girls and 3 boys, are an extremely girly class, who love the group-work, and can do on-task group-work; a sufficiently rare occurrence for any Year 9s. They are also self-motivated, with their end-of-year exam being pressured like our Year 12.

With 10 or so teachers at the back of the class, the kids were much less chatty than usual, which made things slightly harder, and I felt a bit uneasy too, which was frustrating. I gave them a hard comprehension, that had quite a few words they wouldn’t know, for the purpose of teaching preview techniques.

The whole thing went very well, though they were not quite themselves, which made things a little harder and less enjoyable than a normal class. The subsequent lesson they were back to normal, though.

An interesting part of the process was feedback. I received feedback from the ‘official feedback-giver’, a Chinese English Teacher, and also from the Foreign ETs who came. Interestingly, the FETs said that most of the CETs probably wouldn’t be able to understand the lesson, as the material was difficult; a comment I thought justified when meeting with the official responder. Another amusing thing was that these open classes are usually shows, with lots of interesting things, and I heard that some Chinese teachers also teach the whole lesson to the class before-hand, so there are no surprises!! Hardly representative of real life. So the FETs all imagined that a few were surprised that this was a normal lesson. Hee hee! Maybe it will start a trend of real-lesson Opens.

Round peg, Chinese dress…

Continuing the saga of the oversized foreigners…

I received my school skirt yesterday. First, let me say that the Chinese are into the ‘above the knee, cute skirts that make the young teachers look like slightly older schoolgirls. Due to physical dimensions and social interpretations the foreign teachers expressed discomfort with the design, and were accommodated with longer skirts, according to their personal preference. I chose an ankle-length. I would also like to take this opportunity to point out that the Chinese like their tailored clothes to fit very snugly.

The skirt arrived, and it looked as nice as it was going to. I tried it on. I was prepared to be quite happy.

~ It looked lovely, but was a bit too long; so just take the hem up.

~ It fitted well, but I couldn’t walk in it; there wasn’t enough material, even with a slit. This still could have been overcome.

~ It looked tailored - but I couldn’t hoist it high enough to accommodate the squat toilets. It had to go back.

PS. Thanks to Andrew for the inventive title. )

Here is the latest teaching update:

Homework during the first 2 weeks has been a bit of an issue, as we would say. Firstly, the year 9s are fine. They are feeling the imminence of their English exams at the end of this year, and there’s pseudo-matric pressure on them. (How you go in the English exam leads to what high school you can go to, leads to college entrance, leads to career.) The Year 7s and 8s are a different story.

Because the school is still very much in the developing stage of their EFL (English as a Foreign Language) programme, last year my understanding is that the English classes were divided into oral and written classes, and there was no or little homework for the foreign teachers’ oral class. Consequently, the students are in the habit of not handing in/ doing homework. This changed at the end of last year, and at the beginnng of this year I had only one out of my 11 year 7s do their homework.

After talking to a returning foreign English teacher, I read the riot act, ie the next time they didn’t do it as requested, I would tell their homeroom teacher as a warning. The subsequent time, they would call their parents, and explain why the foreign teacher was making them call their parents in the middle of the day, at work, because they were failing English class by not turning in their homework.

The next day all homework was done. It has been done since, as well. )

The lao wai are HOW big?

The Chinese teachers have to wear school uniforms, and this year the foreign teachers have been highly encouraged to do the same, to show willing. On the first day of school all teachers were measured for shirts and skirts (neck, arm, bust; waist, hips and length). Our school uniforms came during the second week, but those for the foreign teachers did not. The taylor was convinced that he had made a mistake with the measurements, and was not going to make the clothes until he was certain.

We were summoned to be remeasured one afternoon, and after a few of us trying on the largest size shirt available in his presence, he was finally convinced that the measurements were indeed correct, and went back to use the originals. ) We concluded that he thought his measurements were erroneous, becuase he couldn’t believe that anyone could be that big. )

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