Hi again all, this is the second installment of my first day at school, namely teaching the Year 8s and 9s in the afternoon. Basically, they amply made up for the frustration of the Year 7 class. Both classes are an absolute pleasure to teach. Yes, I am still getting the hang of the multiple ‘bell’ system (fragments of Muzac, especially the first section and 1/2 a bar of Mozart’s Rondo alla Turka - not the end of the phrase) to indicate the beginning and end of the lesson, and associated teacher protocol (another post), and they are likewise coming to terms with my class requirements, but they are doing a very good job of trying to understand me, and I, them. Basically, they’re good kids. Ok, a few are a little too sprightly at present, but it’s not malicious or trouble-making in any way, and they’re learning to settle in Miss Gail’s class (the other teachers are miss xyz, regardless of marital status).
With the Year 8s, I spent their first two lessons introducing the ‘writing prompt’, ie, ‘Write 5 sentences in English on, “What if… you were the leader of China for a day?” They hadn’t done anything like that before, and I think most were focussed on, ‘What is the right answer? What answer does the teacher want?’, so introducing creative/ free thought, which is part of the activity, is perhaps harder than the actual writing. It took 2 lessons, including one failed attempt (’what do we know about fish?’) and one successful attempt on the board, but they’re getting the hang of it. At some stage one of them is going to have an ‘ohh!’ moment when it finally clicks. Groupwork is also a foreign concept, as are mind-maps (brainstorming on the board using linked circles and lines), which we’ll have to lead up to; not too many new things at one time!
The year 9s are gorgeous. There are only 3 or 4 boys in an otherwise all-girl class, so they are very social and help each other, but are still focussed on their work; after all, at the end of this year they will take their big English test to decide on their high school and therefore job prospects, so they’re working hard. They also understand groupwork. The year 9s also come with questions, and have both the language skills and confidence to be able to articulate what they want to know.
Since I only see the year 7s on Monday, Thursday and Friday, I have been sitting in on Mr Chen (Erik - ‘not a fish’)’s classes with them, and finding out what he’s been doing, and more importantly, at what level he’s teaching them. Their language is quite rudimentry, and they need a lot of repetition. He also uses a bit of Mandarin in the class, which I won’t be able to do. There are only 11 kids in the class, but it’s still the most intensive class for me. It has helped, me sitting at the back of the room and sometimes assisting, as the kids now are used to me, and no longer see me as a white, scary foreigner who talks fast and is harder to understand than the Americans, so I think they’ll really try. I’m trying hard to learn their names. I’ve also organised to have a text book for them which should come in on September 1 and not before, (why would the supplier possibly think we could need it before, since Sep 1 is officially the first day of school? - Government departments. ). That should really help, since I think the kids are still at the age where they really need something in front of them, rather than only arbitrary exersises in a book.
So the first half-week at school has been exciting and nowhere near as bad as normal first weeks. - I’ll need to start with the kindergarten after Sep 1, though, which should bring its own challenges. I’m really glad we haven’t had them this week, since I’ve been coming to school for 10 days already. It’s not that the work has been hard, it’s the emotional burden of the unknown classes that’s mainly been the problem. It’s going well.
Hark, I hear the dulcet tones of (James Galway, I think?) playing the ‘it’s nearly the end of the lesson’ cheerful music. Again, it finishes on half a phrase. I wonder if they do requests?