Teaching in China

Wow! It’s been a manic few days of teaching the children. The day before we were due to start, we were told that we had to write an hour-long test for all of the children to do to test their English. The purpose of this test was not clear; they are not meant to see the result, and we are meant to give them another test at the end of the camp to see how they have improved. The fact that they will be tested on totally different subject matter didn’t seem to occur to the Chinese. Anyway, we wrote the tests and were then told that they were way too hard – apparently Chinese children are not taught about tenses until they are 12, rendering virtually everyone’s teaching material useless (there are about 200 kids less than 12 and 40 above, the majority of whom are 13-15 years old and even they don’t seem to have been taught about tenses.

So, the pattern of each day is to get up at 6:30 and then meet for 20 min of prayer 7-7:20. We then have aa quick breakfast and teach 3*50 minute classes between 8 and 11:45. Then a quick lunch, some book study with the team 1:30-2:30 and then 1 hour of supervisions with the children – groups of 2 or 3 for 15 minutes each. Yesterday this time was quite strange – in China apparently the way they learn English is by memorizing role-plays, so I had to phrase the question just right for them to understand and they replied with the memorized answer. For example I said “do you like animals” and the kid just looked blankly into space the same way I do when accosted by over-friendly supermarket staff here. When I said “What is your favourite animal” the response came straight away “My favourite animal is a pig”. Apparenly one child has a pet pig which is blue. There wa sone child who is quite talkative in class, even speaking in English, but during the supervision time he did not want to say a word – he used the other kid as a translator. I wrote down “I have no brothers or sisters” but he refused to say it and just stared blankly into space. Then we have afternoon activities. Because so many of the children wanted to go swimming, I have been assigned to pool duty, which basically means 1h30 swimming around the pool in the hot sun. They have a 50 meter pool and the kids seem to get on fine by themselves – whenever I went down the shallow end they splashed and tried to jump on me but when I practiced diving up the deep end or just doing lengths they let me alone and were still having fun amongst themselves. Sooo lucky not to be supervising the basketball or football activities.

After all this, we have an hour or so for dinner and then the evening activity until 9. Last night, this was ice-breakers etc and so we did some dancing and hokey cokey etc. I was told to lead the king kong dance and the children seemed to enjoy it. After this I just want to go to bed but most nights I have been staying up until the midnight region trying to think of something to teach the children the next day.

Today I have a break the the morning as one class was off doing a music lesson. I walked into town the the aforementioned department store to buy some stuff for the team – big packs of white rabbit (sweets, perhaps a bit like chewits but all the same flavour) and some shampoo and shower gel. This was quite an expreience beucase all the bottles were in chinese. Eventually, I managed to communicate what I wanted but I think the several assistants probabloy gave me stuff for women. Doesn’t seem to be any sanitary stuff for men here, apart from razors which are everywhere in abundence.

On the subject of sweets, it seems that the Chinese have got it sorted. Not so much in terms of the content of the sweets – most are some sort of dried plumb and chocolate is virtually unheard of, but in the packaging. I remember many times as a child in hot weather trying to peel the wrapping away from the sweet, made even worse in hot weather. Eventually, I tended to give up and just eat both and perhaps pick the paper out of my mouth afterwards. However some genius came up with putting a layer of rice paper in between the sweet and the wrappign – the wrapping just peals away and then you eat the rice-paper and the sweet. Certainly someone in England should invent such a wrapping!

Two of the teachers I have been working with have been intwerested to find out more about my subject of study – I would like to talk to them further about it.

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