One thing I forgot to mention about Tuesday which was quite humorous was that when I was talking with Suri (the Chinese student who stopped me while I was running) she asked me about my family. She became rather interested when I mentioned that I have two brothers, and then really excited when I mentioned that one of them was 24 (almost). She was rather saddened when I mentioned he had a girlfriend, so watch out Richard, these Chinese girls are coming for you!
Okay, so today we had some power outages in the morning, but they didn’t last long. I also successfully made some scrambled eggs for myself for breakfast (no spontaneous fires) and it was rather delicious, not as good as I could make in the States, but it would do.
While I was at the office I chatted with some students on QQ. One of the students said she would be taking an exam in December and was really worried about her English. Not sure how much I can help her in only a few months, but we can try. In the Chinese universities the students must take an exam in order to earn their degrees. The English exams are broken down into different levels, so she was most likely taking one of these level tests. They are rather difficult, and from what I have seen from the average student in Jiangyou versus students from schools in Chengdu, it will be a bit of a challenge for my students.
Around 10am Vivi asks me if I want to go to the library and get a library card. I said sure, wondering if there were even English books. Well oh were there English books. There was a great, albeit small, collection of novels in English. The novels ranged from classics, such as To Kill a Mockingbird, Mark Twain novels, Dracula, and The Awakening (many more, too) to easy reads like Agatha Christie, Stephen King, Lonely Planet Guides (minus the one for China which is banned), and almost all of the British versions of…Harry Potter. Oh yeah, I think I will never be bored on a weekend again. I am looking forward to getting my library card—which will take some time because I need some sort of identification number and a 1”x 1” photo of myself. Oh this is so exciting, though. I wonder if Janice and Mark know about this gem.
After lunch we recorded our voices again (and for the last time, I think). I was doing alright singing by myself in my apartment, but I get really nervous singing in front of others, and my voice definitely cracked a couple of times in the recording. However, two of the teachers told me that my voice was very sweet, kind of like I have a child’s voice. I’m not sure if this was a compliment or not, but I took it as such. Then they told me that I should do my hair up nice for Friday. They decided it would be best if I wore it down and they would ask the dance teacher to make me some flowers to put in my hair.
After lunch I observed Vivi’s preschool education class. It was almost all in Chinese, although she added some English words into the lesson to catch the students’ attention, as well as for extra practice since they are also required to learn English. She has 50 students in her class and her class is broken into three 45 minute sessions (very long). Vivi was also clever enough to get a hands-free microphone that she uses to teach in order to save her voice. She also has a very sweet, soft voice that is probably difficult to project in such a large class. I could tell that Vivi really enjoys teaching from her facial expressions and her interactions with the students. She is a traditional Chinese teacher in that she stands at the front of the class and delivers her lecture, although at one point the students did have a discussion and she walked around (just walked around, but didn’t interact. I could tell she felt a little unused to this, so I thought that maybe she got the walking around idea from my class). But it mostly ran from her lecture, the students taking notes, her asking questions, and students answering (either in unison, which always throws me off here, or with one student standing up to answer, which also throws me off. I always tell students that they can remain in their seats to answer a simple question, but this is how their classes have been run from a very young age). Her students were very engaged with her lesson. She would challenge them with some questions, told some funny stories (maybe, like I said it was in Chinese), and read a short passage from a story she got while we were at the library. One thing I found very interesting about her lesson was that she taught them almost everything she had asked me about during the week and last week in the office. She taught them the difference between pedagogue, pedagogy, and education. She taught them about the American Early Childhood Education format that we went over the other day. It was a little surprising to me. So maybe I am making a difference here.
During one of the breaks I talked with one of her students. One thing I asked him was if he had travelled to any other city outside of Sichuan. He hadn’t. I have noticed that with many Chinese people, and not just students. It seems that many are confined to their province for most, if not all, of their lives. Also, I am aware that Chinese schools do not teach too much about cultures and history of other countries, nor do their news stations cover a lot of world news. I found this sad, but what I found even sadder was my reflection on our own country. When I thought about it I realized that our education also lacks this. This egocentrism in our country can be found within the classroom, as well as in the media. Look at the newspapers and see how little is devoted to world news. When do our schools focus on Asian, African, or Latin American cultures, histories, or literatures? They don’t, unless it is an advanced class (like AP). Our schools are mainly concerned with American or European culture, history, and literature. Why do you think this is? Yes I am going to make you ponder a bit while reading my blog. Just think about it for a moment, and comment below if you think you have a good answer to this query.
After Vivi’s class we hurried home to change for our dress rehearsal. I donned my blue polyester dress and silver shoes and made my way to the auditorium. So it turned out we were not the only ones practicing, but that is was a full run of the entire program with all 10 acts going through. We are the fourth act. The acts were mainly singing and dancing. Some were teachers only, others were students only, and still others, like ours, incorporated both students and teachers. The act went fine, although we are now aware of a few minor adjustments we need to make before Friday. The recording earlier is the official one that I heard blare out over the audience of waiting performers (complete with cracking voices and all. I think my amazing dance moves distract from the horrendous noises coming from the loudspeaker, though). When we finished our act, some of us decided to hang out and watch all of the others. I really hope that someone video records this and I can get a copy because it is worth watching. Later Vivi and I had dinner outside of the school, this time with me paying. We ate a type of dumpling.
Next we went for a walk with another teacher. While walking we made our way over to the track and Vivi said something about the playground. I used this opportunity to explain that English speakers call it a track or a field, and not a playground (which is what children go to). This came as a surprise to Vivi. Every Chinese person I have met have called it the playground, and then seem confused if I refer to the track. This has bothered me for some time, and I finally got to correct it. Later I heard Vivi explaining this to another teacher, which is wonderful! Spread the word! I may leave an impact yet! Anyways, we walked until Vivi had to go watch her students. Students are required to study in the evenings and teachers take turns watching over them. I went with her to the library, and then met up with another teacher (whose name escapes me) who I walked and talked with some. I really enjoyed chatting with this teacher. Her English vocabulary was really good, although her fluency was not as good. But because her vocabulary was high we were able to talk about higher level things, such as teaching philosophies, literature and travel. It was an engaging discussion which I have not had with another Chinese teacher yet. And it turns out that she lives right below me!
So I might have some on-campus teachers over to my apartment some time to play cards, since that is really all I have to offer in terms of entertainment. I guess I could teach them charades. But that is all for today. Tomorrow I teach, and hopefully find out the rest of my teaching schedule since freshmen start on Monday.