Teaching and Learning

Trip Start Jun 30, 2008
Trip End Dec 31, 2009

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Flag of China  , Guangdong,
Saturday, March 14, 2009

Do you still appreciate the 'little things' in life? I don't know about you but I really don't think too much about the little things because I don't see them as being important (ergo - little). It wasn't until about 5 minutes before I was to give a demonstration lesson to 20 English teachers at the Zhuhai #3 Middle School that I really had to go to the toilet (nerves is my guess) that I realized that I didn't have any tissue paper. I had a choice to wait and risk not being 'myself' as I applied to become the only foreign English teacher in a middle school of 1800 students or find a way to complete my mission. Thankfully Sabrina was with me and we spread out searching the conference room and found a "roll of gold".

For all the positive things I see going on in China I still can't get over how much difficulty we westerns have with the toilet system here. China is the most hospitable country in the world and pride themselves on this fact but a roll of TP and a seat would be very nice (note: make sure I mention this to the Chinese prime minister, Wen Jiabao should we meet). Let me conclude this subject with describing going to the toilet here (and India) as a combination of twister and yoga.

Let me back up a little to explain how I got into this situation in the first place. Last week I mentioned that the kids and I started an English School in our apartment while Janice was teaching on the weekends. I wanted to teach the kids how they can start a business, earn their own income, account for it, save some and spend it while at the same time meet and share with others. Everything went better than expected. We had too many students and constantly have to turn people away.

One of our student's parents who lives in the same building complex came after our class and asked if I would come and teach at the local middle school. Since I love a challenge of course I said "sure". It turned out this woman was the "Head of Teaching, Management Section, Superior Teacher" at the #3 Middle School just down the road from where we live. The woman's son must have been very impressed with us as she said that if her son thought I was good that I would be good for the school. This was Sunday afternoon.

Monday I arrived at the school in the afternoon to meet with the people in charge. I showed up in my size 12 running shoes, well worn pants I have been wearing since November 2008 and I shirt I left home with over 8 months ago. I may have not been the most professional sight but I was confident that I could give this school some of my time. Remember, I had no intention of teaching except if necessary. The principal and I spoke in general terms and reached a tentative agreement that I would come and give a demonstration class to 20 English teachers the next morning at 8am.

At the end of my demonstration class I was offered the job to teach 2 Advanced English classes of 70 students each week, 12 grade 7 classes of 60 students (6 classes each week), and teach 20 English teachers every other week. You and I most likely have the same question right now "how will that be possible"? Well, stick around and you and I will both find out!!

Later that day Sabrina and I watched one English class in action and were 'blown away' with the efficiency, ability, respect and enthusiasm for learning. The 40 minute class we observed was 'typical' but seemed like it was a very special group of kids. It will be one of the 12 classes I will teach in the weeks to come.

Before class the kids were noisy and goofing around like any other group of grade 7 kids (Sabrina's grade) but by the time the teacher arrived the students had the teacher's desk arranged, the computer and projector all set up and teaching aids organized for the teacher. As the teacher walked in it became dead silent as ALL 60 STUDENTS stood (in a classroom half the size of Sabrina's in Summerland) and bowed to the teacher who then bowed back. The students immediately sat down and class began. Sabrina and I sat there in disbelief at how well the students behaved, worked together and the level of effort of every student. When asked a question the student would rise and give the answer. Sabrina and I both agreed that the amount of material that was covered in these 40 minutes would take at least ONE WEEK to cover in Canada. The 'shock' of witnessing this was so great that I think that was one of the reasons I agreed to teach - I WANT TO LEARN!

Observations this week:
Milk is 4 times more expensive than beer and since the milk scandal very few people trust the quality. For safety reasons I am drinking more beer then milk but it just does not go well with cereal or coffee!!

The Chinese are constantly warning us about buying 'cheap' Chinese products (even more so than my father-in-law) because they say they don't last and may not be healthy.

I now call myself "Fat Boy" because compared to everyone here I am very BIG. A shirt labelled "M or L" in Canada is "XXL" here.

I bought some new clothes after getting the teaching job and found that the change rooms are smaller than our broom closets back home. Changes rooms here make airplane toilets seem luxurious and spacious.

Post Script:

Saturday morning we were running behind and many of our chores (dishes, laundry and floors) were not done. Janice had left for her classes already and we had our English class in 20 minutes! Sabrina and Sophia had come up with the lesson plan (kinda) during the week and then I came up with a brilliant idea (at least I thought so). I decided that we should have a theme for this class. I chose the theme of "Chores" and as part of our class we used this theme for discussion and had Sophia teach the older girls every English word relating to dishes, laundry and sweeping floors. Also, I'm a firm believer in the practical side of learning so the girls washed all our laundry, hung them on the roof to dry, washed the dishes, cleaned the kitchen and swept the floors. By the time class ended our whole apartment was all cleaned up!! I think next week we will talk about cooking as right after class is lunch..........

All the children have worked very hard. It's great to see each of them 'stretch' and participate in the teaching process. I can honestly say we are ALL learning. Sabrina and Sophia plan out our lessons with input from James and Monique. Sabrina and Sophia are using Microsoft Excel to calculate our revenue, amount to save and each child's prorated share of the earnings. They then use Intuit Quicken to prepare financial statements. Monique and James have become very disciplined with their spending now as a few things have 'caught their eyes' and know that they must save to get what they want.

After class we went for a walk and bought a 'dance matt' that hooks up to the TV as a treat for working so hard.
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hamiltonfamily on

How many hours are in your week?
I'm tired just thinking about teaching that many classes! I take way too long doing prep for classes I teach - you must be way better at pulling your lesson plans together! Sounds like the kids are being a big help and learning lots along the way. Way to go Big Boy!

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