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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Back again!

So I promised in the next blog, the tales of my return back to Beijing. I got off the plane very bleary eyed as I'd hardly slept and it was stupid o'clock in the morning, but what kept me going was knowing that I was going to see Andy waiting for me at the airport! Very excitedly I passed through the exit and spotted him, big hugs & kisses, and feeling lovely being back in his arms again! We set off for home on the airport express, and before we knew it I was back home.

What struck me, was how you can be living one life, go back to the UK to your old life for a few weeks, slot into it all, see everyone, do everything, then before you know it – you’re back in your 'other’ life in Beijing, as if nothing has ever happened! I think it’s because life is so different here, that you just get on with it, and get back into routine, and as much as it was sad saying goodbye to everyone in the UK, I’m not used to everyone being here, so I think it was easier for me than it was say for Mum & Dad, used to having had me in the house for nearly 3 weeks, then suddenly I’m gone again (maybe they were happy at that!!!). It really has been lovely being back with Andy, and catching up on all our news. 

First day back I tried unsuccessfully to stay awake, I was just so tired, we had an early lunch, before Andy went to work, and I had plenty of unpacking to do with all the new stuff I’d brought back with me! That evening, what was I craving?! A hot spicy Chinese for my dinner, so we went to the restaurant across the road for a really nice meal. I suffered from really back jet lag the first week back, and wasn’t sleeping a lot, it was a lot worse travelling back this way than it was going to the UK. 

One bit of news from the UK, you'll remember me telling you about the fab afternoon at the Neville's house, with the 2 new baby cousins in the family, well this week we heard that Laura & Tom are also expecting a baby, fantastic news, congratulations to you both, and to Dave & Ellie, 3 grandchildren in around 1 year, wow, you're gonna be busy too!!! Wonderful news.

Most of you know from my visit that I had been offered a new job as an English specialist at an International Kindergarten. I wasn’t sure of my start date, as it was dependant on a lot of paperwork and a change in my visa, things happened a bit quicker than I expected, as when I got back, they offered me a start date the following Monday to join the newcomers course for 3 days.

You’ll know that I loved my job in the UK teaching, and as time went on, I realised that my role in the financial industry and sales wasn’t really for me, as much as I really like the company, their ethos, products etc. I wasn’t so comfortable with the sales side of things, the constant networking, never switching off, and it just didn’t make me 'tick’. I missed teaching, educating and helping people to learn, as well as being part of a bigger organisation. Having the Police family around me in the past was great, I missed that whilst sat in an office with my husband, the branch manager, the boss sometimes & the 2 Chinese girls, it just wasn’t the same! Andy & I working together has been good, we’ve been a good team to each other, but not the healthiest thing I guess, as we can’t do the ‘did you have a good day at the office dear?’ bit, or have new stuff to talk about in the evenings!! I’ve learnt a lot about myself in many ways since coming here, and have been looking for something else for a while now. I will still support Andy with the marketing / networking / admin etc. where I can, and we can still be a team in that respect. 

I now work for a company called Etonkids who have 16 campuses across China, 12 of which are in Beijing. The campus I work at is an International Bilingual kindergarten in the CBD area of the city, the children are mostly Chinese, but due to the area it’s in, there are quite a few foreign children too. The age groups are split, nursery 18 months – 3 years, Casa 3 – 5 years, and bridging 5-6 years, to prepare them for school. I’m with the Casa group, teaching 3 – 5 year olds. I am an English specialist, there are 4 teachers in each class, a lead teacher, a Chinese teacher, a life teacher (takes care of the children, prepares drinks / snacks etc) and me. It’s a Montessori school (the website explains a little more about that) but basically the children chose what they do to a certain extent and teach themselves, with our guidance. Most of the teachers speak English, but only one of mine speaks a little, so communication and trying to work as a team is a much bigger challenge than for others, but we’ll get there!

The training course was good, although so much to learn as always it could have been longer. I met some great people on the course, around 20 of us for the first day who were fairly new, having started in the last few months, then the following 2 days existing teachers came along for refreshment training. The teachers are from all over the world, a diverse team, and I met a couple from my campus which was nice to know a few familiar faces. After the last day, they took us all to a restaurant & bar for the evening, drinks, food & pub quiz included, so great to relax with everyone too and already I felt part of something. 

A bit about the school day, in the morning the children have Montessori time, where as well as other activities, I’m available in my English corner to look after small groups and teach them English. Then we have learning play time in either Chinese or English for an hour outside (weather & pollution permitting), then lunch. They have a nap for a couple of hours in the afternoon, before another hour Montessori time where I teach, then English circle, which is an hour sat in a circle with the whole class, either learning English through music, or through book reading. This month’s book is the very hungry caterpillar! We add on activities to this such as art and drama too to help learning. 

We have 20 children in our class, only 13 last week for the first week, and the smaller ones join us next week so we’ll be up to full quota. Last week for me was just about being in the classroom, getting to know the children, them getting to know me, and to work out what their English skills are. There is a huge variety of levels, from a Chinese boy who is 4 years old and speaks English pretty fluently, to a 4 year old Singaporean girl (cute as, totally fallen in love with her!!!) who is fluent in Mandarin and English, so trying to develop them is totally different to some who won’t even speak to me yet, or one little girl who just stares at me and sticks her tongue out at me when I ask her a question!!! One lad, only 3, is from the Philippines & doesn’t speak any Chinese, so he has a different challenge.

I had to work last Saturday, for a couple of hours, whilst the parents of new children were able to come in & look around. Also on Friday they had an open afternoon for all parents, so I had to do a 10 minute presentation about what I will be teaching them. 

I’m trying to get my head around all the lesson plans at the moment ready to start teaching more next week, there is a hell of a lot to learn and it’s going to be a big challenge, each month there are different themes, lessons plans for each day / week etc. but I think once I’m into the flow of it, it will be a bit easier. I have an hour after my lunch break for prep when the children are having their nap. 

My working day is longer, 8am – 5pm, with an hour for lunch. I am getting up at 6.30am instead of 7.45am, I have a 15 minute cycle each way to work (good exercise for me!) and I’m on my feet most of the day, looking after small children. That resulted in a very exhausted Tracy come Friday evening, and the feeling that I was coming down with the flu, headache, sore throat, aching all over, and I slept from 8pm until 11am the following morning pretty much! I’m sure I’ll be ok once I settle in & get used to it, but for now it’s a shock to the system being back on my feet again after an office role. It’s hit home that I have to look after myself as I will be open to all sorts of germs in the classroom, which I really don’t want to pick up!!

Just one funny thing to mention, the dress code is pretty casual, but we have to wear the uniform polo shirt, only on Mondays thankfully - why thankfully??? Because it's BRIGHT orange!!!!! Couldn't really be a worse colour for a redhead.... I may get a photo for you so you can see it in full glory! I will also post some piccies of the kids at some stage, it's not like the UK or other western countries, anything goes, taking photo's, posting them - the Chinese teachers do it all the time, no restrictions which seems a bit weird, but I guess nice really.

So in summary, a fantastic start, a great 2 weeks, a fun way to spend your day, lots of hard work ahead with another huge challenge – a new job, in a very foreign land, where the common language with my fellow teachers is signing, and a translate app, but hey, why do things half heartedly?!!!!!!

Until the next time………..!
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lou on

Ha! At least it was only tongue sticking out - I am sure we have had much worse behavior here in one course or another! Sounds very challenging but I am sure you will get so much satisfaction and enjoyment with the little ones. xx

Dave and Ellie on

Really love the sound of your new job.As you say once you get mwill really enjoy it

Really love the sound of your new job.Once you get into it you will so enjoy it. A lovely happy atmosphere to work in. Preparation is a big part of teaching and takes so long.Very tiring so you have to make sure you make time off for you.
Yes we too are thrilled for Tom and Laura.Oscar and Snowdrop are so cute ,growing fast .Always lots of smiles when we go to see them .Looked after Snowdrop last Sat aft and loved it.
Dave is doing really well .getting out and about lots.
Lastly weather report.Suddenly turned very chilly and grey.Still we cant complain.We had an amazing summer.We are off to the Lakes for a week next Saturday so hope we can have dry crisp weather with clear visability.We don't ask much!!
Love to you both


Ellie on

Whoops what happened there!!

Stephen & Roswihta on

Great - sounds like things are falling into place for you. The right job should make all the difference. Can't wait to see the orange top on you - shall have to dig out the sunglasses maybe?

Good luck.

Love to you both.

S&R xxxx

Sal on

Hi Trace loved reading this last blog about your new job (for obvious reasons!) Looking forward to hearing more. You will soon build up your own immunities to all those delightful bugs and germs that the little 'treasures' bring into schools. Meanwhile..take care and.....ENJOY :-D xxxxx

Sal on

PS forgot to say that The Very Hungry Caterpillar is one of my favourites, so colourful, many a classroom display came out of reading it. I remember the children always asked for it time after time! xx

Mary Elizabeth Speirs on

....such living proof of ...knowing what you want in life..... loved reading your experiences...... (and getting to know you better.......... You mentioned "montessori" in Italy there are a few schools using the "Montessori" teaching methods..... if I'm not wrong.....Montessori was a an Italian who introduced "less rigid" forms of education....BUT being lazy I haven't looked it up.......Probably barking up the wrong tree.....and it's something completely different in Beijing...... xx.

suSis on

Great reading about your new job, what a grest new chapter and challenge for you. Love that you've been teaching The Hungry Caterpillar, my fave! Can't wait to see the orange ensemble :-) xxxx

tracy-andy-pez on

Thank you all for your lovely comments, Mary you're right about Montessori too! Great that you are all hungry caterpillar fans too!!

Stand by for the orange top.... and the slightly less offensive blue autumn hoodie...... better for gingers!!!!!!!!


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