New term approved for describing one of those Thursdays.
Normally Thursday doesn’t start well because the classes are first two periods, which means getting up early. After that, I return home for breakfast before going back over to the school to deal with the coming Senior 3 classes with Mrs Tiggywinkle. Often, but not always, the morning is finished off by typing up a lesson plan (once again, just because I know where the on-switch is on a computer, I get to be the typist). And after that, the day is free. Normally I head into town and have lunch at Mian Ai Mian before buying a few more DVDs and returning home.
Things started normally, but as Mrs Tiggywinkle and I are talking about Senior 3 and cloze tests for them, a couple of girls come into the office with a note wondering whether I’m going to be going to their class. I’ve completely forgotten that there’s still Laurel’s Senior 1 class to deal with. It’s nothing strenuous. The class is watching a somewhat lame DVD about a couple of tiger cubs. It’s the sort of film you’d show eight year olds, but that’s about where the Senior 1s are at.
And there’s worse to come.
This is my week to go to the primary school. I haven’t heard anything good about the classes at the primary school and no one wants to go. Laurel hated it intensely and managed to wriggle her way out of going with her alleged viral pneumonia. I’m grateful that I was never on the roster for the primary school. It’s bad enough teaching teenage school children, but seven and eight year olds? Yikes!
We’re carted off at 1pm which doesn’t give me any time to be casual about lunch. I’ve actually been past the primary school on one of my adventures around the town. The children are small and highly excitable. Possibly they’re all completed stoned on sugar.
We start with Grade 1. Their knowledge of English is almost non-existent and their ability to conprehend language from actions similarly non-existent. If you say it, they’ll repeat it. And about all you can do is repeat the same thing over and over again. Today’s phrases were “Stand up please”, “Sit down please”, “My English name is…”, and “Raise your hand please”. About all I’m doing is going round the classroom saying one of the phrases, and then getting the children to repeat it. They all want me to say their English names. At times the class turns into an informal version of “Simon says…”
Then it’s on to Grade 2. They’re slightly older, but have fewer clues. I go round saying “Stand up please”, but unless I gesture, they won’t stand up. And when I say “Please sit down”, they still say “Please stand up”. They have no real idea what I’m saying. More informal “Simon says…” I try to get them to write their English and Chinese names on a piece of paper and decorate it, but that gap between showing and not copying is insurmountable. In the end, I draw a flower and a house and they copy the picture. It’s quite likely that the whole class will now think their English names are mine. (Is mine?)
It has to be said that we are wasting our time at the primary school. These kids are still learning Chinese, and acquiring it. They have no idea what we’re saying to them. They know (as everyone in China does) “Hello” and “Bye bye”, but the rest to them is just blah. None of us are trained to deal with non-native speakers of this age, and they’re far too young to be instructed by foreigners.
As a group, they can be incredibly loud. Some of the boys were shouting their answers, but unlike the little darlings that I usually teach, many of the children were keen to respond to me. The other thing I have to note is the terrible dentition. One boy had a few pointy spikes for teeth; another may have had a pair of false front teeth; another had one front tooth that had failed to erupt through the gum. The gum was just bulging.
Eventually we escaped, but back at school there was a pile of reports waiting to be filled in. This is, fortunately, reports by number. It’s a pity that the corresponding statements haven’t been well considered. In the end, I’m trying to give the most reasonable assessment that I can. I finished the reports for the dim class and came home to have a quick shower.
Today is Thanksgiving in the States, celebrating the invasion by a bunch of religious fanatics of someone else’s country. It sounds an awful lot like Ayatollah Dubya and Iraq. James and Katie suggested that we should go into Capioca which is a Brazilian restaurant (with Chinese characteristics).
While we’re eating, some more foreigners come into the restaurant and are seated at the table next to ours. The next thing we know, Katie realises that one of the two guys sitting at that table is the brother of one of her school friends. Changzhou is not a place where any foreigner would go unless they were sent there, so the odds of this particular meeting are staggering.
It was nice to have food that wasn’t rice and didn’t involve large amounts of liquid.
Well, it’s been a long day and there are [morally and spiritually uplifting websites –ed.] to visit before bedtime.