SO today's teaching experience was entirely different then yesterday's. To say it simply, it was downright insane, frustrating and discouraging.
Our first group of kids (2nd graders) were bouncing off the walls. No one listened, everyone was pushing, and speaking Chinese and no one cared about my lesson, even though I made it much more entertaining. I spent most of the first hour block telling kids to sit in there seats, putting them in Chinese chair and keeping them off one another. Thank goodness for sweet Norah, who kept looking at me with her big brown eyes and did everything and anything I asked her to do. She helped me keep my head.
We have a ten minute break between our groups, so after we dismissed our first group, my team and I sat in our opening room and we all cried, because we all had a terrible time. One of the kids swore at Bryan; another one wrote "I hate teacher" in Erica's classroom. When our next group came in, we were all in slightly foul moods, so we immediately started off opening with "we aren't taking your crap" attitudes and kept the kids in their places. I also placed kids who were picking on each other in separate groups when we broke off into rotations. When we got to my classroom, I made them stand on the line and repeated the call to attention until they got it down, which sometimes took 5-10 times. (Call to attention is our way of getting them quiet and ready for the lesson. I clap twice, they clap twice and fold their arms). I realized that I needed to establish a strict routine and the more structured and predictable I was, the better behaved they were. I also did my best to level with them and instill the fear of their Chinese Teachers in them. I said to them: "I am having a rough day, so if you step out of line, I WILL go get your Chinese Teacher. Do you understand?" That worked like a charm. They all nodded and stood perfectly still. I have one student, named Anthony, who wanted SO BADLY to promise me that he would be good. "Yes teecha, I will be so good!" Oh man, it melted my heart. I also realized that I have to have control over every little thing in my classroom for it to run smoothly. These kids are huge on being praised, so whoever is being "the best" gets to sit down at our table first. This also helps me separate the trouble makers so that they won't hit each other and it helps me place out all of my sweet girls so that they won't talk to each other. Another tactic I've developed is to specifically point out a child who is breaking a rule and make them repeat it to me-they hate it when they are caught breaking a rule and they typically won't break it again. Although, sometimes when I use my "stern voice" the other kids laugh because they think it sounds funny. I usually look at them and say (in my stern voice) "That is NOT appropriate" and they quiet right up. And I've learned to keep the trouble makers next to me, so I spent fifteen minutes with Walter practically on my lap, because I didn't want him to be out of my arms reach. Needless to say, after making these small adjustments, everything in my second group went so much smoother. Even though I felt like such a mean teacher, I had established order and a routine which helped the kids to know that I was in charge. After that, we had SO much fun doing our lesson, and we were all laughing and joking and enjoying each other's company. I still have a few kids who are handfuls, like William, who we call "Asian Harry Potter" Today, Dana and I had to physically put him in Chinese chair because he refused to sit in it. I left him there for a full minute before I let him come back.
I know that this makes my kids sound like they are all terrible, and that I'm a really mean teacher, but I promise you that they aren't and that I'm not. I just am learning how to establish order and how to establish the fact that I am their teacher. I noticed that after I established that with my second group, they all listened, worked hard and had fun. And as they all left my classroom, they said: "Thank you, teecha!" Melt my heart. I love them.
My team and I are dreading tomorrows first group a bit, but I think we're more prepared with how to handle them after learning what adjustments to make. We're going to work hard on establishing our call to attention and we are going to make sure we have order before starting our activity. This is only day two, and I know there are going to be good and bad days. I keep on reminding myself that after I establish a rigid routine and get the kids to a point where they know that I AM their teacher and they cannot walk all over me, that I can be more fun and a little less stern. But, I love them, nonetheless, and I love what I am doing.
After teaching today, our foreign coordinator, Kelly, took us downtown to a Pizza buffet (which was more like a buffet of a lot of Chinese food trying to be like American food, with pizza). We ate to our heats content, and I tried several new things, like sesame pork, fruit bread swirls and peach pizza. (The Chinese love anything with peaches). After we ate, I SUCESSFULLY USED MY FIRST SQUATTY POTTY! I didn't fall in and I didn't get any tinkle on my pants. I was so proud of myself. Across from the street was a Pagoda, so we took some pictures there. It was cool to see traditional Chinese architecture up close. We walked through a night market and then took a taxi back to our school. Our taxi driver was so funny, he kept on using his radio to translate things into english so he could talk to us. We eventually figured out he wanted to wish us a Happy Valentine's Day. It was really cute.
Some random things about China that I learned today:
-When the Chinese take pictures, they do not say Cheese. They say the Chinese word for "Eggplant." No joke.
-The Chinese love Santa and keep him up for months. Our school also plays Christmas music during lunch, like Jingle Bell Rock. It's so weird. And really funny.
All is well in China. Even on rough days, like today, I remind myself why I am here. I have already learned so much in the few short days I have been here.
Chelsie in China
P.S. To those who leave me such sweet comments on my blog, thank you so much, they are forwarded to my email. I love reading them, and they help me feel better when things are rough. I appreciate all of your support and love, it means the world to me.