July 2014’s posts

The Bigger They Are, The Harder They Fall

4/7/2014

Rising from the sheets late on the Saturday seemed to be a theme for all our foreign teacher colleagues.  Dehydrated, mouth parched, Nikki and I met Birgitte and headed for the number 5 bus.  Our aim, A-One Shoes, a new plaza built especially for shoes and the sales of soled things.  On arrival, we jumped off the bus a short stroll away.  On closing in, the enormous metal and glass vessel of a building loomed into view.  It half resembled a craft from Star Wars and further looked like the cast of a huge uncompleted cruise liner.  In all actuality it was abandoned, uncompleted and required many further touches.  A ghost shopping village lay next door, a long lost empty and discarded neighbour.  Disappointed we wandered back to a bus stop, not before seeing a man on a motorbike hit a car.  The biker, without helmet and inadequate clothing for such a vehicle flew over the bonnet, landed out of view, a flip flop landing feet from us.  Bits of bike shattered outwards, the sound of plastic and metal meeting unintentionally joined with screeching tyres.  The air filled with burning rubber and tension.  Out dived the driver, his first reaction was to light a cigarette.  Nikki, Birgitte and I hesitantly looked at each other, our first instincts to help met with a conversation based on logic.  In eyesight nearby, there was half a dozen policemen, the driver had a phone out and we knew not enough Mandarin to assist.  The motor bike driver appeared to be sat up, no visible head injury and just a trailing leg that looked knackered, possibly broken.  The driver of the car’s full attention was now on his own vehicle.  The nearby policemen never left their shaded posts.  We walked away.  No other cars stopped, life carried on.

In the evening food was had a restaurant on road in Liaoxia.  Liam, Esben, Bryony, Nikki and I tucked into the several dishes we ordered with gusto.  Becky and Birgitte did not join us as their parents had arrived for a few days.  James stayed in, with a stomach problem requiring numerous uses of the squat-hole Chinese toilets.  Whilst James had no pleasure, the quality of food from this restaurant gave great contentment.  As the gannets circled the central plates, remains became less and less.  An egg dish resembling omelette was so good, it was re-ordered.  The egg and tomato dish; the creamy egg noodles with pork; a gingery spicy beef dish and some bread all vanished sharply.  So did my seat.  Without warning, I was upended.  The plastic legs gave way and many passers-by stopped to look at the giant westerner sat on a half broken chair in shock.  An older lady at the restaurant, likely the owner’s grandma came over and started laughing.  Thankfully I was not injured!  It was funny though.  A new chair followed.  Everyone bid farewell after food around 9pm.  Esben, Nikki and I reconvened at midnight and headed to Snow Bar, where John (the bar owner, he is Chinese and his name is very hard to understand in Mandarin!) welcomed us.  Esben and I tucked into a tower of beer for 48RMB.  Nikki was offered a free Samurai Juice by the owner John.  The Brazil versus Chile game was projected onto the outside wall of Tesco’s.  During the time there I tried some meat and a really amazing aubergine cooked chockfull of spices.  After full time, and as the game entered extra time, I was left all alone.  James had later joined us briefly but felt unwell and scattered with Esben and Nikki homeward bound.  I remained, drinking my way through th best part of the second beer tower.  I witnessed an off-duty policeman go to his car, change and drive away – whilst heavily drunk.  Drink driving here is very obvious.  After the penalty shoot-out, the bar area emptied of the 20 or so souls, and so did the car park.  I then bid farewell to my namesake and owner of the pavement mounted outdoor drinking establishment.

Walking back would have been uneventful normally, a few scurrying rats and the odd sleeping local on benches here or there.  However, I witnessed  a 30 metre section of power cable glowing bright red.  Within seconds two local men stopped alongside me, in awe of what we could see.  The wire casing ignited.  Plastic dripped around us.  A local policeman (sober) turned up.  He just watched.  Nothing was done.  Then another policeman arrived.  He just watched too.  Eventually the wire burst into life, fire and molten plastic reigning down from 3 metres above several cars and alongside an empty looking built up area.  The policemen were joined by at least 5 more contemporaries as the first car window started to kindle.  The policeman became full of action and eventually advised me and the locals to go away.  So off I went, home and in bed for 3am-ish.

Sunday, up in good time, Nikki and I jumped on bus number 5 to Shuilian Mountain Park.  This time not to scale the peaks, more to wander around the reservoir and nearby butterfly house.  The butterfly house’s gardens happened to have many butterflies fluttering by.  The buildings housed galleries, bird displays and even a lonely ferret.  Many tarantulas, scorpions and lizards happened to have minimal enclosure security – meaning any local could open the enclosure, prod and tease the animals into a perfect photography pose – and then leave them be.  We decided to skip going on a boat in the baking heat, headed back via the number 10 bus (and I say via, via Dongguan, due to a minor clerical error on our part) and then the number L1 bus.  A massive 5RMB added to the expected 4RMB journey.  Surprisingly, that evening we were shattered by the extra distance journey through inner-city Dongguan and back.

Monday for me, meant Cherry class, Banana class and Peach class in K2 (aged 4-5).  Lychee class (K1, aged 3-4) slotted in there for good effect.  The day flew by, and seemed to have a cohesion to it, that has been lacking in my magical kindergarten teaching experience to date.  In the evening, Esben, departing Houjie the following morning, acquired beverages of the alcoholic variety for James, Liam, Nikki and I – at the top of Houjie International’s rotating restaurant.  Esben is game over.

The Rickshaw Man

8/7/2014

Classic title time.

Tuesday came, a return to the market for food in the evening and classes as functional as can be expected from kindergarten kids hyper on anything stronger than water.  Wednesday drifted in, a meal at Boton Restaurant in the centre of Houjie followed a short rickshaw ride.  Cod and steak, with noodles and scallops coated in cheese made for a very western themed meal.  The quiz at Irene’s Bar that evening was very well orchestrated by Bryony and Becky.  Varied questions of tough and easy made for good fun.  A team was formed with Birgitte (to mark her final night in Houjie) with Nikki, James, Liam and I.  Birgitte’s parents and their two friends from Norway also appended to our team.  Victory was had, and thankfully not too many Disney questions – as anticipated.  Well done to the quizmasters, for taking flak, handing back wit and banter – and for a fun quiz.  Marcus, Irene’s other half, gave his thanks and a mild applause followed.  Many moons agao, Marcus said he admired that our group of foreign teachers don’t just drink at Irene’s Bar every night, and explore so many other places locally – and further afield.  I think this makes that particular foreign bar much more welcoming.  CHAMPIONS.

Thursday, a nightmare day at school, one late class (Apple, N1 level, aged 2-3) was cancelled without anyone telling me.  In the school there are many teachers, only Yuki, Kitty and Winnie have enough confidence to speak with me – and I suspect they’re the only few who speak English fluently enough.  Not that I am allowed to use any pigeon-Chinese to try and help, one of the big rules for foreign teachers is “Only speak English.”  The earlier classes followed very little cohesion due to unruly and excitable children.  When a class is interrupted by a delivery of plates, knife and forks with a cuddly banana by a local children’s centre promoter it doesn’t bode well for the day ahead.  That and the teacher, who was observing, leant through a window nattering with two passing teachers.  Strewth, how can I win with these rules reminiscent of playing at Old Trafford?

Friday arrived, the day surpassed previous days for levels of chaos.  Firstly, Kitty and Winnie had deserved days off at the seaside.  Secondly, it being Friday, the kids are understandably bouncing off the walls excited by the freedom of the weekend ahead.  Firstly, Apple Class tested my wits, but only for 10 minutes, as two new teachers were introduced to them.  Afterwards classes passed with only two headbutts to the leg and one punch to the testicles.  Talk about putting yourself in the line of fire.

To mark the imminent departure of James and Liam, the terrible two joined Becky, Bryony, Nikki and I for food at Boton restaurant.  For around 615RMB, we all enjoyed drinks, at least 2 courses and a platter of sides to share.  Afterwards we caught a rickshaw to Irene’s Bar, after one drink Bryony went home and soon after, full on several rum and cokes, Nikki went home.  Both had to be in school for 2 hours on Saturday.  After which Liam, James, Becky and I plodded (by rickshaw) to Houjie’s Jiŭbā Jiē (bar street).  We entered the unbecomingly named Party Bar.  A few staff members wangled around, and we played the most popular dice game in the world (chuīniú – bluff or bullshit).  You should play it.  After a few games and during half-time of the Germany versus France game, we rolled over the road to the newly opened H.One Bar, a nightclub/cabaret style bar with a stage that rises up for the staged dancing, singing and other oddity interludes.  For the peculiarity of China, see http://www.chinasmack.com/ or http://www.chinahush.com/.

During the night I think all four of us were accosted for dancing in circles (like I never left kindergarten), “have a drink” with me, drink and talk… etc etc… oooh blue champagne… tastes of bubblegum.  Back massage in the toilet by the toilet attendant?  That is novel.  Ouch, and rough.  The night fizzled out with a drink in Iron Bar as James rolled home, sleeping in the taxi as he left, before Liam, Becky and I shared a rickshaw back soon after.  The two seater rickshaw gave rise to a form of gymnastics I like to call, inebriated.  And into bed for 5am.

Saturday, was surprisingly relaxed, Liam, James, Bryony, Nikki and I went for lunch – at Boton, three times in one week.  The 36°C heat combined with humidity made us all flee to indoors for shelter.  It was too hot for comfort.  Sweat should not roll in some places.  That evening Liam departed to the U.K. via Beijing for a few days.  The market was a stopping point for food with Nikki and Bryony followed by Snow Bar to watch the Argentina against Belgium game.  Nikki and Bryony mixed Samurai Juice (Blueberry based) with Morgan’s Spiced rum.  James arrived soon after, and departed at full time, for a late night McDonald’s (located around 2-3km away).  We bid farewell, James was to head to Shenzen, Beijing and then west Lancashire soon after.  Good luck to James at the University College of Dublin.  He won’t need it, the smart git.  And then there were three.

RULES OF ENGAGEMENT

10/7/2014

There is no doubt whatsoever, kindergarten is full of characters.  There are the odd shy and silent types that barely compete with others.  There has only been one wee tot who has cried so far.  Most are easy to be distracted.  Some don’t pay attention (full stop).  Each class has at least a couple super-contestants – likely to be very talkative.  The energetic wing of the class usually features one or two naughty brats.  Their attention is not available to you, no matter how much you endeavour.

Points to consider every day:

  • Rules, rules, rules, repeat.  Stop.  Try again.  Reinforce.  There is light at the end of the tunnel.  Eyes on me, eyes on you.  Be quiet.  Listen to Teacher John.
  • To control a class, you need the Chinese English Teachers or Class Teachers on hand.  Each class should be treated differently and best laid lesson plans will be destroyed with ease.  Children do that.  Never work with animals or children learning English and not entirely fluent on their native tongue.
  • Songs, games, activities that are simple – and feature an eye-catching video always help.  Repeat if passion is shown by the students, bend the song to fit to game or roleplay activity.
  • Flashcards have to be durable otherwise they will litter the classroom floor.  Forget paper.  Laminate, encase in plastic, entomb in steel – and you may still have flashcards after class.
  • You must be clear with your instructions, don’t stop mid-flow and certainly use good body language – vivid and expressive – to win the students’ attention.  Without this, they will eat you alive.
  • Keep it interesting.  You are competing with passing spiders, light shining on shiny things, teachers passing by, other students – the list goes on and on, and on… and on…
  • Group competition is a great idea, if you can keep the groups separate.  Boys versus girls is easy, unless your class is massively imbalanced on the male to female ratio.  This is not unusual.
  • Role play is great, but don’t lose the class with long examples.  Let a fair few people try.
  • Sentence practicing is relatively easy, I say relative, it is like pissing into the wind on a freezing cold day with Siberian gusts and many loose branches flying by… but that is the easy part of the day.
  • Never introduce more than 3-6 words, depending on the age range of the class.

Of course it is easy to stereotype kindergarten students, they are much more dynamic in their behaviours.  The monster yesterday, could be today’s angel and tomorrow’s disinterested student.  Chinese people work around 50 hours each week, often including Saturdays or Sundays – with overtime pay mostly unheard of.  Students seem to have it the same way.  Long weeks, long hours – and exhaustion mentally or physically common.  Teachers in China are very highly respected, often seen as the second parents to the children students, and their bond with the resident teachers is heartening and pleasant to see.  Respect on the whole follows as standard.  In spite of this, the foreign teacher is seen as a play thing.  And duly so, we work nowhere near as hard as our local contemporaries.

The Education Bureau of China finances state schools from kindergarten to high school.  The state education focal point is school discipline strictly.  State education is getting more advanced but conversely private schools, training centres, and company executives that need teachers are also evolving and improving drastically.  As such, parents and those with financial interest in education want to see results.  To improve your results means you must also evolve, adapt and improve your skills.

That said, nothing prepares you for being assaulted by a group of 6/7 children from K2 Banana Class.

Walk, amble, march, saunter, stroll, stride, pace, toddle, totter, move, tread, pace and gait

14/7/2014

Today, July 14th is St Stithian’s Show, in Stithians, Kernow (Cornwall), UK.  I hope the day is a massive success for all those involved, those visiting and the community locally and regionally.  Nikki and I wish we were there.

On the previous Sunday (July 6th) we wandered around the Dongguan Botanical gardens where perhaps the biggest kite I have ever seen flew with relative ease.  I said to Nikki and Bryony that this giant dirty red kite shaped like a stingray would not take off.  It pretty much did instantly, the thermals good, and the kite-flyer clearly vastly experienced in smooth take offs.  The kite’s 100metre plus tail dragged along clumsily but up, up, up it went.  En route to the park in the 36°C sunshine the rusty bus number 5 stopped by Oxford Kingdom International school, oblivious to our location, whilst nattering away, it became clear many more eyes than usual were set upon us.  Words flung back at us like a wall of sound.  The driver thought we wanted to dive off at that stop.  “Bù, xièxiè” we shouted back – and off continued the tarnished old bus.

Monday through to Friday was largely uneventful.  School was 90% chaos with a smidgen of what the flip and two whole pounds of “holy mackerel Batman”.  Wednesday evening saw Irene’s Bar mix it up a little.  Marcus allowed us to draw numbers from a pint glass to designate which team we would sit upon.  Nikki, Bryony and Becky drew number 2.  I got number 3 and joined Axel (from Germany), a loud but fun Aussie lady, Cody from USA, a British lady who knows her Sir Christopher Wren facts well.  In the end our team won.  Surprisingly we did very well, considering we did not answer the biggest tea producing country in the world (China, but we put Sri Lanka) and coffee producer (Brazil, we put Columbia).  Still, we ended with a rendition of We Are The Champions by Queen.  Champions!  See my review of Irene’s Bar online now:  http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Attraction_Review-g297412-d6558560-Reviews-Irene_s_Bar-Dongguan_Guangdong.html

Earlier in the week we watched Transformers – Age of Extinction in the Xingx International Cinema – after a heavy meal in Pengs restaurant at the local Wanda Plaza.  The pasta dish was far too peppery, the chicken dish just right, and the curry was tasty.  I also had a lovely Tuna salad.  We ordered too much between us.  After a heavy meal, what better way than to watch a CGI-loaded dizzying film to keep you alert.  The film was actually very good and hearing the local Chinese audience purr at some of the action scenes was quite funny.  Every time a Chinese product appeared on screen, there was excitement in the auditorium.  Cheers too.  C’est bon is French for its good or something to that effect – here in China it is a leading brand of water.  Product placement present pretty much in every scene.  I won’t be buying a Chevrolet (they sponsor some tinpot team).  Guangzhou and Hong Kong featured in the film too.  Some landmarks were instantly recognised, others had to be looked up later – and disappointedly Hollywood had fibbed a few landscape scenes from northern China into Hong Kong scenes.  Boo on you!

This weekend passed with a trip to Guangzhou, starting on the Friday night.  A short coach journey to the big city was followed by a quick underground metro ride to our stop by the Baiyun Mountain Park.  A lengthy stroll, we should have got a taxi, progressed us to the gates of the Oriental Resort.  The entrance is a kind of a curved European design leading to a long snaking road into the heart of the resort.  At reception we presented our passports, paid the deposit (to include the 796RMB two night double room fee) and went to our rooms.  We then headed straight for the restaurant and had noodles, a spicy stuffed chilli pepper dish and some shredded pork that was very juicy.  We looked at the closing outdoor pool afterwards before heading to bed via our first bath since we arrived in China.

The next day, after a Chinese buffet breakfast and a swim in the outdoor pool, I made Nikki walk, amble, march, saunter, stroll, stride, pace, toddle, totter, move, tread, pace and gait a fair distance.  We walked from the hotel to the South Gate of the park (4km), jumped on a cable cart up the mountain side, had a wander around the top, ate some grub and then explored.  We started at a bird park, headed for Moxingling (the highest peak), fed Koi fish at Taohuajian, walked along the Yunshan North Road and departed the Baiyunshan (Cloud Mountain) West Gate before strolling back to the hotel (around 13km).  So in total about 17km (or 10.5 miles) – and plenty of mosquito bites, sweat rash and sore toes to show for it.

That evening food was greatly appreciated in the restaurant.  After that we watched the supermoon whilst swimming in the outdoor pool.  Moonlit, bats flying overhead and a fine steam mist rising off the water.  There will also be another supermoon on August 10 and a third on September 9 in most parts of the world.  Give it a look!

Any given Sunday bloody Sunday

21/7/14

[written yesterday (20/7/14) ,posted today]

Last Sunday we spent wandering the streets of Guangzhou, shopping is the term most people use.  I use wandering.  For when I shop with Nikki, I lead her off the shop-fronted straights and into the twisted alcove terraces of the shabby ginnels (one for you Asa) or alleyways.  Here you find real China – the animals enjoying their last breaths before the blade arrives; the piles, like mounds of rice, of medicine strong in stench and colours reminiscent of 1970’s English curtains; the ground is littered with by-products of the makeshift assembly workshops lining the close propinquity-based doorways and windows; cats and kittens clamber across canopies and rooftops.  Real China gives you perspective, culturally we in the west are so different, yet the same.  There is much more community here.

Families work long and hard to provide for each other.  Retirement is but a dream or a myth to most.  The old sacrifice time, health and freedom for the young often.  It is evident some companies, state-ran areas, private schools and the odd rich person pay into pension scheme equivalents, but for most it is out of reach.  Most working life starts on leaving school, assuming the person attended school, until near death.  5am is a good time to get up – and midnight is habitually the time to hit the sack.  Anyone working 9-5 shifts is lucky, this is something seen as rare, and retained for Westerners, who have yet to adapt.  Working days vary everywhere, and to any observations are generalised but very close to the absolute precision of actuality.  There is almost always a breakfast at work or school; a lunchtime break; an afternoon snack and regularly an evening meal.  The evening meal is rare in kindergarten or lower grades at primary/junior schools, the younger ones aren’t expected to be up so late – however, being out at night in Houjie, the wee ones always appear to be out!  When do they sleep?

I have, since arriving here, asked many Chinese people, “What do you do in your free time?”  To which the standard response has been, “sleep.”  On asking the question in different forms, the answer either remains the same, or “What free time?”  Some families enjoy long summer trips to their home provinces, but only on account they have saved enough during the school year in order to do so.  Even then, most will work part time or travel locally to earn their bread and butter (or rice and noodles).

This week at kindergarten, I have had some good days, some manic moments and overall reasons to be cheerful.  The last day was quite sweet, lessons were cancelled and sweets/candy was devoured in a way that local dentists will not lose trade for years to come.  Cakes, chocolate and seaweed accompanied.  That and milk-based drinks too vile to be consumed by a sane adult.  The kindergarten kids ate with zest, passion visible by their sugary grins.  I started that day in Apple, N1, the youngest class, essentially babies (aged 2-3).  We played games outside in the kindergarten park (where UK health and safety would have condemned the slide and swings long ago), danced and smiled lots.  Afterwards, Strawberry class (K2, aged 4-5) had a party, looked at photographs of the year gone by and we generally played – and had merriment.  Lunchtime slipped in after Lychee class (K1, aged 3-4) where we started a short class of songs, played with Duplo (chunky Lego) and other plastic based construction toys.

In the afternoon, I joined Cherry class (K2) for a further party, had umpteen sweets forced upon me, and an apple, and a banana… and then the Aunty (a domestic who helps prepare foods, clean up after the wee brats etc) forced me to eat massive purple grapes that tasted like gooseberries.  Life can be so abrasive at times.  From here I went to Banana class (K2).  Banana class are 90% misbehaving and 8% uninterested; the 2% venom.  One kid is pure evil, he even looks like a notorious wartime leader of a state in Europe that recently won some world cup in sport I am familiar with.  He can be nice to talk with, but if you talk to other kids, protect the groin, protect the face.  Brace for impact.  By 4.15pm it was all over, 4 weeks of discordant, blaring, raucous, jangly, pleasant, enjoyable, amiable, cheeriness all over.

That is, until next week, assignment number three arrives.  On Monday, I start my second kindergarten position.  This time, for the same group of schools, at Oxford Kingdom Flying Kindergarten.  I have no idea where the word flying comes from.  I can only assume that the pilots of China Southern Airlines all passed through the ranks of Oxford Kingdom Flying Kindergarten.  That or I am to teach parrots.  My latest role involves a class of K1 students (with one K3 student slotted in for good measure) aged roughly 3-4 years old.  I have 10 classes totalling 30 minutes each, alongside other interaction, outdoor play, and morning exercises.  This role lasts 5 weeks (less the week beginning 4th of August).

In other news…

The recent Supertyphoon Rammasun (Siamese for Thunder God) brought cooling winds/breezes to our local area.  Nothing more thankfully.  The local media has covered the deaths and destruction it brought to some of our province (eastern area), Guangxi and Hainan Island.

 

In the week, we came 2nd in the quiz at Irene’s Pub.  We joined a team and missed the first round.  Our punctuality problem stemmed from a late meal at Boton restaurant on Bar Street in Houjie, some distance from our area of Liaoxia.  Our local magazine for foreigners, Here Dongguan, has published a guide to our fair town of Houjie.  Go visit it at:  http://heredg.com/2014/07/town-guide-houjie/ I didn’t know Houjie translates roughly as Thick Street.

On August the 2nd, we may visit Zhuhai to see The GAC Trumpchi Zhuhai International Lovers Tandem Cycling Race.  Well we couldn’t see the Tour De France in Yorkshire!

So, our week off, we aim for either Zhangjiajie or Guilin.  Guilin is about 538km (334 miles) away by road, roughly the same distance as Manchester to Redruth (Cornwall).  Zhāngjiājiè is just a tad further north in Hunan Province.  Both look stunning, however, Zhāngjiājiè is much harder to get to.  We may have to fly CAN or SZX to KWL (around 1 hour) or go by train (around 9-10 hours) from Guangzhou.  Buses are not an option at 17 hours or so!

Then late August sees the 6th China International Animation Copyright Fair.  It is a kind of  cartoon carnival, cosplay competition and performance event.

Today, we ate at a lovely restaurant.  I say we, I mean Becky, Nikki and I.  Bryony bailed on us yesterday, flying back to the UK via Thailand.  Bryony will be back in around 5 weeks.  Becky flees midweek to the UK via Beijing.

In closing, Happy Birthday to Alexander the Great and Claudio Reyna, Macedonian king.

Semester One: The official summary (by Nikki)

24/7/14

From February 2014 to July 2014, I taught English at the Oxford Kingdom International Kindergarten in Houjie, Dongguan. I taught 4 classes comprising of 64 students; 2 K3 (giraffe and elephant class); 1 K1 (Zebra class); and a baby class. For baby class I had a book called ‘Tiny talk’ to teach. This book just had simple words and sentences to teach, like lunchtime, bedtime, family, weather and much more. For K1 and K3 there were many different English lessons including, audio visual, reading, craft, conversation, song and phonics. For audio visual, phonics and conversation I was given books and DVD’s to follow and use in lessons, which helped a lot!

Students in my all my classes behaved very well, sometimes they would get very excited over the activities I use in class, and all want to try. Baby class enjoyed learning songs with actions, so after teaching the vocab I would play a few videos. Towards the end of the semester the children would ask me to play certain songs, and could sing the songs without the videos. K1 were hard to control to begin with, but after a month or so myself and the Chinese/English teacher worked together as a team, and controlled the children. Some children in K1 were quiet to begin with, but by the end of the semester they were talking a lot more in English. One of my K1’s, Sunny  who is very smart, would always ask ‘What’s this?’, to different objects, which is an excellent way to learn, and others picked up on this question and asked me as well. Both of my K3 classes were very smart and learnt words and sentences very quickly. There were always a few children in giraffe class that would not be listening, so I always made sure to get them to join in with activities at the front of class, so I could check on them. Children in both K3 classes would regularly talk to me in English asking questions about me, and using the vocab learnt in lessons.

The school has looked after me from the beginning, and I get along with all of the staff. All of the teachers have been super, assisting me when I need it. Sofia has always been a great, and she will often ask me for ideas for displays at the front of school, which I also help make. I really enjoy teaching at the school and look forward to next semester.

Semester One: The official licensed summary (by John)

24/7/14

Dao Ming Foreign Language School (Houjie, Dongguan):

  • A slightly dated but very pleasant cramped school with many classrooms and not enough grounds.
  • The teachers and management are very welcoming, there is an ethos of try harder and you can succeed.  Belief is engrained on the school’s fabric.

 

Job role:

  • To assist with the teaching of oral English practice by way of lessons involving games, activities, computer-aided Powerpoint presentations.
  • To liaise with the school hierarchy and foreign teacher team in order to formulate different, fun, engaging and varied measures of teaching oral English.
  • To improve the English of my fellow teachers and the P.E. staff.

 

Classes:  701-704 (Grade 7) and 801-803 (Grade 8).  5th Grade VIP.  7th/8th Grade VIP.

 

Students’ behaviour:

  • This varied drastically between the age groups and classes.  80% of each class seemed to be engaged on the whole.  Several students in Grade 8 seemed to act up to get the attention of others; or simply down to their hormones.  That said, some lessons the same students would be the polar opposite and show absolute enthusiasm for the topic in hand.
  • Class 702 were as near perfect a class as anyone could wish for.  They had leaders within, who encouraged their fellow students often.  Their behaviour was exemplary.
  • Class 704 were great fun, and whilst their ability seemed a tad lower than the rest, they gathered strength and belief as the semester went on.
  • Class 701 always seemed to be a challenge, for the last class of Friday.  At least three students in this class could not be engaged and regular interruptions by their form teacher were needed – however, on the early day in the week, this class was very well behaved.
  • Grade 8 classes on the whole had many stand out students – and much more discipline.  The subjects were on the whole harder by a degree, but the desire to learn more seemed to up a notch too.
  • VIP Classes varied.  Grade 5 had far too many student changes initially and not enough classes in a row (competitions, rain, etc cancelled a few classes).  After the first 4 weeks or so, no Chinese English Teacher attended, causing problems with controlling around 16 students.  Grade 7 and 8 was challenging but on the whole rewarding.

 

Overall, I like it.  I want to do the best job possible and continuously improve.  I feel I owe it to everyone I work with, for and those I teach.

The Changjiang River waves behind drive the waves ahead.

28th July 2014.

Nín hǎo (if you’re old) / Nǐ hǎo (to everyone else).

Last night we arrived back, shattered from a weekend in Shenzhen.

Saturday, Nikki, had us onboard a pedal boat (designed for our shorter legged far eastern cousins) racing around an island looking at birds.  That and turtles.  And Chinese people taking photographs of the foreigners on their lake.  Lychee Park is stunningly arranged, a large boating lake, moon bridges, expansive green fields and tree-lined pathways.  Flowers, water lilies, frog filled ponds, beehive displays, dancing by young and old alike.  China might be riddled with development, overbuilding, habitat loss for wildlife, but here stands tranquillity.  Beyond the fencing and outer hedgerows sits a bustling City.  Inside, you’d hardly know it.

 

Here you may whip the camera out at this juncture, gaze at this, observe that, people spot, what a magnificent refuge for life’s need to unwind.  All the green colours and flowers bleed into one kaleidoscope offering no yearning to flee the open space.  Step on in, stay.  There is nothing middling here.

In the evening we walked an endless walk around for food before settling on the sight of our previous evening’s repast.  On the Friday night, I settled for barbecued sausages with peppers and thin sliced pork, resembling soft bacon with courgette.  This was topped off with Potato Tornado (spud on a stick) with spices.  DongMen BuXingJie (DongMen ZhongLu) has some amazing places to eat.  Here you can find fantastic food hidden away up here and there; grab something as a gift; walk and see the shops.  Big names, lesser brands, local and knock off sit side by side.  Bargain, barter and beware.  This was a great place to wander, but like all busy places, it pays to keep an eye on everything you hold dear.

 

On Sunday, we checked out, headed to the central bus and train station area.  Our bags were to sit in a locker for 20 RMB whilst we explored more of the city.  Hopping onto the Metro transit underground subway system is easy, and it was.  Lianhuashan Park was reached by arriving at The Children’s Palace station.  Here a patisserie can be found amongst all the restaurants and cold drink cafes.  The main building from the Metro station has 4 levels.  The top being the footpath into the park.  Outside you can cross a forecourt to admire the impressive Children’s Palace architecture, think modern European style meets Chinese modern.  Intricate and convoluted in shape and gallant in size.  The Children’s Palace hosts an attention-grabbing science museum, 4D cinema and starlight exhibition to name but a few contents.  It’s for kids.

The park, Lianhuashun, has big green fields surround a verdant hillock with the best land-based views of the Cityscape below.  Hong Kong rises in the distance.  In the park there can be found some impressive sculptures and statues.  The landscaped style of the park convenes well for kiteflyers, runners and walkers alike.  We exited the park at Lianhua North Station.  Lianhua West Station was also an option but the path never led that way.  That’s life.

 

Last week, a week that hit 37°C, I started at Flying Kingdom Kindergarten, Houjie.  I expected to have a class of six students, one K3 level and five K1 level.  I boarded the school bus without legroom and fitted with seat lap-belts that could not fit around me.  On board was Winnie, from the Oxford Kingdom and one other teacher I recognised but knew not her name.  Four students boarded, of which it would later transpire only two were destined for my class.

Within ten minutes I arrivedat the huge five storey building of the kindergarten.  The main edifice is accompanied by an outdoor Astroturf play area (complete with a closed climbing frame, a closed sandpit and a closed paddling pool).

On entering the building, a familiar face (name unknown to date) shown me to my classroom.  In here, it was explained that a cover teacher would be present until the afternoon to assist me.  My first student, Justin, was on the bus with me.  He hails from Nikki’s Oxford International Kindergarten and is of Taiwanese or Tibetan pedigree, depending on who you ask.  He looks five or six years old.  His English skills are far more advanced than most in Grade 3 of Dao Ming Foreign Language School.  He is four years old.  He can converse near fluently.  The second student off the bus is a mini-Chinese early day’s Liam Gallagher lookalike.  He even has his attitude.  Tommy is funny, nevertheless I have since learned, has no attention span whatsoever.

 

Soon after Beautiful (her English name) and Doris (I have known only two other people/creatures named Doris in my life… my sister Astrid’s hamster and a teacher at Dao Ming Foreign Language School.  That particular teacher told her friend I’d work for them as a Sales Representative, even though I never agreed a thing.  Lost in translation.)  Beautiful is a chirpy little girl, bubbling away with words I do not understand and always full of smiles.  The same can be said for Doris, although Doris gets giddy far too easy and half-laughs, half-screeches.  My class is Tommy, Justin, Doris and Beautiful.  No more students are expected.  The other students in the summer school bring the total pupils to a whopping 16.  There were initially four classes, but since then, the other three classes have merged.  My class, the K1s, is an elite four students, also, the only students with English classes.  Although I am presently contracted to teach all week, I have 11 (eleven) thirty minute classes (story, performance, song, conversation, craft and phonics forming the core of the English oral topics).

The first day was mostly introductions:  “I am Teacher John.” / “What’s your name?” / “My name is…” / “How are you?” etc…  In the afternoon, Jonlin, arrived from mid to North China (roughly 21 hours away by train).  Jonlin is tiny.  Of all the teachers and staff here, only one is tall, and very leggy for that matter.  On the whole, I am a giant to everyone here, teachers and students alike.  The other teachers and the school Aunty (who cooks and cleans) are very accommodating.  Everyone welcomes me.  The language may be a barrier, but the bodily actions and gestures are international.  The school is large, five storeys, the lower storey has 7 classrooms, an area set out as a castle, an area for spacehoppers and a few other nooks and crannies.  Beyond the ground level is the offices, a medical room, an arts room, a small science room, a western toilet and an area full of fictitious fishing pools, shops and a hospital.  The next floor up has more than a dozen classrooms.  Floor four is a massive building length dance area with a music room adjoined.  The top floor is derelict, incomplete, unfinished, lacking content – dormant and waiting for a purpose.  Each classroom, including my own has a sleep area, like a mini-loft within the room, set high above the student’s eyeline, on a par with my own head-height.  Below that a raised stage, where should I dance, I will wallop my head.  The rest of the room is the standard shelf, table, chairs found in generally most schools globally, although in minuscule sizes.

 

The week progressed in various forms of game, craft and conversation basics.  Justin’s ability outshines the rest, and sometimes it is hard to balance the gap between him and his peers.  At lunchtime, the whole school (all sixteen students) convene in one classroom around 4 desks.  The teachers hang back around the rims of the room.  At the head of the room sits a trolley with the lunch.  Here is where a metal bowl and spoon becomes handy.  After the learners tuck in, teachers can fill their metal bowls.  Soon after eating, the students and teachers retire to the in-class sleeping quarters.  I head out for a walk – as sleeping forty winks is not my thing, not for two hours!  The two hours break is a good time to plan lessons, read or do some shopping in Houjie town centre.  A cold lemon and kumquat tea is always on the agenda.

Monday night, we had pizza at Jerry’s Wow with Becky for her last meal in Houjie before departing the following morning to the UK via Beijing.  Cue Arnie voice, “She’ll be back…” in around 5 weeks.

Wednesday night marked the first quiz Nikki and I entered without other foreign teachers.  We drafted in two regulars to our team and came second overall by a two point margin.  Too many twos.

 

This week gone, we tried a spot of badminton in the wind, and some football tennis (which gives the locals something to look at in bemusement).

Tomorrow is day 169 away from the U.K.  Is it getting easier or harder?  I haven’t thought too much about this.  I miss family, football and friends greatly – but I really love being here.  More to follow… The blog has hit over 40,000 words.  Mostly gibberish.  Gibberish certainly boosts the statistics.  Gibberish is good.

Bài bài la (bye bye – commonly used in Taiwan and locally).

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