Setting Sails

Good day/Namaste/S’mae/How do/Hello/Nihao,

“Here we go”… “all aboard”… “the packet steamer is ready for departure”… “the flight is ready to depart”… “my God, it’s full of stars”…

BLAST OFF!

I’m not going to lie. It has been an eventful and busy few weeks. Today is the final day of the first teaching week. This marks the third week within Tungwah Wenzel International School. It’s been emotionally charged, eye-opening (in a refreshing kind of way) and wonderfully welcoming. This school is modern and dedicated to the International Baccalaureate methods and standards of practice. It aims to develop rounded young people that enquire, have broad knowledge and use their skills with care. The idea is to create peace and harmony whilst ‘promoting intercultural understanding and respect.’

The school is very well organised with clear hierarchy and methodology. There’s much to learn and many places to look for the knowledge. Resource is plentiful and accessible. Each classroom is equipped with a Smart Board (digital white board/multimedia unit) and at least four white boards. The room started out as a blank canvas. With the aid of desks that can fit a variety of teamwork positions or solo working spaces, and great chairs, the students can work at a breakfast bar-style workspace overlooking the green sporting facilities or slot in and out of double, treble, quadruple or quintuple team areas. I think up to decuple is possible, but I have yet to try that configuration. Differentiated instruction at its best.

The first few weeks involved introductions, meetings and workshops. Between brainstorms, buzz groups, bug lists, stepladder techniques and synectics, I discovered mind maps, which I have seen and can interpret but have never attempted to create one. My mind map virginity was lost to the theme of transdisciplinary learning.

I like the I.B. mindset. Classrooms encourage open celebration of diversity through their displays and their activities. The reading corner it Chinese and English, but Spanish and French should and will be included to facilitate the students from those backgrounds. Their mother tongue is just as important as the primary medium we teach in: English. Multi-lingual exposure will widen everyone’s minds. The displays will mostly be at the eye-level of our students. At the end of the day, they’re learning more than we are. So, parents should expect to come and crouch down to see their kids’ best efforts. We have a corner set aside for curiosity and special objects. Things are great examples of realia and generate wonderful questions. Our classroom is there to stimulate and be inviting. Whilst the framework may have been organized by myself and my assistant Miss Sheryl, the bulk of the display work will be a showcase for our students.

Learning stations are proving to be a challenge. Some students must get used to not playing with everything placed in one area. The literacy, numeracy and U.O.I. (Unit of Inquiry) class regions seem to be mixed up on a daily basis. House-keeping is something we’re encouraging the students to do, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. We have a couch, a proper sofa, beanbags, stools and chairs of various heights. Our common room and classroom are separated by a wall, but hopefully a doorway or a crawl space will bring the two spaces together. Different activities are blessed by different zones.

Resources are important. The students have an iPad each, books, things to use such as stationery and so on. The facilities are spacious and numerous with dedicated areas and ample room for multi-purpose functions. Of course, there’s a Godzilla-sized amount of responsibility, but few rules are seen. Instead students are asked to create essential agreements. They choose positive sentences and then pledge to abide by them. They even set them for their teachers. My grade four students elected the following essential agreements for me:

Make our school day special and fun.

Understand our students and their needs. [They even mentioned that this applies to the whole school, rather than just our one classroom]

Bring a smile to the classroom.

Make our classes interesting.

Be equal and fair.

Try to play more games in the classroom.

Help us to learn.

As for the students, there are the standard hints at keeping the noise down as well as about respect and politeness. Their collective of ten agreements are easily said, and I’m sure in time, they’ll also be habit. I will let them choose their content, but shuffle in some Roald Dahl and my own interests as and when fit and proper to do so.

The students could have even added, ‘Mr John must share his cakes’ because based on today’s lunch, they cleaned my dessert plate of fruits and three small slices of cake swiftly. I didn’t even have any watermelon left. I’ve two students in my class from three previous years at St Lorraine Anglo-Chinese Primary School. Kitty and Marline are now like best friends. They’ve linked up well with two other girls yet still seem to hate working with boys. So, as girls hit around 9 or 10 years of age, that’s when boys are ‘disgusting’ as they say. Maturity comes at different ages of course but the age-old battle of boys versus girls roars on.

These last few days have involved plenty of studying for myself, but with online resources and three libraries (teachers’ / primary / middle years) to select from, I haven’t had any huge problems. I know that smooth seas don’t make good sailors and the challenges ahead will present themselves in time, but I feel I’m in the right place surrounded by the right people, all with the right attitudes for the road ahead. There are trials ahead. Nothing easy is ever worth doing, right?

Thank you kindly for your time.

The Last Broadcast

How do! / 你好 (nĭ hăo) / Namaste / Welcome!

“So here we are; At the last broadcast; Here we are; Our last broadcast” – The Last BroadcastDoves

To the students, parents, colleagues, the principal, the parent/teacher association, the board of directors, and those concerned:

I write to say the deepest thank you to all of the above. I thank you for a sincere and wonderful experience at St Lorraine Anglo-Chinese Primary School. The experience was an excellent one and one that has helped our class take many more steps forwards than sideways. The classroom life may be drawn to a close this week, but we all leave here with unforgettable memories, a new port of calling for everlasting friendships and a sincere view of both Western and Chinese cultures. This will only serve to inspire and give us ample opportunity to gather smiles from our warm memories.

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Each year has seen new challenges and requirements. The advantages of enjoying such festivals of Children’s Day or Mid-Autumn Festival helps bring balance to the routine of the teacher’s daily life. We must be open and honest by evaluating our progress. What could we have done better? What could I have worked harder on? How can teamwork improve each and every single one of us? Take some time to review the matters that matter and invest energy and time into conquering obstacles.

Three school years is a long time to a child. It hasn’t felt so long to me. I haven’t met a single foreign teacher who has stayed with students for longer than two years. And at times, it has seemed like madness. Many students develop a familiarity that can mean that they now, what they can get away with. They know the limits of a teacher very soon. They know your blind spots of vision. Thankfully, 3F have been mostly wonderful. The days of Billy climbing me like a tree come to an end. There will be no Tony calling me “disgusting” at every opportunity. Marline’s daydreams and assortment of wonderful questions have come to an end. The quiet star Kitty can take her big voice to the next teacher. Marcus can talk about Lego and Aaron about travels with their next teachers. Roselle’s great artwork; Candy’s enthusiasm; Angela’s endless questions; Jimmy’s brilliant curiosity; Tyler’s reading passion; Leon’s sporting skills; Allen’s desire to lead every team; Alice’s requests for a new pet hamster; Evan’s lack of fear to pick up challenging reading materials; Kim’s conversations about her mammoth sleeping habits; Kristy’s great descriptive capabilities; Natalie’s cheerful drive for dancing; and Sabrina’s sense of humour. They will all be missed. These three years have been a privilege.

In the beginning there were lots of students, and through various reasons (change of location, new school choices), we’ve been reduced from 27 students to presently just 19 (although 2 have been unable to return this semester due to COVID-19). We had three fixed classrooms with temporary residence in one other classroom whilst mosquito guards were fitted. Everywhere we have been, we have tried as a class to decorate and leave a touch of our own warmth and creation there. From the original white walls, we made colossal suns, song words, signs, and warnings. There has been a blend of east and west, with lanterns, vases and hexagonal bee collages. Idioms have been learnt through curiosity and stacks of books lifted-up and put back down again.

When I first stepped into room 110 of St Lorraine Primary School, I was faced by a group of parents and colleagues. It was quite a friendly atmosphere and any nerves subsided soon enough. I was introduced to everyone by the principal, Mr Lam, and my co-worker Miss Zeng. Miss Zeng, or Cici as she is sometimes called would go on to be my co-worker for two years. Cici’s hobbies are sleeping and eating. Cake pillows are her dream. Throughout the initial year Cici really helped me communicate my ideas with the parents and create a pleasant feel for the class. Those foundation months were critical to where we are at now. Parents have been receptive and encouraging throughout my time with our class, our team and our journey. Many parents would be familiar faces throughout my three years with class 1F, 2F and ultimately 3F. I hope we all remain in contact. Miss Li has accompanied us throughout this third year of school. I wish them all the very best in the future.

Footballs have been humped around the field, kicked with passion and passed to friends. Rugby balls have looped over heads and basketballs dribbled through legs. There have been hours of games, laughter and creativity in action. Students have become teachers to me. English, like Chinese, is a wonderful and beautifully crafted language – and foreign teachers usually feel most welcome in learning your native tongue, whilst giving our all to give the students our command of English. The students enjoyed laughing at or teaching me one or two words throughout our time together.

Like I tell students, I advise them, “Don’t believe everything you hear and see.” In fact, believe nothing of what you hear, for until you see or hear, how do you absolutely know it to be true? A good environment needs a positive feel and respect, whether through reward or simple acknowledgment. All classes need classmates to be balanced in their manners and respectful. Don’t accept everything as it is. Look for ways to enhance and improve the working practices, without wasting time and passions. Encouragement is a valuable tool for students and teachers alike. Teachers such as Miss Huang (Minna), and Miss Cheng (Paris), amongst many can take their energy and give it to those they teach and work with. Over the years I have been lucky enough to meet many great people.

Life doesn’t get better by chance. It gets better by change. We adapt and we are flexible. Proper planning prevents poor performances, but that doesn’t always mean circumstances can be suited each time. Planning just makes us better prepared. Free time to do the things we love helps us come into school refreshed and ready to be effective. Holidays give us time to see family and planning such trips can be irritating and difficult. Uncertainty and discomfort can be avoided. That should be what a good teacher should always do. Avoid overworking and stay fresh for school. After all, that is something which we encourage our students.

Now, nobody’s saying the international class at St. Lorraine is the Garden of Eden, but it’s been a good home to us, to me, John Acton – and my students, who I’m proud of! Because every single one of them reminds me a little of… me. They can all think for themselves! Which they’ve their parents to thank for. Allen, who’s a bit loud! Aaron who is a lot like his sister, which is handy because she’s quiet and polite. Alice who bounces around like a ballet dancer. Our Billy, the little bucket of questions. Angela and her big smile. Candy, a model student until you take her pen away. Evan! The biggest trip hazard for a hundred kilogram plus-size teacher. Jimmy, a face of innocence with a head full of wit and humour. Kim and Marcus, fantastic neighbours for other students – until they open their mouths… and never close them! Kristy, who seems hellbent on making me bench press her bodyweight with, “Pick me up!” every other day. Marline, she’s gonna be a star, when she focuses. Natalie, skipping and hopping around with a big smile day after day. Roselle, she’s the student every teacher wants but only ever gets one of them. Sabrina, so curious and such a total angle. You’ve to check your desk but she’ll go miles out of her way to do you a favour. Tony and Tyler, full of energy, smiles and oddity. All of them, to a man, know first and foremost the most vital necessity in the classroom, is they know how to be part of a team. Let’s party! SCATTER!

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Turn off the subtitles, finetune your hearing and pick up those English newspapers, magazines and books. It’s always time to challenge yourself and push on for the next day of hard work. We can, little by little, make improvements. That’s why I’m saying thank you. You’ve improved me. Don’t stop learning. Don’t stop teaching. Look for those brighter and better days. The world’s future is calling you – and you must be ready for it. Anything is possible. A simple thank you is not enough. From the bottom of my heart to each and every one of you.

So, what now?

Yours in teaching; yours is passion for learning; yours truly and faithfully,

Mr John

The Final Report.

“Better three hours too soon, than one minute too late.” – William Shakespeare

How do! / 你好 (nĭ hăo) / Namaste / Welcome!

The school year of class 3F of St. Lorraine Anglo-Chinese Primary School is drawing to a close. To follow on from the final reports of class 2F, here is an end of year review.

“授人以鱼不如授人以渔” [Shòu rén yǐ yú bùrú shòu rén yǐ yú] / “Give a man a fish and you feed him for one day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” – Chinese proverb

Education is a joint mission between schools, teachers and parents. A teacher will always need your help. We must work hard to discontinue inappropriate behaviour. We must work together to increase confidence and focus. Like parents, students must exercise consistent cooperation, show courtesy and good manners. The classroom should be like a family and a place of sanctuary from the world outside. Through escape we can nurture one another to develop rounded individuals and mature focused teams. The urge of distractions will be resisted and all will become an example of excellence in both behaviour and cooperation. Collectively class 3F have improved – even taking into account the difficulties faced during the pandemic.

“师父领进门,修行在个” [Shīfu lǐng jìnmén, xiūxíng zài gèrén] / “Teachers Open the Doors. You Enter by Yourself” – Chinese proverb

Groupwork and togetherness has been encouraged from an early age within our classroom environment. Teamwork is important. It encourages sharing and constructive improvements to one another. Students within 3F have demonstrated acceptance of recommendations, sensitivity towards thoughts and opinions and taken on varied roles within their teams. A good team needs a leader. Fairness needs a team to allow the leader to have a voice. By distributing, planning and carrying out task together, 3F have shown great encouragement to one another. For future teamwork, each student must continue to share and work together. Participation is often active, and little added encouragement is needed.

一口吃不成胖子” [Yīkǒu chī bùchéng pàngzi] / “it’s impossible to become fat with just one mouthful” – Chinese proverb

Behaviour and attitude are linked as one. Through enthusiasm we can encourage all to enjoy school. We will push initiative, creativity and give confidence to instinct. The full potential of each student must be strived for. As teachers we must be committed to doing our best and set an example to those learning from us. Only then can each student do their best. Students who take responsibility for their learning and seek new challenges are a joy to behold. Class 3F (just like 2F and 1F in previous years) has had many such examples from our students.

“未雨绸缪” [Wèiyǔchóumóu] / “Dig a well before you are thirsty” – Chinese proverb

Students must perform classroom tasks and respect their peers. Each student must have an honest and trustworthy character. When they deal with others, they should be encouraged to display citizenship and concern for the feelings of their peers. A dependable student is thoughtful, kind and helpful. The classroom, its belongings, and the possessions of others are to be treated with care and pride. Class 3F have overall earned trust and respected their enhanced classroom facilities. Social skills have improved. Most students are well-liked, friendly, and compassionate. Disagreements are natural and resolved accordingly. Fairness and understanding have made the classroom environment comfortable. During free periods there are no withdrawn students, and all engage in conversations or game play.

机不可失,时不再来” [Jī bùkě shī, shí bù zàilái] / “Opportunity knocks at the door only once” – Chinese proverb

Regarding communication skills, class 3F have fast become confident, bold and clear. They choose words with care, have a well-developed and often increasing vocabulary and express themselves clearly. They are vibrant and imaginative. Logical and persuasive arguments are coupled well with listening to the comments and ideas of others. Each student is now encouraged to be more patient and not interrupt one another.

“吃一堑,长一智” [Chī yī qiàn, zhǎng yī zhì] / “By falling we learn to go safely” – Chinese proverb

With regards to talents and interests, the students of 3F have a very well-developed sense of the world. They play drums and violins, dance, hike, eat new foods, travel and play games amongst a huge list of things. They hold a well-developed sense of humour and display many wonderful moments, that are completely unexpected. Their interests are shared, talked about and related to real world scenarios. Many students have an impressive understanding and depth of knowledge about their interests. Others are developing themselves and I have no doubt that many will become gifted performers. Within the classroom we have dramatic actors, passionate readers and musical students.

“种瓜得瓜, 种豆得豆” [Zhòngguā dé guā, zhòngdòu dé dòu] / “ You reap what you sow ” – Chinese proverb

Most students have well-developed independent learning skills. Self-motivation and hunger to learn is evident throughout the class. The work habits of the majority of class 3F is far above average. Several students require encouragement and support, and all should check their work before submission. Little mistakes can be erased by checking once, checking twice and checking again. There’s no harm in checking too much. Through a little supervision the less focused class members can grasp new concepts and ideas, whilst learning to display consistent self-discipline.

“Time isn’t the main thing. It’s the only thing.” – Miles Davies, Jazz musician.

Time management concerns homework, classroom assignments, tasks, groupwork and, overall, there has been an improvement. I’m a firm believer that students here have too much homework, and a reduction may be beneficial. It should be trialled accordingly. More creative homework would allow students to develop at different paces and express themselves individually.


“不怕慢, 就怕停”  [bù pà màn, jiù pà tíng] / “Be not afraid of growing slowly, be only afraid of standing still.” – Chinese proverb.

And with that, that’s all folks, well, kind of…

“请教别人一次是5分钟的傻子,从不请教别人是一辈子的傻子” [Qǐngjiào biérén yīcì shì 5 fēnzhōng de shǎzi, cóng bù qǐngjiào biérén shì yībèizi de shǎzi] / “He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever.” – Chinese proverb

Reach For The Stars

The below are comments meant for each student. I want every parent to know something unique about their student. It is important to give suggestions and open a discussion. Parents and teachers are doing the same job. We all want those little minds we are nurturing to blossom.

Attentive Aaron is committed to doing his best. Aaron has completed a great semester’s work. He should be really proud of his efforts. Aaron shows responsibility and follows directions whenever they are given. Aaron would benefit from showing a greater desire to contribute ideas in class. Aaron makes a good effort to make his handwriting legible. He is able to print on the lines, use good spacing, and form letters correctly. Encouragement of reading is a must for Aaron. Go on pick up more books!

Cheerful Alice appears well rested and ready for each day’s activities. Alice is a conscientious, hard-working student. Alice relates well to classmates and is appreciative of different perspectives and experiences. Alice works well with classmates in group work and often takes a leadership role. Alice is learning to offer more direct responses to her reading experiences supported by reasons, examples, and details. I encourage Alice to read more often.

Eager Allen seeks new challenges. Allen demonstrates a willing and conscientious effort in his daily work. Allen has done a great job facing and overcoming big challenges this year. Please continue to nurture and encourage this behaviour over the summer. Allen needs to show more appropriate behaviour when interacting with classmates. Allen is able to offer direct responses to his readings and supports ideas with sound reasoning and specific examples. Allen would benefit from opening new books often.

Imaginative Angela treats school property and the belongings of others with care and respect. Angela works independently. Angela manages her emotions maturely and responds to feedback appropriately. Angela needs to listen to directions more attentively during lessons. Angela needs to improve her cooperation in group settings. She should work on voicing feelings and opinions and listening to others. Angela shows good ability when completing reading comprehension tests. Angela is honest and trustworthy in dealings with others. Angela should remain curious and pick up new reading materials often.

Confident Billy often shows respect for teachers and peers. Billy is a cheerful and enthusiastic class member. He shows an interest in most learning tasks but often needs reminders to remain focused on his work. Billy needs reminding not to listen to any negative words of fellow classmates. Stay strong and focus on you. Don’t get too involved in the silly behaviours of others.  Billy needs frequent reminders to be attentive during instructions and lessons. Billy has a positive attitude towards math but continues to have trouble in a few key areas. He should practice every evening at home. Billy and books should be better friends.

Capable Candy is courteous and shows good manners in the classroom. Candy participates in class discussions and shares his ideas with others. Candy has achieved a personal writing goal by constructing an informative text without the use of a scaffold. She is now working towards punctuating her writing correctly. Candy shows maturity when solving problems with classmates and uses good communication. Candy continues to make excellent progress in spelling and reading. She works hard to submit work that is free of grammatical errors. By reading Candy will develop both her writing and imaginative skills.

Polite Evan is sometimes quiet and shy, but often vocal and creative. When reading, Evan uses a range of skills to identify the meaning of the text. Evan is accountable and responsible. He makes smart decisions, admits mistakes and listens to opportunities to improve. Evan listens to and follows directions precisely and attentively. Evan shows the ability to quickly use spelling, punctuation and grammar rules that were recently taught. He is able to quickly learn new skills and is eager to apply them to his writing. Evan is able to analyse character actions, story plots, and shows strong fluency with reading. Let’s all encourage Evan to read bigger scarier books!

Dynamic Jimmy displays the ability to reason, solve problems and resolve difficulties. During our paper making classes, Jimmy used reasoning and questions to understand the processes. Jimmy is confident, positive and a great role model for his classmates. It has been a pleasure to have Jimmy’s enthusiasm, positivity and maturity in my class. Jimmy demonstrates a good understanding of all math concepts studied and communicates with clarity and good justification of reasoning. Jimmy consistently demonstrates comprehension of short-spoken texts by answering questions, and explaining the events described. Jimmy’s head should be in a book more often.

Pleasant Kim displays an ability to work collaboratively. She takes responsibility in group tasks, listens to others and works towards a shared goal. An area of focus for Kim is to include punctuation (e.g. commas, capital letters, speech marks etc.) in her writing, as well as paragraph her ideas coherently. Kim is having a little difficulty with reading, particularly with fluency and comprehension. Take more time and care to read. Kim is creative and warm-hearted. There are many books she would benefit from reading.

Outgoing Kristy often follows directions promptly and accurately. Kristy should read before sleeping and at every other possible moment. A future goal for Kristy is to include more complex sentences, adding variance in sentence length to better engage the reader. Kristy consistently completes homework assignments. Kristy is frequently among the first to help and mentor other classmates. She is a valuable part of the classroom.

Courteous Kitty is a self-motivated student. Kitty is interested in her own learning, listens attentively, and makes a solid effort to avoid distractions that could interrupt the learning process. Kitty is focused during class and contributes ideas willingly. Every semester Kitty’s ability comes on in leaps and bounds. Her confidence is at a wonderful level now. Kitty’s hands would be best placed around a book, where possible.

Energetic Marcus, when focused within class, willingly participates in group discussion. Marcus is encouraged to demonstrate more responsible attitudes and behaviour in the classroom. An area to focus on for Marcus is his control. He needs to slow his work down and doublecheck everything. Review each piece of work for careless mistakes. Marcus is a very bright and sensitive boy. His understanding of science and geography is most pleasing. Marcus often looks for ways to be helpful in the classroom. Marcus has trouble with his handwriting. I believe he can form letters well, but has to slow down and take a little more time. Neater handwriting will improve his schoolwork overall. Marcus loves looking at new books. Marcus should get all the information from new books as often as possible.

Creative Marline has shown she can work independently and takes pride in work done well. A future goal for Marline is to proofread more carefully. Check everything with great detail. I recommend that Marline practices under test conditions. Marline will be much better prepared for any test or exam. Marline consistently needs reminders to use time effectively. Marline is easily distracted during math lessons and behavioural issues are interfering with her learning. In the future, she will be working on more difficult subjects and she will struggle if she does not pay attention in class. Marline would benefit from extra practice with reading aloud and discussion of content. Marline’s love of books needs to be encouraged.

Sincere Natalie is an absolute pleasure to teach. Natalie should pay particular attention to ensuring she has read the questions (or tasks) thoroughly. Natalie has shown excellent ability to set goals and be persistent in achieving them. Natalie’s (comprehension, spelling, reading) has greatly improved, but she still needs extra work in (comprehension, spelling, reading). Please contact me if you need supplemental learning materials to use at home for practice. It is imperative that Natalie finds time to read new books.

Cooperative Roselle demonstrates a real commitment to her studies and approaches new learning in an enthusiastic manner. She shows great initiative and commitment. She is highly organised and works independently when required. Roselle puts forth their best effort into homework assignments. I believe Roselle will benefit from trying her hand at creative writing. Roselle shows good ability when completing reading comprehension tests. Without doubt, Roselle must read books for an older level. She will benefit greatly from this.

Independent Sabrina exceeds expectations with the quality of their work. Sabrina readily grasps new concepts and ideas. Sabrina is dependable and reliable, follows directions effectively, and follows through on her commitments to herself and others. Sabrina is conscious of putting care into her daily writing work, and frequently goes beyond the minimum requirements for assignments. Little ‘Siri’ has a delightful mind that would benefit from new stories and adventures found in many books.

Resourceful Tony is thoughtful, insightful and thorough in written and verbal communication, and has a talent for expressing his ideas clearly. Tony requires encouragement to listen attentively during group sharing times. Tony has a good understanding of all math concepts taught so far this year. He continues to turn in excellent assignments and especially enjoys hands-on math activities. Tony consistently reads grade-level material independently. Tony has a great imagination that needs nurturing through new stories and books.

Constructive Tyler consistently reads grade-level material independently. Sadly, due to the pandemic, Tyler’s classes have been limited to video calls. The biggest reader in the class will no doubt have found his nose between pages of many books. Tyler’s questions and curiosity have sorely been missed in the classroom. He is an absolute model student with respect of his desire to share information and facts. Tyler’s passion for geography, science and technology and his mathematical skills will only improve. Keep going. Keep reading.

There have been other class members who have gone on to other schools (or classes). Rain, Justin, Kelly, Lewson, Henry, Victoire, Soffy, Jessie, Doris, Dongyee, Sharon, CK and Hardy. Poor old Leon is stuck in Japan due to the pandemic but his father tells me he is working very hard and improving in English. The people of the world are in a strange place but that doesn’t mean we have to worry. The pandemic will pass. We’ll be stronger because of it. Keep looking forwards and stay optimistic. Embrace change, because change is more normal than you may think. The weather changes. Socks [should] change. We grow. We should never stay the same. Change can be scary and worrying but being scared of something doesn’t mean you should hide from it. Why worry? How much of life can you control? Is worry constructive?

These last three years together have been a privilege and an honour. I wish every student a wonderful future and that they continue working hard in grade 4. Setting a good foundation today is important, but stay fair, stay humble and stay happy. Bring some sunshine to the bright and brand-new tomorrow.The journey of life goes on, and with it we often meet new people, new teachers, new students and new colleagues. Life finds a way. Adapt. Push on. Climb new mountains. Read new stories. Write new chapters. Draw new drawings. Dance like nobody is watching and sing like nobody is singing. Be yourself. You can be no-one else.

School reports.

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do / S’mae / Namaste,

So, last Friday was the last of the days with 2F. They are now on holiday. After sharing some post-exam lemon teas, they floated away on the wind – or school busses and more regular forms of motion. Here’s a little review of the 26 students that make my day delightful… sometimes. I’ve used some of the text for their school reports.


Bright-eyed Aaron needs to improve his focus. His enthusiasm is at times wonderful. At other times he is a little bit of a daydreamer. Aaron is extremely polite and has a great character. He is shaping up to be a well-rounded student. Just a little more effort please, Aaron! You need to be yourself, you can be no one else.

Able
Active
Responsible
Observant
Neighbourly / awake / reliable / unhampered

Smiley Alice is patient, often mature in her responses and thinks hard before delivering great English. Her pronunciation is improving. She is creative and greatly respected by her peers. To improve, Alice just needs to carry on. As you were!

Adaptive
Laudable
Inclusive
Curious
Effective / civilised / clever / methodical

Bubbly Allen is dedicated to speaking. His spoken ability is confident and he grabs every opportunity to talk in English. Allen clearly likes to lead teams. With just a little more control he will be an outstanding student. Allen, Allen, Allen… slow down and work together! I think you’re the same as me. We see things that they’ll never see.

Accountable
Leading
Liked
Easy to talk to
No dummy / fearless / outspoken / confident

Smart Angela is imaginative. Miss Rabbit or Lucy are stage names and the world is her stage. She is smart as can be. At times she can be distracted and needs focus, but I suspect that unchallenged, Angela seeks something to switch her mind on. Let’s keep finding ways to unlock that big brain of yours, Angela! All you dreams are made…

Able
Natural
Gleaming
Extraordinary
Laid-back
Advanced / highly-intelligent / quick on the draw

Brainy Billy is capable of much more. His attitude in class can be quite relaxed and he understands English greatly. Billy just needs a kick up the bottom at times. With gentle persuasion our Billy can be everyone’s Billy. He is a great team player. Billy, please keep trying hard! Your class loves you. Give yourself a dream. Live it!

Bold
Interested
Leisurely
Leading
Young-at-heart / observant / reliable / unhampered

Careful Candy is well-respected. The jolly smiles and soft-spoken sentences that Candy delivers are welcomed by all. Candy’s ever so patient and curious outlook are clearly the great shaping by her family. What a star you are Candy! You’ll go far by being who you are! Trust your classmates. Believe in one another.

Confident
Alert
Neat
Dependable
Youthful / wide-awake / zestful / quaint

Diligent Dongyee has jumped ahead in these recent months. She has gone from being hardworking to using her voice louder. Dongyee can climb, she can talk about nature, she can discuss things confidently and she understands much. Stay curious Dongyee and show everyone your ability! YOU CAN DO IT!

Dainty
Outstanding
Never-failing
Great
Yare*
Easy to talk to
Empathetic / agile*

Delightful Doris can be wonderful. Impatient Doris can be challenging. The two sides of Doris are now becoming less frequent. Delightful Doris is learning patience and working harder. She approaches with questions and seems relaxed with making mistakes. She learns from these small errors. Rome wasn’t built in a day, Doris. Some day you’ll find a brighter day!

Daring
Outspoken
Radiant
Independent
Stimulated / warm-hearted / fearless / witty

Excited Evan is fast becoming a walking thesaurus. Students who love language can do anything. With more focus, Evan can excel. Evan, how do you fancy showing off your spoken English a little more? C’mon Evan! You’re free to be whatever you choose.

Excellent
Vigilant
Awesome
Nimble-witted / understandable / observant / reliable / unhampered

Bold Henry used to be rude and noisy, without reason. He has changed greatly. Henry shows solid teamwork, is much more patient and has developed a sense if humour for both adults and children to enjoy. Stay positive, Henry! These last few months have been brilliant! You can have it all but how much do you want it?

Humorous
Eager
Nimble
Resourceful
Young-at-heart
helpful / agile / confident

Polite Jimmy is at times witty, creative and kind. At other times he challenges me to think of new positive adjectives. He is adaptable and considerate. You’re going to make it happen, Jimmy! Take the time to make some sense of what you want to say. We’ll be hearing you more, Jimmy!

Jazzy
Incorrupt
Measured
Most excellent
Yare* / agile* / serious / happy

Vibrant Kim is a pleasure to have in our class. Class 2F loves Kim. Her fizzing and sparkling attitude is a testament to great parenting. There isn’t a more lively or animated student in our class. Take the time to make some sense of what you want to say, Kim. You can have it all. Stay cheerful.

Keen
Interested
Mindful / adaptable / courteous / frank / rational / reliable

Improving Kitty is on a relentless run of progress. This year has seen Kitty rocket. Her little voice is fading away. A new bold Kitty is emerging. Kitty, keep going! Live your life for the stars that shine!

Kind
Inspiring
Talented
Triumphant
Yare* / agile* / exemplary / friendly

Skilled Kristy is a pleasure for our classroom. She can be witty, clever and determined. Demonstrating her growing knowledge and ability, Kristy is rising fast. Step outside, the summertime’s in bloom.

Keen
Rapid
Initiative
Sparkling
Talented
Yern* / eager* / integrated

Talented Lewson will not let the brains he has go to his head. A more-grounded student there is not. Whether it is demonstrating magic, showing his reading skills or singing with a smile, Lewson is modest. He works well with others and is fast learning to control his emotions. Lewson, you can go far.

Level-headed
Easy to approach
Wide-awake
Sweet natured
On hand
Noteworthy / popular / methodical

Cheerful Leon, I am sure you’ve heard it all before. You need to focus. Now is the time to see Leon pay attention more and more. We know that you can do it. You’re improving and showing us signs. Do me a favour, work harder and play harder. To play in a castle, you need to build the walls and towers. Only then can you enjoy the green grasses in the castle square.

Leading
Eager
On target
Now / helpful / agile / confident / bustling

Mighty Marcus stands tall. There are many things that I’d like to say to you, but I don’t know how. So, let’s keep it simple. A lion runs fastest when it is hungry. Show us your hunger to learn and you will stand far taller. Stay calm, stay positive.

Mighty
Active
Radiant
Caring
Unafraid
Stimulated / warm-hearted / fearless

Curious Marline probably has a scientist trapped inside her mind. All your dreams are made, when you focus from time to time. This semester has seen less day-dreaming, and more curiosity. Keep finding your way into the classroom and teamwork. You are making big progress, Marline! Please stop bringing ants into our classroom!

Magnetic
Artistic
Relaxed
Laid-back
Individual
Neighbourly
Enjoyable / quaint

Pleasant Natalie may need a little time to wake up. Once her arms are stretched out and her mind is awake, Natalie is wonderful. A veritable little bucket of knowledge!  Stay true, Natalie, we need your mind working harder and harder…

Nimble
Adaptive
Thorough
All systems go
Laudable
Inclusive
Effective / civilised

Quiet Roselle is not always quiet. Roselle, when you’re happy and you’re feeling fine, then you’ll know it’s the right time to talk. You are raising your hand more and joining in teamwork without hesitation. This is a wonderful and huge improvement. Your reading voice can be heard. At last. More of the same, please!

Regal
Objective
Settled
Earnest
Lionhearted
Lovable
Eager / perfect

Energetic Sabrina is oddly shy at times. Her capable mind and thoughtful manners don’t sit with her somewhat shy nature. Build something. Build a better place. You can do anything, Sabrina! Is Siri still helping with your maths?

Surprising
Adaptable
Big-hearted
Rational
Informative
Neat
Ace / courteous

Silent Sharon has gone. All your life you will try to make a better day. Now, with your voice louder and your ability, you’re very much ready to step in front of an audience. We believe in you. Do you believe in you, Sharon? Go and make some noise!

Self-disciplined
Hard-working
Adaptable
Responsible
Objective
Nobody’s fool / quaint / considerate

Friendly Soffy is working harder. You’ve been lost. You’ve been found. I am happy to see that your quiet days have gone. You’re a very confident girl. Keep working hard. You’ll find lights to lead you there. They’ll be blinding, You can do anything but it takes some hard work. Go on, Soffy!

Smiley
Orderly
Fluent
Freethinking
Youthful / quaint / considerate / adaptable

Tremendous is a big word, Tony. It is similar to great, wonderful and fantastic. Get on the rollercoaster. The fair is in town today. You can take any ride for your future, Tony. I should just write, “Mr John, Mr John, Mr John…” Few students will have the chances that you can make. Go ahead, make a bright tomorrow.

True
Original
Nobody’s fool
Youthful / warm-hearted / fearless / outspoken / energetic

Talented Tyler. There’s lots and lots for us to see. There’s lots and lots for us to do. Stay curious and keep reading as much as you do. Don’t fear any books. You have an eye for art, let’s see your mind’s eye. Show it all. Keep talking. You’re a credit to your parents. Keep teaching us too! Keep talking about spiders too.

Tough
Yare
Leisurely
Omnipresent
Ready / eager / easy-going / true

Steady now Victoire. Keep this pace up. You’re learning fast and improving in your behaviour. Keep your emotions under control and you’ll go far. Tonight, you can be a rock and roll star. You’ve got to take your time. You’ve got to say what you say. Don’t let anybody get in your way but be respectful and fair. Here’s to a wonderful term at school, Victoire. V for victory!

Volcanic
Initiative
Cordial
Teachable
Observant
Inventive
Reliable
Effervescent


That’s that. Done. The final reports of the year. A few Oasis lyrics slotted in. I was listening to Bugzy Malone at Glastonbury then Johnny Marr, so I can’t explain why I chose the Gallagher brothers. In August, the students will return. In September, I will return to…

St Lorraine Anglo-Chinese School/Kindergarten is in Changping, Dongguan. It is owned by a Hong Kong parent group. They have branches throughout China, notably in Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Dongguan. The main primary school was founded in 1999. It is a full-time Chinese-English-language school. The education aim is to provide “quality international and pluralistic education for children in different countries.” The school provides Cambridge International Primary and Junior High School Curriculum (Cambridge International Primary and Lower Secondary Programmes). Students can apply for Cambridge Examination (certificate awarded by the University of Cambridge Examination Authority) and this assists with progression to the Cambridge IGCSE or Cambridge International O Levels Local or equivilents. Many students attend from the mainland of China, Hong Kong and Chinese Taipei.

There are 8 classes for the first grade of primary school (approximately 30 students per class). There are 2 classes in the first year of junior high school. Around 240 students join each academic year to create the new grade one classes. Some kindergarten students face one-on-one interviews or interviews. In fact across China placement of written tests and English assessments are common for international school entry.

The school is located at: Bauhinia Garden of Changping Town Changhuang Highway, Dongguan City, Guangdong Province.

The school has a website here and here, with my own mugshot being found here and there. Like all education establishments in China it is regulated by the education authority for China, Dongguan city and the province of Guangdong.

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye / Hwyl Fawr / Dhanyabaad / Alavidā

The motions of finality.

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do / S’mae / Namaste,

Last Wednesday evening, I watched the excellent Paul Draper, of Mansun fame, now going solo in Guangzhou’s Mao Livehouse. It was an excellent gig, even if returning around midnight to sunny Dongguan was a tad late. One thing for sure, the hustle and bustle of Guangzhou did not leave me feeling in a wide open space. The venue has great acoustics and with Paul Draper’s dreamy vocals, even if Beijing had left him a little sore of the throat. The experience was made all the better by discovering both new songs, and some old songs that I haven’t heard since they probably came out. I’m no super fan of Mansun or Paul Draper – but this gig was my favourite this year. I’ve been to one gig. That being said, I doubt many bands or artists will put on a better show in 2019.


I am tired of hearing that “you must be the best“. I agree and I disagree. Be your best by all means, but don’t accept that being the best of all others is possible. For me that is chosen by popular opinion. On one hand, one person could be good at organising groups or preaching ideals, on the other hand, that person could also be radical and likely extreme. You wouldn’t want Adolf Hitler organising a charity shop. He’d probably do okay on the bric-a-brac section or the novelty homewares. I wouldn’t trust him with the books or clothing. He had a nasty habit of being a bit selective. Similarly I wouldn’t trust Marie Curie in a charity shop. She’d be too busy messing around with polonium – and not obeying health and safety rules. Hitler would be a terrible co-worker for Curie. He’d no doubt fuel the rumours that she was a Jewish homewrecker. Yes, history has often been full of divisive figures. Something that you couldn’t say about Michael Jackson, without fear of a fan getting upset, until recently. Now old M.J.J. the noseless is fair game. Him being dead makes him an easy target, much like the poor boys he probably fiddled with.

So, why should we be the best? To be tainted by our weakness and our mistakes? To fall down on our swords? Does society spit out the mediocre and forget what we offer? Is there fault in wanting to live a simple peaceful live? Are we either astronauts, astronomers or stargazers without need of answers? If a dream is unspoken, did anyone dream it?

I’m often asked why I like teaching. “Hey Mr John, why do you like teaching?” The answers I give are not always the same but usually I say something like, “Ugh. I dunno.” I want to be the one who makes the shy kid speak. I wouldn’t mind being the one who makes the noisy kid pay attention. If someone can make the dreamer join in, why can’t it be me? If you can’t impart teamwork where selfishness was, then I will do it. I like to defrost cold situations. We can all be the one who says hello to everyone, from the cleaners to the parents to the secretary to the delivery man to the security guard and the bosses.

It is important that in teaching, and for the bigger society, that we don’t create a sense of inferiority. Yes, there will always be outstanding people and we need them. We need the differences in ability, and we need the inability in order to thrive. Our faults can be assets. Without negative experiences or bad times, division, or difference, we’d not have Joy Division, Radiohead or the lyrics of Paul Draper, singing Jealousy is a powerful emotion. We need less division and fear of difference. Events in Christchurch this week tell us that. Don’t fear better, don’t fear religions, just accept that difference is wonderful. I take pride in my hometown and the man who stood outside a Levenshulme mosque with a message of peace. Yes, he garnished some publicity, but that furthered his message and no doubt reached the people of communities like Christchurch and beyond. The real people no doubt felt the support. The haters probably struggled and held conflict in their hearts. For every message of love, we can win. Can’t get fairer than that, right?

“To destroy someone, you must observe these rules; At number one; Everybody’s got their weakness; Get people on your side.”
Paul Draper – Friends Make the Worst Enemies

During the hike in Nepal, it gave me a feeling of community and harmony unfelt before. Along the way many single people, groups and couples enjoyed guidance from experienced guides and porters. These local experts are well-trained, respected and hard-working. They don’t cut corners. They work safely and never hurry their clients. You’re their guest and for a moment you are treated just as one of the family. They extend their hands to stragglers and solo-trekkers alike. Do you need a porter? Maybe you like the challenge. Maybe you want a luxury and to have someone lug your backpack to leave you free to explore a little more. The benefits of the guides and porters far outweigh not having assistance. They know the weather. They know the altitude and signs of sickness, and how to acclimatize more carefully. They’re really honest people too – but I’m sure a bad apple is amongst the cart. I’d trust them though. Some pay their porters or guides 2,000-2,500 NPRs per day. Some pay their hired hands’ accommodation and food on top. They’re all fair about their fare from day one. They even meet with clients in advance and explain their terrains. Most guides speak English – and many have learnt Korean, Chinese, Spanish and French. They’re a talented bunch. Having a guide is not necessary but even from someone who twice set out on a challenge without a guide, I would in future throw serious consideration to a guided tour. Maybe in the future Manaslu, Chitwan and Annapurna will call me.


10th February 2019

On leaving Pheriche, we rounded the pathways through Pangboche and looked for a place to stay. No rooms at the inn, and with enough sunlight to carry on, we walked forward to Deboche. With light fading, we arrived into a warm room, a bright view and the setting sun casting purple tints over the surrounding mountain tops. The Paradise Lodge made a a good mushroom pizza and for me Dal Baht wasn’t on a list of foods to eat. The lodge, a stone affair with wooden interiors and a row of protruding beachhut style rooms was far from a grey house. The blue and white paints, and dark green trims made it feel very homely and traditional.

The following morning, we walked the short climb up to Tangboche, and after viewing the grand monastery we descenced to Punkitenga. Here we ate lunch, before walking (mostly) upwards until Namche Bazaar. The culmination of the journey was now in our hearts. The motions of finality were obvious. Less photographs, more savouring of the views and moments and even a tear in they eye, here and there. On reaching a crest of the footpath, my heart vowed to return, as it had done two years previously. One day, I’ll put the boot in, in a hard way. The next walk will be longer. I can feel it. There is a force calling me. The fat lump in my head is erupting in a storm of electronic signals and they all point to a new voyage of discovery in Nepal. Anyone want to join me?

Probably, to be continued….


A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor. With this idea in mind, a challenge needs to be on the horizon. Always have something to look forwards to. There are things people want, and things people need, to keep their heads up. On damaging an ankle ligament this last week, I am now looking at deferring my attempt at the Spartan Race. I am now able to move the opportunity in Hong Kong, during June, to a later date in Shenzhen, possibly October. It may or may not be wise. I need to think it over. The right ankle has been strapped up for three days now. It feels more painful and sharp than before. The swelling has dropped from balloon-like levels to just plain bumpy. Instead of running, Muay Thai or football this week, I am contemplating a few hours of uplifting Morecambe & Wise on television. I was feeling my heart run slow, so I needed something fortifyingly enriching. Why wallow in shit when you can lay down and eat fine grapes?

“All men are fools, and what makes them so is having beauty like what I have got.”
Glenda Jackson, Morecambe & Wise Show

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye / Hwyl Fawr / Dhanyabaad / Alavidā

Teaching with Chopsticks CONTINUED

RECOVERED FROM THE DEMISE OF HUBHAO.COM

Some things are essential to leaving the classroom, feeling not only like you did a good job but that you made a difference is key for me.  You have to be a realist and know that best laid plans will come unstuck every now and then.  To be prepared is to be ready, and ready for action you must be.

In full focus.  Some days are hot, some days are stickier than a bun factory’s spillage of extra-gummy jam, some days it don’t come easy… some days it doesn’t come at all.  Meat Loaf lyrics aside, you need focus.  Buckets of concentration melted together with motivation to perform.  You cannot walk into any class half-heartedly.  Finding the on switch is relatively easy.  A smile, a blast of some good music, a stroll around the school grounds, anything to clear you mind and feel fresh.  In the domain of teaching, insufficient time is afforded to that best buddy of the educator:  relaxation.  Daydreaming and doodling have been linked with high intelligence levels and creativity.  I like to think all my best ideas have stemmed from drawing fictitious maps and brainstorms resembling that of a biro-inscribed cyclone.  Move around the classroom, get many eyes following you!

Made from concentrate.  I hate being ignored.  I detest it when I lose one or two students to boredom, tiredness or the pressures of stacked homework lay before them.  I despise concentration being sapped by distractions.  That said, I can understand.  Empathy and sympathy are your allies.  Your movements and actions will deliver your crowd.  Think slapstick or stand-up comedy over standing up straight.

Realistic goals.  This goes for both students and teachers, because ultimately why aim to high and totally miss your targets?  The level of English in various schools or even within one grade can differ drastically.  You can’t leave behind any stragglers and similarly you cannot abandon the child geniuses.  The fine balance between testing and arduous should sit just above competence and challenging.  With experience you can find that titrated line.  If 80% of the class is at a level higher than the balance, you can over one semester encourage the inexperienced students onwards with more one-on-one assistance and praise.  Their confidence might just need your backing and reassurance.

Lesson planning.  I love to do something.  I hate to plan.  That said, a great plan gives fantastic guidance and helps you avoid stumbling into a ravine without a paddle for the creek below.  Finding a lesson plan is easy.  Then it must be tailored.  The end product needs to suit you, and you alone.  For my lesson plans I slice them into ten key components.  (1)  Do you have a clear and outlined method?  (2)  The lesson should be segmented into presentation, practice and production areas.  (3)  How big will activities be?  Teamwork versus pair work or smaller groups of four?  (4) Push for student talking time, over teacher talking time – where oral English is key.  (5)  Plainly outline the target phraseology and vocabulary.  Avoid clutter.  (6)  Handouts, activities and supporting materials need to be noted clearly.  (7)  Is an example of board work necessary?  (8)  Minimise non-essential skills such as reading or writing when pushing for oral English practice.  (9)  Ensure the students practice what you have taught them and define how you can check this.  (10)  Ensure the task pours, surges and flows as required by bringing the matter to life with a great review…

Reviews.  Perhaps, the only way you’ll ever develop as a teacher is by assessing the level of response from students in a review.  If the games or activities are dull, a poker-face laden class will stare emptily until the class bell.  If the final undertaking is too difficult, confusion and ignorance will call by for a bite to eat:  you’re on the menu!  Engaging review games can catch attention.  They will reveal how much has been learnt or bolstered.  Using characters from popular culture like those of Super Mario Brothers, the latest boybands, or famous sport stars will engage your crowd.  If it is obscure, you’ll lose the crowd.  That said, a personal touch reflecting you and your life can fascinate the gazing eyes.  Add life, add personality and add some spirit.  I have a class that have nicknamed me Tofu.  Since then an entire Powerpoint presentation was based around a dialogue revolving around the food, a fictional superhero called Fantastic Tofu and the new game Super Tofu Brothers.  If a particular class embraces something, you can play off it – it may be tedious to you, but dive in with full passion and join me in a method I like to call Teaching with Tofu!

And with those words of wisdom, I end on a quote by The Hold Steady, “We gotta stay positive”.

For further reading:

Lesson plan maker – Retrieved 2015/04/19.

Lesson plan guidance – Retrieved 2015/04/19.


RECOVERED FROM THE DEMISE OF HUBHAO.COM

Introductions are meant to be swift and to the point.  That’s my introduction over with.

Try to know your students and their knowledge.  In a more technical way I could call this heading, “Acquire relevant knowledge about students”.  Students will have their own cultural and generational backgrounds.  They will have been influenced by their parenting; their friendships; mass media and so on and so on… If you mention Japan in many classes, some closed responses shall follow, but increasingly you may find good arguments or great positivity to Japanese culture.  The beauty of using a controversial or current affairs topic is that it can help develop descriptive terminology.  Similarly, a student with a history of poor discipline can be enticed by different approaches.  What they have learned, whether correct or totally erroneous can shape how they learn new topics.  There isn’t a simple way to note how much every student or a group of students know, but having an idea is a fine way to start your preparations!  Your course design for pacing, examples and format – even the objective depends entirely on knowing your students and their ability.  With this you can flush away misconceptions and draw up clear guidance routes.

 

Teamwork.  Let’s be fair, teamwork is something we all love when it goes well.  When it doesn’t it is hard, but then you find how to develop the strengths within the ranks of a team.  Weaknesses become stronger through assistance and collaboration.  All major road cycling races have a winner, but the team that gets the winner there, does most of the work.  Be they mechanics, support staff or the cycling squad.  In a team, all are accountable.  Responsibility and pride force the hand of those trying to shirk away.  The teamwork is far more social and can heighten understanding.  Essentially students have a jigsaw and through their own methods, they can assist each other.  I’m a massive believer in questions and answers.  For every question a student asks you, try to reply clearly – before launching your own questions.  The beauty of the modern world is you’re never more than one metre from a gameshow.  Turn “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” into a classroom activity.

 

Varied learning techniques.  Variety is the spice of life.  Fact.  Monotony creates boredom.  Monotony creates boredom.  If students are forced to sit and listen, expect a disaster of biblical proportions.  What I mean is Old Testament, real wrath of God type stuff.  Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling!  Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!  The students must talk.  Through talking they can connect.  They can apply the words by relating it to their experience.  Their learning will become their life and through each oral English lesson they will gain further invaluable experience.  I often devise undertakings to promote the key language skills in naturalised forms, e.g. if we’re discussing transport, why not perform a role-play based on travelling to the Sudirman Cup final (or something topical).

 

Timekeeping skills.  Class begins at 11am.  You have 40 minutes.  Remember to segment the class structure.  Tailor all to the students’ needs.  From experience energy will be highest early on.  Throw in a warm up activity then go straight into an introduction.  Now stop and review.  Slide in some more content, stop, practice and deliver.   Time for a final review?  Class is over.  Be realistic with timeframes.  Nothing great comes from too much review time, and likewise, nothing fantastic can emerge from too much introductory timing.  Only yawns.  Use timers on Powerpoint presentations, stopwatches, clocks and set clear limits for tasks.

 

Excellent!  Well done!  I recommend that you do your homework before the students even receive any homework from you.  Grab yourself a thesaurus.  Try to introduce new vocabulary, be it single words like fantastic or tremendous – or simple sentences of praise and encouragement.  “Try harder next time” can flip to “An admirable effort, but I know you can do better.”  Whether the work or task was first-rate, outstanding, exceptional, superb or poor, words are powerful tools to motivate and provide curiosity.  The students mind may ignore the praise, they may investigate it further, or they may learn an expression and fire it off at peers in the future.  That seed can fast become a network of positivity branching out in the tree of life.  Feedback should be seen as a chance to reflect on what you have asked – and not a motivator for incorrect learning.  Wisely must the force you use be.  Liam, a teacher, I know uses fist bumps, high fives and many other praising moves learnt from the ghettos of Weymouth (U.K.).  Try to vary your praising methods.  Introduce more internationally noted cultural nods of approval.


RECOVERED FROM THE DEMISE OF HUBHAO.COM

Teachers are hugely important in a community.  Education and development of youth pushes the next generation onwards.  During these impressionable years children will be imparted with facts, figures and fart jokes.  These will stay with them forever.  With their new knowledge the student can go on and be responsible, productive and a valuable member of society.  And they’ll probably still tell fart jokes.

 

Diversify.  Theory and practice are two different things.  Flitting between each method is a good way to engage all.  In the novel Jurassic Park, penned by Michael Crichton, a character Dr. Grant talks about two kinds of people, “There are those that want to be astronomers, and those that want to be astronauts.”  The former studies from a point of absolute safety, the other is more like the explorer.  To make a class as hands-on as possible, sometimes lessons need to be outside the box.  For beyond the territories of old-fashioned teaching gives students ways to learn and develop their talents in ways more fitting to showing it off.  Varying assignments, exercises and even the location of teaching can certainly arouse the senses.

 

Build rapport.  So many times I have seen new teachers come and expect instant enthusiasm.  It is insulting to think you’ll be respected and learnt from within the first few classes.  There will always be curiosity but once that wanes, what remains?  Beyond the classroom, keep your office door open; tell students they are welcome to talk more outside of classes; join in with activities beyond your paid time; help the quieter students feel included; take on the tough kids and distractors, find out more about them; and always be approachable.  Wear a smile.  Be professional.  If it is for a moment raining in your heart, bring sunshine to those indoors.  Students will embrace you not just as a teacher, but someone to look up to and learn from as a community member.  Teaching isn’t about being a friend or popular, it is about commanding a respect to encourage your students to learn.

 

Aim higher than the stars.  Previously I penned the importance of realistic goals.  That’s for the students.  For you, as a teacher, should be looking at something far greater: the unreachable wall of perfection.  Don’t just copy and paste last year’s work.  Think how it can be improved.  Is there a different method of review you can use?  Could I modernise or make the images more relevant to the student audience?  How can I encourage more oral English opportunities?  Your expectations can always be heightened.  To quote Nelson Mandela, “after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.”  Do this, and you’ll feel more satisfied.  Depend on older material and you’ll soon become fatigued.

 

There is no Plan B?  Of course there is a plan B.  I personally opt for plans C, D, E and F.  We’re in a subtropical region, with high humidity and build ups of saline detritus on projectors or even power-cuts may ruin a well-prepared powerpoint.  What’s more is that the humidity has rendered a box of chalk into a useless pulp of mush.  The dry wipe white board is not to be used as a previous teacher used a permanent marker and the word comparative has remained on that board for two years.  Unlike the other classrooms the board isn’t magnetised and sticky backed plastic can’t be utilised due to an invasive mouse population in your stationery draw.  Your computer has gave up the ghost too.  Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.  Games and flashcards sat in folders, pre-printed materials, pairwork activities, turning the classroom into an arena… every possibility; nothing’s left to chance.  Think on your toes.

 

Clear boundaries.  If there are two pathways, one is shorter than the other and involves little effort.  You’ll feel happy but relaxed afterwards.  The other pathway is steep, challenging and you will learn as much about yourself as the matter.  You will feel like you have worked hard on this latter path.  Which pathway do you take?  You must articulate to your students, what is acceptable in the learning process.  Recently in Wuhan, drones were used to curb cheating for the National College Entrance Exam.  Of course you want collaboration in teamwork, but in testing an individual, you need their purest response.  You don’t want answers from Professor Google and Dr. Baidu.  I’ve seen hand-written answers copied from Wikipedia complete with coloured hyperlinks and lines beneath them.  Even the red spellchecker error lines appeared.  I tend to highlight my rules early on, and address any breaches as and when with a three strikes and you’re out warning.  Plagiarism and replication of other student’s complete work can turn into a detective job at times.

 

 

 

For further reading:

“Implementing the Seven Principles: Technology as Lever” by Chickering and Ehrmann – Retrieved 2015/06/15.

Clear Learning Objectives” – Retrieved 2015/06/15.


RECOVERED FROM THE DEMISE OF HUBHAO.COM

Making money.  I dislike money, I never seem to have enough or more appropriately, I’m totally irresponsible with my hard-earned dosh.  I earn my bread and then redistribute it on a combination of soft drink addictions and the need to add bits to my bicycle having shredded one part or the other.  I’m told you can save money easier by taking on extra jobs.  “Where can I find more work?”  I’m glad you have asked.  There’s the internet with forums like Dave’s ESL Café (www.eslcafe.com), there’s more regional classified adverts (like on Hubhao), social media like QQ, Facebook and WeChat groups.  Placing an advert in a bar or public place generally gets you spotted quickly.  Beyond the school gates in amongst the masses of parents is a good place to hand out your number and simple advertisement [Disclaimer:  check with your school first, and your teaching contract if this is okay].  Asking senior teachers if they know of anybody looking for private tuition will find you work.  In sunny Houjie, I have had a dozen requests each month and I usually delegate them to my immediate colleagues or friends.  Some of us like free time too much!

 

Forward thinking.  Ever had an idea during a class?  A bright spark followed by that lightbulb moment?  Yes, we all do.  Note it down for later.  During my summer vacation I plan to tailor images, bring props, bring some real things from home, kidnap my parents and force them to move to China… and so on.  There are gaps that can be brought to life in every topic.  I just need to get a life size replica of the Eiffel Tower into China… oh, wait, that’s already been done!!!  I plan this summer to collect magnetic board games including a giant Jenga; some English story books; more things to do with Manchester and the U.K. in general; prizes for games and competitions; seashells from the U.K. and many, many new holiday photos with friends and family.  I am a guest in China, and I want my students to be guests in my life and happenings.

 

Notes.  Notes, not of the musical variety, although that does help occasionally…  “Old MacDonald had a farm… A-E-I-O-U.”  I mean notes, as in minutes, records, transcripts or observations are important.  I average an A4 sized notepad every quarter of a year for a reason.  I rarely write anything beyond words, short sentences and abbreviated squiggles.  This is my idea factory.  Some ideas never bear fruit or even blossom.  Others get filling, direction and fill Powerpoints, games, review tasks, ideas to brighten the school walls up, become performances, songs, poems etc.  Notes, to me, are the foundation blocks of teaching.  Plus, every now and then, I look back at my notes from years gone by and find a piece of gold dust that gives rise to something big and wonderful (like posters about European nations and their culture etc).  Creativity can be born from one note.  La, la, la, laaaaaa.

 

Instructions and examples.  Before travelling somewhere unfamiliar for an interview or appointment, I look at the mode of transport, costs, timings, practicalities, possible weather and climate, etc.  The same applies to teaching instructions.  My sets of instructions have to be clear, broken down into steps, with the relevant introduction and content.  Without this, I am asking for anarchy and pandemonium to visit our classroom.  Alongside the clear instructions, support must be provided and clear examples given.  From knowing my classes I select the best students (and not always the same ones each time, to keep it fair overall) to assist me with demonstrating what we must do.  On the projection wall will sit a further example too.  I will enter the arena and probe around the classroom looking to see demonstrations being practiced before calling forward students to review their collective effort.

 

Don’t jump to conclusions.  Guess what?  As a teacher, you’re not a student.  You’re a teaching expert.  Reading between the lines, filling in gaps, and applying our own comprehension is instinctive.  Sometimes we must switch from autopilot mode into something more appropriate.  We can’t cycle from Chengdu to Paris, without the adequate preparation.  Students need to avoid confusion.  We must prevent them connecting two dots to form a line that is so wonky, one dot may fall off and land in a pile of previously failed dots.  Breaking up duties ensures that each instruction is followed step-by-step along the floor, then up some stairs and high above into the mountains before flight is encouraged.  Take nothing for granted, share how you think as an expert.  The parrot copies human voices for a reason and then applies the skill with precise action.  Your students can do anything with clear, concise instructions.

 


RECOVERED FROM THE DEMISE OF HUBHAO.COM

Don’t flood the market.  Rome wasn’t built in a day.  Nor was a complete understanding of the English language or uses of said philological skills.  There are professors and scholars always trying to further this language of ours.  Don’t worry about everything.  Narrow it down to just a little by little approach.  If you blanket a subject, you’ll swamp it into a boggy, murky, twisted mess and scare the students away!  Don’t do too much in a short space of time.  We must know what to include and what to eject.  Your favourite subjects of contents, e.g. football and cycling may not be apt for the syllabus.  The semester or year needs clear division into units.  Each unit must have a focus and target language.  The students’ experiences, background and class numbers need to be accounted into the material.  I have often split a* unit* into multiple classes to get a sounder understanding of more difficult subjects.  Simply prioritising and setting purposes helps.

 

Questions and answers.  I find that just a simple question with a simple answer isn’t enough to keep a conversation flowing.  Closed questions, the kind where, yes, no and maybe arise can kill a conversation.  More open questions can lead a conversation to more questions and details.  I try to encourage my students to work in pairs and have one student as the question master and the other as questioned.  This is a great technique for reviewing a subject and also makes the students think harder about the level of detail in their answer.  If the task is limited to one minute then the student can respond strongly to prevent further questions.  If the questioned student is too simplistic with their answers the question master can launch many questions.  This makes for a good spectator competition, but use it sparingly – as too many rounds will make you question using this challenge again.

 

Are you the challenger?  Don’t agree with everything.  You can be much more than someone who nods their head and says, “Yes” or “Okay.”  We can be a commentator like of Match of the Day; we can be a challenger like in a public debate; we can be more moderate like a news presenter; or we orchestrate an argument to develop deeper conversation.  Through these characters we can guide students, change behaviours, and promote thinking critically.  It goes without saying about avoiding religious and political debate but subjects such as wildlife conservation and attitudes to animal care make for interesting discussion.  Perhaps give students roles, like a hunter, a conservation worker, a wildlife guard, the family of the hunter, the medicine maker, the police and anyone else connected directly to illegal rhino horn poaching.  You’ll maybe see and hear defences, objectiveness and bias.  Flip the roles between students and see if they can understand one another’s arguments.  Challenge each student with simple questions.  Who?  When?  What?  Why?  How?  Which?  Where?

 

Handouts.  “Save the world”, “save trees”, “recycle”, are a few cried heard all over the world.  If you pass the photocopying room at my school, close to exam time, you’ll hear a different kind of whimper.  As the photocopiers go all lifeless and silent or they spew out worthless misprints the copy staff go postal.  Handouts in classes are essential for homework.  For a class task, it is worth asking two to six students to share one sheet of A4 or A3 paper.  A shared task and prompt sheet is more likely to drive the behaviours needed for good team etiquette.  And you’ve just saved the Amazon rainforest!

 

Evaluate and evolve.  Teachers have basic principles but over the years our methods have become more and more chameleonic.  The successful teacher adapts to new technologies and new methods.  They seek new ideas and embrace them.  They also refine the tried and tested methods to a finite degree of near perfection.  There’s no resting on their laurels (or Sweet Bay leaves).  If something that did work, no longer works, changes must be made.  A variety of incidents may change your teaching methods.  A class size change from 16 to 60 certainly will make you uneasy.  The old rules may be redundant.  There may be a drive for more advanced media orientated or business connected vocabularies.  You must know what to do, usually by understanding your previous workings, exams, evaluations and student knowledge.  You may need to prepare extra base work or go off subject to bring about further knowledge teaching.  You may need a library, online resource, ask somebody for help or forum to seek new ideas or guidance.  From here we can construct content with objectives, structure, adjust and format a new range of materials.  Not everything comes from experience.  Keeping it as simple as possible will make it much more management.

 

For further reading:

*Is it an unit or a unit?  See this debate.