Now that I’ve been in China for six weeks, and I’ve marvelled several times over how quickly the time is going, I figured I should probably explain what I’m actually doing with this swiftly disappearing time.
During the week, I wake up at the ungodly time of 6.30 which for folks back in Grand Britannia, is 10.30 (now 11.30 – China does not do clocks changing so now I’m only seven hours ahead), a.k.a. in the past, but I snooze for twenty minutes, because sleep is precious. We get to school for around 7.30 to have breakfast before greeting the kids with their morning talking time. They get greeted at the by one of us saying “good morning”, then after their daily health check (temperature, check in their mouth and a squirt of hand sanitizer) we’re there to greet them with a question they have to answer in English, normally related to what they’re currently learning in their lessons.
They’ve normally all arrived by 8.30 thankfully as by then our bums are numb from sitting on child sized chairs (this job is great for me to feel like a giant – even more so that I’m the tallest of the British women here!) and we have a chance to go to our staffroom and prepare for the day for twenty minutes. Since we normally start our lessons at 9.00, we head to the classrooms about ten minutes before that so we can set everything up that we need to.
I have two classes, KA who are 5-6 and very smart, and KC who are normally 3-4 but there’s one or two in their who haven’t reached their third birthday yet, and they are also very smart but more importantly very affectionate. I am not starved for hugs or inappropriate touching (I have a running commentary in my diary for “inappropriate George activity of the day” which includes boob grabs, bum slaps, lifting up my skirt or looking down my top), especially from George himself, who Hannah (the Head of English and class teacher for my KC) says doesn’t receive all that much affection at home. It was his birthday this week, and he was so excited to tell me, in English that it took him several attempts but it was one of the sweetest things I’ve ever heard, him lisping to me in excited tones that it was his birthday, I had to give him an extra long hug.
Anyway, each week it switches between which class I have in the morning and which I have in the afternoon. KA have half an hour of English class, while KC get 20 minutes. We teach them from a syllabus, Dr Bird, which has them learn classroom English as well as approximately 8 words on different topics every four weeks. But then kids are really smart and so those eight words are normally pretty much sorted within two or at the most three weeks, so a lot of our class preparation is finding new words that relate to the topics, but aren’t too complicated and making flashcards of them, as flashcards are magic and make teaching so much easier.
The teaching itself is not at all how I imagined. My lessons are normally; introduction, a song, (re)introduce the vocabulary, play games using the vocabulary, another song.
The rest of the day we spend the time with the kids in the classroom, talking and singing to them in English. Also dancing the Macarena for a significant proportion of time, or pretending to be a monster. I have become much less self-conscious in general about goofing around, as kids love it when adults (me) are silly and it makes them laugh and smile, and to be honest, that is all I want for them. To be happy and enjoy themselves, and if they learn some English at the same time, well that’s all the better.
Lunchtime is awesome; the kids have a nap until 2.30pm which means, that since we finish at 11.30, we have a three-hour lunch, during which we normally go back to the flat. If we are tired from being foolish twenty-somethings and not going to bed early enough and having to get up at an obscene hour, we can also have a nap. I try not to indulge as it makes me more likely to go to bed too late and not get enough sleep at night, thus perpetuating the nap-cycle but sometimes a little ziz is nice. Until I wake up and feel like death warmed up.
School finishes anywhere between 4.30 and 5pm although the kids can start being picked up from 4pm. We lead them to the gate and say “bye-bye” as they scream and excitedly leap into their grand/parents arms, completely forgetting about their long-suffering teachers.
We have a bit more lesson prep time which is normally spent looking at the clock and counting down until dinner is served. If dinner is something truly delectable, such as chicken’s feet or pig trotters, we skip the dinner and head elsewhere, but otherwise we eat there before heading home for the night.
Two or three times a week, I head to the gym for something to do, and also to get fit and maybe lose a bit of weight (the food here is rice, i.e. carb, heavy and no good for those trying not to put on weight) and I’m actually enjoying it. This is something that I never thought I’d say, as the gym is not a place for enjoyment, but other than sweating enough to fill several buckets, not that anyone would want to, working out makes me feel good, plus it’s a chance to catch up on my podcasts.
On Saturday evenings, I have Dungeons and Dragons, with a load of other expats, which is a lot of fun, even if I spend a majority of my time there confused with little clue as to what’s going on. As I said to the group, “I’m not very experienced, but I am enthusiastic.”
Otherwise, my weekends are spent alternatively doing absolutely nothing, and exploring the local area (see my last blog post for previous adventures). For example, this weekend was a long one, due to a Chinese holiday of some sort, so I have climbed the tallest mountain in Shenzhen, Wutong Mountain, which is 943.7m, and you basically climb it from the literal bottom, and visited Ping, the 4th tallest building in China, as well as Shenzhen museum. That took two days and the third, I didn’t even change out of my pyjamas. Because I was tired and didn’t want to. And after all that walking, I needed time to rest.