It wasn’t until last night that I realized I forgot to make a post about last week, so I’m going to tell you about it now, even though it’s already almost the end of the third week.
Last week was very… interesting. My teaching partner Chauncy was sick and in the hospital from early Monday morning to late Thursday morning, so I spent four days teaching almost entirely on my own. Everyone is proud and impressed that I was able to handle it, but from my point of view, things went downhill really fast. I came in Monday morning ready to tackle the day, confident that I could handle everything and hoping that Chauncy would be back the next day or Wednesday at the latest. I was given the option to cancel my classes, and also to have a Chinese teacher sit in with me to help with translation and discipline, but I insisted that I had things under control… I quickly discovered, however, that I did not. Chauncy is much better at discipline than I am, and even when I could make myself understood, it was difficult to coordinate, teach, and entertain 21 ten-year-olds with vastly different personalities by myself all at the same time. I really don’t know how the Learning Enterprises volunteers in the other countries do it, since LE China is the only branch where we have teaching partners; the volunteers in other countries are ALWAYS teaching by themselves, not just for four days like me.
Anyway, I altered Monday morning’s lesson plans a bit to teach the kids how to say “Get well soon” and have them make cards for Chauncy. The results were quite hilarious. I struggled to explain how exactly to make and decorate the card, so several of them were backwards and/or blank inside. Chauncy’s name was misspelled several times, even though I wrote it on the board. And a significant number of kids wrote something to the effect of “Please come back because we need you to translate for Evangelista.” But when I brought them to Chauncy that afternoon, he liked them and they made him laugh.
By the time Wednesday morning rolled around, I was exhausted and already out of ideas, so we watched the movie Frozen. Even this caused me a lot of pain: First, my computer doesn’t have a jack that fit correctly with the wire to connect to the projector. The principal tried to let me borrow his computer, but it didn’t have software that would play the video. I asked to borrow Kelly’s computer, but the battery was dead. Finally, after 30 or 40 minutes of freaking out because I didn’t have a backup plan, I was able to borrow Ling’s computer and get the movie started.
Chauncy finally came back at the end of class on Thursday. Half the kids practically tackled him when they saw him. I’m so glad that he’s better, for his own sake of course, but also for my own, haha. I don’t know how much longer I could have held out and taught class without him.
Last weekend, the American volunteers all went to Suzhou. We left Friday right after class and came back all at different times on Sunday. It takes about an hour and a half to go between Nantong and Suzhou by bus. Since I had already been to Suzhou three times, I mostly went shopping and went to see a friend while everybody else went to the gardens and such, and I came back to Nantong immediately after checking out of the hostel on Sunday.
This week, we’ve been working on geography words in class. We taught the kids the directions, the names of some of the US states, some countries, the continents, the oceans, and some words like “mountain”, “river”, etc. I’m not surprised that they struggle with some of the longer words like Antarctica and Australia, but it’s interesting to me that they also have trouble with words that I thought would be easy, such as Brazil and Asia. They also had a hard time saying Pacific and kept trying to say “Pa-sophie”, which is extra funny because one of the girls in our class is named Sophie.
Tomorrow, we’re planning on giving them a test over vocabulary that we’ve learned. I didn’t want to give any tests, but my class has a lot of students who are very smart and capable, but they’re easily distracted or they simply don’t want to study, so we figured that giving them a test and some prizes for good grades might motivate them to learn more of the words we’ve tried to teach them. Overall, though, despite the occasional discipline problems, I’m really proud of my students. Several of them take impeccable notes and do review their vocabulary at home. One girl writes down literally every English word I put on the board, to the point that if Chauncy and I borrow her notes to quiz the kids, they complain that we’re quizzing them on words we didn’t teach. Other kids learn really fast, and some have shown improvement in their learning since we reassigned seats.