Tag Archives: kids

Summer is Coming to an End

Well, the summer grind is almost over. This is the last week of the 2nd of back to back intensive short semesters. Three week mini-courses stacked on top of my regular schedule. One thing that I have come to learn is that things would be a whole lot easier if every class wasn’t different. By that I mean, or I assume, that academic teachers typically have at least a few courses that they teach more than once during the week. Something along the lines of writing a lesson plan that can be used for all three of your freshman history classes. This is not the case here because every student only comes once a week, with every class at a different level in order to offer a wider range of English levels to customers/parents. While great for the business model, it means I have 11 different lesson plans to write up every week. Oh well.

The heavy work load and many hours of actual teaching has been hard, but my self-assurance and proficiency in the classroom is through the roof. I simply have no nerves when I am in front of class or in front of a group of parents, and it has translated to a tremendous boost in confidence, which is further encouraged by actually successfully living and working in a city and country as foreign as Wuxi, China. Outside of my phone, which I never use, or WeChat, which I frequently use, I spend much of my time communicating in very poor Chinese, usually with the Koreans who own the local Mom & Pop stores, and I get along just fine.

Knowing my time here is limited to about a year makes this a great learning experience. I can take it all in comfortably aware of the impermanence of this sojourn, which makes the moments of difficulty or frustration bearable and beneficial. Experience is essential to finding out what is important in life. Experience forces a reorganization of what you need and don’t need as it pulls new things in and out of your intellectual and emotional ambit. Auxiliary wants and needs fade away unremembered, while the indispensable and precious intensify in their importance, adding a new, permanent vitality as I wend my way through life and living. To say that family and home is the most important thing in life is trite and sentimental, but it is also simple and true.

Here are some images I’ve tried to gather since I last posted. It has seemingly been raining everyday in this sodden state so I have only a few:

These are some of my kindergarteners. Amy is the girl, CJ is with his head down and Justin is using his pencil tube as a telescope. Justin is very hyperactive but I like him very much. All three of these are good kids with great personalities, Amy being smart and mischevious and CJ is just along for the ride. That is my TA Lori, she is by far the most amiable of the lot, in part because she is the least experienced. Regardless, I enjoy working with her, and in fact I like all the TA’s, for the most part. You can’t like everybody you work with, that’s just an axiom of life.

This is just a quick video of the corner at the end of my block. My bank, some shopping and dining are all in this area.

The image below is a shot outside one of the other Shane Schools that I went to in order to sub for another teacher. The weather map said no clouds, which gives you an idea of pollution levels that day. A teacher was on vacation so I took one of his classes. That Scotsman walking by is Ian, a fellow teacher that arrived in China the same time as me.

This was my welcoming party for my substitution gig. I am pretty sure it was for me.

This is a nice image of one of the canals in a shopping area for Chinese tourists.

And finally a view along my street on a clear and quiet night.

That’s all for now, I should be posting more often now that my very busy summer is coming to an end.


First Session Presentations and a Fan

Tomorrow I have a presentation for my two intensive courses that I’ve been teaching for the past 3 weeks. The morning course is for preschoolers and it focuses on simple English words in categories such as animals, family members, shapes, directions and a few actions such as walk, run, etc. They already know the basics, but by and large this is the level where they can’t create sentences on their own and they lose attention real fast. The younger classes initially were my favorite. However, aside from three of the students that I really enjoy, probably because they are rather smart and attentive, I have grown tired of this course and I think they’re feeling that way too. They lose interest quickly at times with all the hours in class this summer and tend to bonk out.




Seeing the same students for both this and their normal schedule, I am looking forward to a five day break after this Monday’s regular classes.

They are precious at times.


The girl on the right in yellow is Sophie, very smart and I depend on her to keep the class moving. Lorena is the little one in blue that sits down on my left. She is younger and smaller than the rest, has the cutest grin, is unbearably sweet and is unquestionably highly intelligent. Lorena also tells my TA, Season, if the other students act up when Season leaves the room to get materials. I love it because she tattles so I don’t have to. The students know, specifically the girls, that they can get away with a lot from the male foreign teachers because most of us don’t know how to deal with little girls. Yo-Yo is the one closest to me in peach you see mugging for the camera in the beginning, followed by Ella getting her face time and giggling. Both are royal pains. Spoiled and whiny, mediocre regarding most class work. Archer is the boy, he’s OK, he would probably do better with another boy in the class. I often have to get on him because he distracts himself and others. I had a hard time with his discipline at first until I decided to be really strict with him. I’ll make him sit away from the class for five minutes or whatever. When he returns he is great and learns well. Amy is the girl in green and she cries a lot, especially in the beginning of class, so I don’t know what that’s about, something perhaps at home. That’s the thing with these kids, you never know what goes on when they leave. She is smart and we have bonded a little, I spend extra time with her as well as Lorena during crafts or breaks. Emily, who is bright and knows all the material is in between Lorena and Amy. Those three on the left sitting in a row are all fun and smart along with Sophie in yellow on the right. The rest, well, sometimes you earn your money.

Along with my preschoolers in the morning I have another intensive course with an older age group in the afternoon, ages about 11-12 years old. This is my largest class at almost twenty kids and it is also far and away my most enjoyable teaching experience so far. It is very fast paced and most of the students are sharp and motivated. Now, whether or not they are intrinsically motivated I don’t know, but it is apparent they are there to learn. Like the morning class, it is 3 sessions of 40 minutes with a 10 minute break in between sessions. Mostly it consists of a condensed pronunciation and vocabulary lesson with the students getting about 30 words a day, and I really enjoy setting up team games and they have fun as well. We cover phonics, which is basically pronunciation, focusing on material that is a inconsistent at best in English. Try explaining to a kid whose written language consist of symbols for words why the word fun starts with the letter f and photo starts with the letters ph. At least they are old enough that I can be honest with them and tell them they’ll just have to suck it up and start memorizing. Suprisingly, rote memorization is such a part of their regular school they do best with the just memorize it philosophy. This method works fine until they move up a level. I have a small class of 14 year olds who can recite rules and vocabulary all day. Ask them to write four sentences in English, in their own words, about something they think is beautiful or why they enjoy something and they simply grind to a halt. Individual creativity just seems difficult for many students and from what I can tell, by asking them and some of my Chinese friends, this is typical throughout the Chinese education system.

I have been too busy to take many pictures. My highlight of the week was trekking to buy a floor fan to help deal with the unbearable heat and “fog” (we call it smog or pollution). It’s working well, hopefully with a cooler apartment I won’t have to defrost my minifridge every two weeks because it gets so damned hot. My little air conditioner is stuck in the corner of the bedroom of my little studio and struggles at best. It keeps the bed cool, which is great, but the rest of the apartment is sweltering. I know, it’s laundry day.

With the combination of poor insulation and bad layout for air flow, the living area and kitchen reach about 30 degrees Celsius with the AC on. That’s about 85F for you Americans. The floor fan works pretty well and hopefully it will cut back on my electricity bills, which were only about 120 Kwai, or $20 to start with anyways.

I expect the bill would have really jumped substantially now that summer is here. I’m told this heat will last through September at least.


That’s it for now, I”ll have a few days off starting Tuesday so I’ll explore and have a bunch of good pictures to upload.


My First Classes

My thoughts on my first day teaching is that I'm glad it's complete and I think I probably over-prepared for the first couple classes. These students are pretty good, around 10 years old and they can take direction better than I expected. We all introduced ourselves and I went over some review material, then I introduced the new language and they seemed to understand right away. They basically just like it when games are incorporated into the learning, it allows them to get away from the rote learning they receive in the state schools everyday. The key seems to me to be able to have a repertoire of activities that I have them play once I have taught them the target language for the day. They love anything that gets them out of the seats running around.

My third class was a group of about twelve year olds that had a test to take, so I gave a quick review of the material then they all started the test. At this point I went to a side room where I had a ten point dialogue with them and they did pretty well. I could definitely see where some students exuded pressure to do well, however, most were well prepared and made it seem pretty easy and I was impressed overall. After I grade the written portion of the test I'll go over it individually with the parents, not a big deal.

The little ones were last, and this class proved the most difficult. If they get bored for a second they tend to get disengaged and you really have to bring them back, The attention span is not there, however if you throw on the right video or singalong or whatever, they perk right up. They really don't know why they are there, they just want to know if we can play.

All and all I am happy that the first day is complete and I have a better grip on what needs to be improved on and what was unnecessary.

In the last class, the little ones, a few wanted a picture with the new teacher so I snapped one for myself. Every girl was adorable and every boy at this age is a pain.