Teaching Little Ones

My first two days of classes were great, but also overwhelming. I have 6 classes of 25ish kindergartners per day. Fortunately I only work 3 days a week, oddly enough it’s Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, which were the days I worked at LCC.

My classes are exhausting. I keep the kids entertained and alert by doing physical games and activities with them. I have the same level all 6 times, so my first class are guinea pigs, and by my last class I’m sick of looking at my flashcards.

Our director came to observe me yesterday, I was hanging colored-paper flowers on the wall while the kids called out what color it was, and when I turned around, there was Director Liong in the back row. Fortunately, he happened to stop by when I had a pretty good class and we were going an activity that got everyone excited. And he left before class ended so he didn’t see the mass stampede out the door at the end of class, either.

It was a good lesson by American standards, but e I’m still a little worried because the Chinese expectations of teachers and ideas of education are so different from ours. So far, the director doesn’t have the typical attitude that we can teach English by osmosis. (A lot of Chinese English schools believe English is a communicable disease spread by native speakers. We don’t need books, school supplies, or advance notice of lessons, we just need to be in the same room. If only that worked, I would be speaking fluent Mandarin right now.)

The Chinese education system seems to be based on memorization, on being punished if your stroke order is wrong, and on trying to be top of the class. The American schools have freewriting about your feelings, spelling and grammar don’t count. So we have Chinese graduates who have memorized advanced texts but who are unable to think creatively, while American graduates are problem-solvers who can’t find the US on a world map. It seems like the two systems are completely at odds, but I really think that blending the strengths of each is the only way for the world to progress in science and technology.

At the end of the day, a huge crowd of parents and grandparents gathers at the gates of the school. The kids come out, meet their moms, and show what they did in school. I know it’s a private school in a good neighborhood, and not necessarily a typical Chinese elementary school. It’s really good to see that the parents are interested in their kids’ education. I hope it means that if the children act up in class, their parents will care.

Anyway, teaching the little ones is extremely tiring, but I feel like I’m working for a reputable school (in a lovely neighborhood — more on that later!).

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