Tuesday, November 18, 2008

it's really real

i suddenly, and randomly, feel like a real teacher. i was walking in from recess with my kids yesterday and it occurred to me that i am their teacher. i am what i set out to be so many years ago. i'm really doing this. not that i haven't been doing it for the past 3 months or anything, but something about this week made it really hit me and i actually feel ok about it. the surreal feeling is leaving and, while i know that i have a lot of learning to do, i feel like i just might be able to handle this.

it's strange to put myself in the same category as all of my previous teachers. we are colleagues now. i'm not sure how long it will take for that to really sink in.

it's also strange to really, finally process that my goal has been reached. i've wanted to be a teacher since elementary school. i spent 5 years of college working toward becoming one. now that it's here i feel compelled to assess what i am doing with that achievement.

i've got a ways to go to before i become my "perfect" teacher, but i really feel like i'm getting things under control. i still plan at the last minute and constantly change my mind about what to do next, but i think that i might always do that to some extent. i like to think of it as being flexible and sensitive to the changing needs of my class. the main problem right now is that i don't have quite enough tricks up my sleeve to be completely successful all the time.

that said, sometimes i completely win. today, for instance, i ended up doing my afternoon lessons (which i planned during quiet time) in a completely different order than i had anticipated, because they seemed to flow from our book and discussion after quiet time. and it worked out beautifully.

on the other hand, sometimes i lose. this morning, i changed my mind about 10 times before finally settling on center activities about 1 minute before the kids came in to start them. needless to say i wasn't quite prepared, which meant things got a little dodgy with the kids while i finished getting ready. then, of course, one activity didn't take nearly as long as it should have and another one was a little over their heads and it was just chaos. fairly educational chaos, but chaos. planning ahead would really make this time go much more smoothly.

all in all, though, i think we are doing ok. there are definitely things i could do better, but there are a lot of things i could do worse. and i feel like we are getting some really good learning done. the other day one of my parents wrote in the communication book that her daughter is learning a lot lately, which was great validation. moments like that can really keep you going. it's nice to know that someone noticed.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

just what i needed

so i went shopping today. i was supposed to go running all over town buying christmas presents and feeling like i accomplished something with my life. but i wasn't in the mood. so i didn't. instead i went to one of four giant malls located at one intersection in my neighborhood in search of winter clothes. while i enjoyed exploring it, it wasn't a particularly successful trip and by the time i left empty-handed i was ready to head home. i knew, however, that come every morning this week i would be frustrated and annoyed at the lack of warm clothing in my closet. and so, with the best of intentions, i headed down the other side of my street, in the direction of a more chinese shopping experience. and while i never made it to the clothing stores, i did get exactly what i set out for.

first i popped into a hole-in-the-wall clothing store right in the middle of the craziness that is my street. it turned out to be mostly children's clothing and not even close to what i needed, so i continued on my way. which led me to a random fruit stand that i had never noticed before. for no real reason other than because it was new, i decided to stop and buy some fruit for the week. and found exactly what i didn't know i needed.

it was the sort of place that was so small, you had to wait your turn to walk through and a chinese woman was already purchasing fruit, so i patiently waited outside, minding my own business. until she turned to her husband and started speaking in english. i have to admit i was a little surprised (but not too surprised because, let's face it, i live in china, where stranger things happen every day). the next thing i knew, however, i waschatting with the man while his wife bought fruit and then chatting with the wife while he and the fruit lady attempted to figure out what dialects of chinese they had in common.

turns out he was born in shanghai, went to high school in hong kong, college in canada and grad school in the us, where he lived for 50 years before returning to shanghai 5 years ago. now they live here 4 months out of the year. so i asked him about the dried something for sale, which turned out to be persimmon, and told him that i am a teacher here. then Betty, his wife, wanted to know where i lived and if i'd ever tried this fruit called dragon's eye. i hadn't, which was apparently a travesty, so she pulled one off the vine and the next thing i know she was literally putting it in my mouth. lucky for me it was actually very good - like lychee, but less furry on the outside.

at this point, they have pretty much gotten what they need and the wife mentions that they should probably get going. the man, bless his heart, turns and asks me if there are any questions i want to ask while he is there. i start to tell him i'll be ok but then my curiosity gets the best of me, so i point and ask about the other 2 fruits that i don't recognize. one was from taiwan and called black pearl in chinese because it is a very expensive, high-end fruit. it tastes sweet, like melon, apparently, even though it appears more akin to a pepper than a melon. the other was from thailand and we never did get an english name for it. we did however, get to try it. while we were talking about it, the fruit lady just picked one up and split it open for us to try. i love that they do that here. it was really good, sweet and tart, very citrusy.

and then it was time for us to part. we said our goodbyes, i thanked them for their kindness, bought my fruit, and as i walked home with my loaded bag i couldn't help but grin from ear to ear and be glad that i live in china. i may not have gotten waht i was looking for today, but i did get exactly what i needed.

Friday, November 14, 2008

a good day.

today was one of those days that makes you love being a teacher. we had a great discussion about fall during calendar time, good snack time and rolled right into center time. they are used to doing different activities and rotating, but i just started doing more official, organized centers. yesterday was a bit hairy but today was awesome! the kids stayed engaged the entire time and they did a great job on their activities. they even managed to paint by themselves without getting it all over themselves or the room. needless to say, i was very proud.

next up, recess. i have one student that is new to our class, who doesn't speak really any english or chinese, which makes the social scene a bit difficult in our school. today he brought a pokemon where's waldo book which managed to attract the interest of some of the other boys. it made me happy to see him hopefully making friends. you never know with kids but it's nice to see the new kid not playing by himself all the time.

our afternoon was less great but still good. good quiet time, great sharing and discussion about respect and lines. then, we made caramel popcorn. which was kind of a mess. it turned out well, but not until we had lost most of our interest and made a giant mess. in the end, though, the kids had fun, we had some incredible caramel corn and i got to send them home on a sugar high. yay friday!!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

making days

i meant to write this about two weeks ago, but i guess late is better than never.

i went wandering my neighborhood the other day in search of winter clothes and, while i didn't find a coat, i did find a wonderful local whose attempts to be friendly completely made my day (and probably hers).

i walked into this tiny little chinese clothing store, said hello in chinese and immediately began fingering the rack of coats. the woman who owned the shop came a little closer and started saying things to me in chinese that i couldn't understand. of course, i couldn't remember how to say "i don't understand" so i gave her my best "i'm sorry but i don't know what you are saying to me" look and turned back to the coats. she kept talking. finally i caught ting bu dong, which means "don't understand" and i was able to at least express to her that i wasn't being rude, i just really couldn't understand chinese. as soon as i had repeated ting bu dong, her eyes got wide and her jaw dropped a little and she sqealed just ever so slightly with delight. the foreigner can say some chines words!

we continued like that for a good 5 minutes as i looked at the clothes in her shop. she would say things to me and i would maybe catch just enough to contribute one or two chinese words until i had pretty much exhausted all of the chinese i know. literally. i think the only thing left were directions, which are really only helpful in the taxi. and every time i said something in chinese, her eyes would get wide and she would squeal all over again. i think it may have been the best thing to happen to her all day. which made it the best thing to happen to me all day. i love encounters like this - happy, friendly people and a little cultural understanding. so priceless.