FINDING A RHYTHM: Day 30, Saturday September 28 2013

Was halfway to school and through a mug of tea before I started to feel alive. Worked on translating my kids book for a bit before my demo. Had a make up class with a boy named Jordon, who’s usually good when in the group, but was a wild child on his own. Held this cake decorating game that he really wanted to play over his head the whole hour. Taught Mr. Bean class at the end of the day.

One thing I’ve noticed about Chinese children is that at first look they seem super well behaved. Even at three years old they sit in their seats for two hours straight and repeat vocabulary and sentences. And then you ask them to get out of their seats, even just to line up, and all hell breaks loose! They have no self regulating strategies. Try and play a game with them and you literally have children piles (I remember the first time I tried to play “what time is it mr wolf” with my Mr Bean class. It was like something from the “World War Z” zombie film as the children tried to climb on each other!) The only way to get them to calm down and listen is to yell at them and get them to go back to their seats. And these are six an seven year olds. Still young but old enough to be able to stand up and listen or sit down and listen.

Mr Bean class is always crazy and my CT, who is supposed to be in charge of discipline does nothing about it until it gets to the most extreme situation. I’m left trying to control the class while also attempting to be the animated energetic “friend” to the kids that the school wants me to be. It’s impossible to do both at the same time. During the bathroom break today Shirley stood and chatted while the children ran uncontrolled around her “Shirley.” I said, she kept talking, “SHIRLY. The kids are trying to run back to the classroom. Make a line please.” She finally listened.

During the second half of the class the role I was meant to play at Happy English finally hit me. I was not so much supposed to be a teacher as I was supposed to be a buddy to the children. My job was to forget discipline and just goof off with them, as my role had been when I’d worked as a leader at a teenager tour agency back in Canada. Suddenly this huge weight of responsibility fell off my shoulders as I stopped trying to control the class. I started to just goof off and I finally started having fun, and eventually, when things got too crazy, Shirley stepped in and started taking class discipline back into her hands.

I had my first tutoring class after work. My flash drive wasn’t working as one of the children had slid into it while playing duck duck goose and it had gotten bent. I had a whole test prepared for the children to help determine what level they would be starting at, but it was pretty obvious from the start that the children I was working with were at a beginner level. I defaulted to my body parts lesson, started with “head shoulders knees and toes” as a warm up song. The three kids were around 8 years old and were named Sam, Helen, and Sophia. Helen was the only one who would do the actions with me, though it was clear that the other children knew the song.

After Hellen and I had finished the song for the first time I turned to the boy, who appeared to be trying to blend into the couch, “Sam…” I said grinning. I grabbed one arm, Hellen grabbed the other, and we moved his arms, which he let flap around loosely, through the motions while he laughed hysterically. When we were done all three of us turned to Sophia… By the end of the class everyone was signing and doing all the moves giggling away. The lesson flowed naturally from there. We drew a stick figure on the chalk board and labeled all it’s body parts, and then played some games so I could quiz them on the names. The parents seemed happy with how the lesson went and gave me two moon cakes as a gift. Lisa walked back with me to the bus stop.

Nate was also tutoring tonight, and I arrived home first. I flopped down on the couch in front of my computer until Nate came in toting some beer and a bottle of wine, “You cool with going to Katrina’s?” He asked. A short while later we were at Katrina’s with a big bottle of wine and no way of opening it. Katrina had lost her cork screw. Nate of course took this as a challenge. Damian tried to help as well, but used frat boy logic (no thought process just action). As Nate worked to fashion a contraption using screw and chopsticks, Damian tried to gouge the cork out with a knife, only succeeding in pushing it farther into the bottle. From there the plan became to simply push the cork in.

As the boys attempted to get the cork in using brute strength Katrina worried that the pressure form the bottle would cause the glass to shatter. I suggested poking a hole through the cork first to try and let the pressure out. While Nate worked on that Katrina put a call through to her father on Skype to ask advice. The cork was floating in the wine below before the call went through.

When Katrina’s dad called back to see what was going on we decided to pose the question philosophically to see what he would have done. “Well,” he said emphatically, “if you could just move the cork a little bit to break the seal then you could put it in a pot of water on the stove and slowly heat it up so that the pressure built up from inside the bottle would eventually make the cork pop up!” and then almost as an after thought he added “but that is a terrible thing to do to wine. It would be much better to just punch a hole through the cork and push it into the bottle.” another suggestion he made was to cut the neck of the bottle with a diamond in a wedding ring, then use a coffee filter to filter out any shards of class, or if you don’t have a coffee filter you could use a tight knitted sock or pair of underwear. He advised we find the person with the cleanest feet.

Damian went to bed when he realized that the conversation was not going to cycle around to girls and frat parties. We put on a movie, which Katrina only watched for perhaps 20 minutes before disappearing into her room. She reappeared wearing her third outfit of the evening and announced that she was going to Hulu, a bar near the square. I looked at the time, it was nearly 2:00am “I don’t think it’ll be open.” I warned her, “I’ll make it.” she replied. We headed home while she got in a cab.

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