Diving In

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August 27th 2009
Published: August 27th 2009EDIT THIS ENTRY

These last few days have been action-packed. They have me jumping right in at the school. This week I have been shadowing teachers in classes, taking notes on how to manage a room full of 4-year-olds and helping out when necessary/possible. These little Chinese kids are as cute as I remember them. Classes are 90 minutes long, with a 10 minute break. The kids seem to be amazingly proficient with their English, but they might be just very good at memorization and repetition. We play lots of games and make lots of crafts, and that keeps them occupied and entertained long enough to sit still for almost two hours (which is hard enough for me, and I'm 22). But this school has a good mix of having fun and teaching English at the same time. I think these kids are genuinely learning.

I also participated in "English Phone" yesterday, where we call the kids at home once a week to remind them of their vocabulary and please the parents with their child's English speaking. Some of the kids are getting outright coached; I hear parents on the end of the line giving instructions. I feel bad for some of these kids; Chinese parents have impossibly high expectations. (As an example, the kindergarten across the street from our school translates to something like "The Hope of Our Future.") English phone is repetitive, seemingly pointless, but very amusing. These kids have enough trouble speaking English in face-to-face interactions, and like our Chinese teachers (who all majored in English), their pronunciation is terrible. One of the vocab words for the 4-7 year-olds was "fox". I would say, "Repeat after me: fox." Then these tiny little soprano voices, who have trouble with multiple consonant sounds at the end of words, would invariably respond with an inappropriate modification. I had to keep from laughing into the phone.

Another anecdote: we were learning how to describe people, and hair colors came up. The blonde teacher asks, "What color is my hair?" Someone says, "Yellow!" The teacher, who was looking for 'blonde' asks, "Yes, but what do we call people with yellow hair?" And the kid shouts, "American!"

This job might be exhausting, but at least it'll also be entertaining.


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