Only a few months ago Michelle and I were one of the faces looking up expecting to learn something from our professors. Now, halfway around the world, the roles have been reversed.
My first day of school came on only the third day after we've become expats. Michelle was given a bit more time and began on the following Monday while my first day was Thursday. My school expected me not only to give my normal lessons, but they wanted me to give a lecture about Christmas to all of the grade 5 classes. There are about 400 kids in grade 5...If it was up to me that is NOT how I wanted to start but overall I think things went well.
I'm able to walk to my school on Thursdays and Fridays (I take the bus Mon-Wed). I left for school early because I knew it might take some time to travel the short distance due to the questionable set up of the paths in the courtyard of our apartment. I've cut through there a good amount of times by now and I still have not found the quickest way through. Anyway, I got to school and everyone was really nice. Most of the teachers in my office speak English and the girl that sits next to me is from Rhode Island. For those that don't speak much English I can throw them a "Ni hao" and they pretty much get that that's me saying "Hey, good morning. How are you doing? Well, see ya at lunch"...or something like that.
It turns out that I'm at least semi-decent at keeping kids interested and teaching conversational English. My first class made me feel more like a comedian than a teacher which is totally alright with me! I put up some pictures of American foods in my introduction and the kids went nuts. I'm not sure if they are ALWAYS hungry, they really crave a big mac, or they just thought the picture that I used of a baby eating a huge watermelon was hilarious. One of the Chinese-English teachers jokingly let me know that it isn't fair that Michelle and I can come in and instantly be loved by the kids while they have been teaching there for a few years. Though being a comedian may be a large part of my job in the upcoming days, I think a better way to describe how they act towards me is that I have reached celebrity status.
Celebrity status: In between classes when I go to my office, I am often swarmed by either kids from my classes or kids that I have never seen before. Whether they are in my classes or not, they always seem to know my name. Even the smallest of these children will come up to me and say the only two complete sentences they know: "How are you?" and "Hello"...The number of times I say "Hello" or "Hi" in a day may equal the numbers of "Hellos" and HIs" I said in the past year. Other times I'll hear my name being yelled from the floor above. My arm get a pretty good workout for the number of times I wave at the kids who waive at me as well.
The second school I teach at is pretty much the same except more middle class. School number one clearly has more money and is way newer. Everything from their lunch to the soccer field is a lot better. It's even clear that the kids are probably better at English there too. I wouldn't say school 2 is bad though. It's literally 100 years old which is why it is a bit different.
The very first thing I did at this school was introduce myself in front of the whole school via microphone as the students were lined up outside. That was a little bit intimidating but again it wasn't so bad, plus now the kids don't all have to ask me my name. Now they can fire more "Hello, Tommy" sentences at me where ever I go. I teach grade 3-5 in this school. I was a little worried about the grade 3 class but their English isn't as bad as I thought it would be. Again, they seem to love me just for my nationality and/or different looks than them. This school had me give another lecture on Christmas which went a lot more smoothly because I had already given the same lecture at School 1. They also had me give a smaller lecture on top of my normal classes about America. This went really well. I gave them a brief PowerPoint lecture about America and then students from the 6th grade told me about Suzhou, China.
The biggest difference between the schools is that School #2's(mon-wed) Chinese-English teachers speak much less English than school 1 teachers. What this means for me is that less adults talk to me here. I substitute this by killing time talking to the students in between classes, which I obviously enjoy because of my newly gained celeb status.
Michelle likes her classes. She is teaching middle school. I guess she also is quite popular over there since the students got her to download QQ(China AIM) and all added her as a friend.
My favorite English names from kids in our classes: Lizard, Fish, Michael Jackson (See video on my FB), Flower, Blue Star, Taxi, PSP, Ipod, and more. Next week I'll have them write out their names so I can find more gold.
My personal #1 favorite name: Machine
Sometimes kids say "Aloha" to me. Are they aware that this is Hawaiian?
They pump Christmas songs and other English things over the PA during recess and lunch I guess to trick them to learn. This wouldn't bother me except for the fact that most of these songs are just a little bit off for some reason. For example: If you're happy and you know it clap your hand. If you're happy and you know it clap your feet.
We really like our jobs so far. They are a lot of fun. We'll keep you updated. Love you all.