Thursday, April 29, 2010

Bad Craziness

There have been a couple of evil attacks on school children the last couple of days. Both involved knife wielding men attacking primary school kids at their schools. The attack yesterday happened in the small neighboring city of Leizho, where my friend Mike teaches middle school. There were no fatalities, but 5 of the Leizho kids are still in the hospital. Mike works with 3 teachers whose kids were injured. Here and here are some articles. Another attack last month resulted in eight deaths. Justice was swift and harsh. The killer was executed this week.
I wonder what makes a man (they are always men) do something like this? There are very strict gun laws here, so the sickos use knives. In the US, when someone wants to kill a lot of people they almost always use a gun, and usually don't just target children. Maybe the attackers here target kids, since adults could more easily thwart a guy with a knife. Only they can tell us. One thing is certain: They will be dealt with by the authorities in the same swift and merciless way they went after those kids.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Shopping Bag

Click the pix for larger picture.
In a way there is more freedom of speech here.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Naming Kids

One of the thrills of teaching English is helping kids choose an "English name". I remember in Spanish class mine was "Miguel", which was the closest thing they could find to my handle. I've met a few unfortunate names here. One America bound freshman college student had named himself "Attack". Great ice breaker when he got to Missouri. I was able to convince one of my middle school girls to change "Krusty" to "Kristy", but my favorite was a ten year old boy named "Wendy".
I have a list of the most popular American boys and girls names, and I have helped kids and/or parents choose names. With the kindergarten kids I have even been entrusted to choose a name for them. There are times I've felt like Brigham Young naming his brood.
I have a class with a Sonny and a Cher (not my doing!). I have Sophie, Mary, Harry, Thomas, Emma, Elizabeth, Wendy, Lucy, Kyle, Kevin, Kaden, Megan, Molly, Eric, Tina, and many more. Since the list is American, there are names that are not exactly English in origin, and one little boy has the name his parents chose for him, a fine American name....Diego.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Random Thoughts

Weird things are normal now.
I don't think twice about someone getting on the bus with a live chicken, or a well dressed lady spitting on the sidewalk.
Kids are toilet trained a lot earlier here.
You see toddlers that can't walk yet being held in relief position with their special open ended pants unbuttoned doing their business in gutters, planters, etc. They are housebroken long before our kids are.
Kids start schooling a lot earlier here.
I'm teaching 4 year olds English, and I just added a three and a half year old girl to one of my classes.
People have sex a lot later here.
Most of the teens I teach here don't even date yet!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

bizzy, bizzy, bizzy

I've achieved maximum teaching output, I think. I have four classes a day at the middle school, Monday through Friday. Saturdays I teach 3 kindergarten classes, plus one private lesson. Private lessons on Monday and Friday nights and kindergarten on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays nights. Yow!
I get Sunday off, and actually get some time off from middle school when they do their monthly tests. Plus there are always the holidays, like Tomb Cleaning Day, which happened coincidently on Easter.
I really like the kindergarten classes, because 4 and 5 year old kids have brains like sponges. The original class that started in February is now making sentences like "He is reading a book." That's a lot farther along than they get in most primary schools by grade 4.
I think the biggest problem they have in teaching in the public schools is aiming everything toward written tests. There is zero emphasis on speaking. Classes are large, so it's difficult. They also seem to think that if they throw enough words at the students they are accomplishing something. I've seen fifth grade textbooks that teaching all the Olympic sports like long jump and Greco Roman wrestling, but the kids cannot say, "I'm fine, thanks. How are you?"

The kindergarten classes are rapidly multiplying, but I am maxed out on time and there are no foreign teachers to fill any new demand. I know there are a lot of teachers in the US getting laid off. Will they be coming here?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Nice Young People

It's been raining the last few days. Maybe the drought is ending. It's also a little cooler, in the sixties to low seventies. This is not normal.
My favorite time teaching in the middle school is my weekly "English Corner". It's a one hour block of time that I have set aside for small group discussions, all in English about various topics. I have deliberately made it a mostly word of mouth low key event, to limit the group to a small number of kids that want to improve their spoken English. There are a lot of things that compete for the students' time, like studying for endless exams, so only the people who really want to talk show up.
We discuss families, culture and social issues. When I asked them to talk about their families, some really opened up about home life.
Chinese culture puts a lot of emphasis on family, past, present, and future. Sometimes a lot of pressure can be put on the single child, in this one child culture, to realize the dreams of his or her parents. We are in the #1 school, and the expectations can be overwhelming.
One day a boy vented his frustration about how his parents always were pushing him to do his best and he said that he was angry with them. We all talked about family and parents. Some said they were pressured too, but we all said we loved our parents, and that they only wanted the best for us. I said that all of their parents loved them, or they wouldn't be in the #1 school.
After our group, he was on his cell phone. He stopped me on my way out and told me he had called his mother to tell her he loved her.
Last night I asked the students what they would do if they were wealthy and didn't have to work. Most of them said they would like to travel, but virtually all said they would like to help those less fortunate, and in particular they would like to build better schools in the poor parts of their country and the world.
These kids are the future of China. They are broad minded, caring people that represent much of what is good in people. When I see the kindness and decency in them, I see something that transcends borders and culture. I see the best in people.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Random Chinglish

Click the pix for larger picture.

Shirts like this are common. Is there a market in the US for stuff like this?