Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Teaching Week 3: Cool Places

Newbie... E-Newb... yep, some things are said backward in China!

I got a little behind on my blogging this past week, because I managed to get myself sick for the first time here. Don't know if I had a fever or not, because I don't have a thermometer here, but I had a pretty bad sore throat. Sick days at many Chinese schools are not to be taken lightly, so I soldiered on.

I wanted to find a way to get all of the kids in class to speak. Unfortunately, that's not an easy task when you've got 50 kids to a class. But I was determined!

Everyone dreams of going to certain places in the world, right? So I decided to make that the hook to get everyone involved.

Since I'm trying to toss in some life lessons along the way, I also introduced them to a cool person -- my friend Jan. (Those of you who know about the All Time Top Ten podcast might recall the ELO episode we did a few months ago.) She's got one of the coolest jobs of all the people I know, working at JPL in Pasadena, so she taped a little video greeting for my students. (When she said, "Bye!" it was fun to see how many of my kids said "bye" back!)

I told them about the mission she'd worked on, the Cassini mission to Saturn, and how important it was that every single calculation was correct before it was sent to the spacecraft, since it takes the signal nearly an hour and a half to reach it. Once you realize something's gone wrong, you're looking at 83-minute-old data and another 83 minutes until a correction will reach it... and who knows what bad things can happen in almost three hours? I might have exaggerated a little bit by making the spaceship explode in my PowerPoint (maybe not?), but it was definitely a cool visual that got the kids' attention as I talked about the importance of good planning and preparation.

Then, it was on to cool places! To inspire them, I put together a slide show of cool places I'd been, set to -- what else? -- "Cool Places" by Sparks f/Jane Wiedlin.

It was interesting to see which pictures drew the biggest reactions. The White House was a big one. A photo of the Golden Gate Bridge, taken from San Francisco Bay, got the boys' attention, since they knew the "view" from the Golden State Warriors' logo. They "ooooh"-ed the Hollywood sign and the Washington Monument, and there were a few gasps when they saw the live bear I encountered at Grand Teton National Park.

Then, after explaining that they could talk about a place they had either been to or would like to visit -- and talking about the tense and types of words they would use to describe each -- I went around the room to get their responses.

They were pretty fascinating. Going to high school in Deerfield, Illinois, I was always amazed that I had classmates who had never been to Chicago. Similarly, there were a number of kids in my classes who were looking forward to going to Shanghai, even though it's less than two hours away from here.

A lot of the responses were places in China, but some dreamed bigger. France was a popular destination (and "romantic" was the word most often used to describe it -- these Chinese are lovers!). Australia was mentioned a lot because of its beautiful scenery and animals. Japan was a big one -- students here are really into Japanese animation, Japanese food, and want to visit Mt. Fuji. Various places in the USA got mentions, like Hollywood, Washington D.C., and a couple of students who chose Chicago because it's where I'm from. And other European countries (England, Italy, Switzerland) got some mentions, too.

And there were even a few who said they'd like to go to other planets, which I thought was an awesome answer. 

(Of course, there were also the kids who said they were most interested in going home, because they were tired and needed to sleep.)

Overall, I was pleased with the answers I was getting. A lot of them were quite thoughtful, though some of the shy kids stuck to very basic responses.

The biggest problem I'm facing, though, is the class size. In a class of 50, it's difficult to keep them all engaged simultaneously. As much as I implore them to respect their classmates and be good listeners when others are speaking, there are always going to be kids who will talk to their neighbors in class. (I should know -- in some of my classes, I was one of those kids. Sorry, Mr. Elliot... I get it now, haha!)

So this week's lesson will include the "Shhhh" scene from "Austin Powers," along with an explanation that "shhhh" has become my least favorite word, so don't make me use it!

Outside the classroom... as today marks my 30th day here in China, my contract school has made an appointment for me to go apply for my Resident ID card. I've been waiting for this. I can't get a Chinese bank account without my ID number. Without the bank account, I can't get a Chinese mobile phone, and I can't use any of the pay apps (WeChat Pay or AliPay), so all of my transactions have been in cash, since none of my USA credit cards is accepted at stores here. (USA card acceptance is generally confined to tourist-heavy areas, and Zhangjiagang is definitely not one of those.)

Apparently, I can't even get mail or packages from the USA until I have my Resident ID number, so I've been looking forward to getting this done. Hopefully it won't take long to get it, after this afternoon's appointment.

Anyway, I'm heading to the bureau now. Wish me luck!

2 comments:

  1. A month in China already - how it's flown by! It looks like you're settling in nicely!

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