Golden Apple School and Sun class
Trip Start Aug 29, 2006
22Trip End Aug 31, 2007
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When I made the decision to travel to China and teach, there were a multitude of schools, conditions and opportunities to consider. I have truly been blessed to find myself at this school. I have heard nightmare stories from other English teachers that have been here longer and traveled widely, working at a number of teaching positions.
The school welcomed me with open arms and a wonderful anticipation that I was going to teach their children well and bring a new learning experience to them. We are learning from each other, every day. The language and cultural differences bring with them certain hurdles but love and humor/fun seem to be the tools for success.
I have 22 small, black-haired, brown eyed, cuddly, mischievous, curious, naughty, laughing, crying 2-3 year olds!!! Sun Class, the first class, the babies, the special ones. I am mother, teacher, play pal and protector to them all. And nothing feels better than when Andy, my butter ball, comes tearing up the entry to school, after getting off the bus, and throws himself into my arms yelling "Teacher Dawn" at mega decibels, knocking me off my feet till I am flat on my back, and we are both hugging and laughing. There are the shy ones who come and lean against your leg, or slip their small hand into yours as you are walking down the stairs. Little Amanda cries every time I put on an animal mask until I take it off and am Teacher again. I have bright spark Ivy, who picks up everything instantly and is my star, and Jerry who hasn't spoken a word, but laughs joyously, when we count and stamp. Left aligned photo tag:
The day always begins with greetings, then a review of past words and phrases. Then drink, potty time and hand-washing. Then lesson 2 introduces a new word or concept. Then drink, potty time, and hand-washing again. Then outside activity(playtime). Then potty and hand washing, then lunch. We follow a set program called the "Percy Learning System" The children must meet the criteria set by this system and are rigorously tested. So far we have covered unit 1, with one week of unit 2 (cute animals) simultaneously they are learning 1-5, item words, chants and songs.
I have received my first bonus and my first review (probation) was successful. The administration is very happy with the class progress. I got all this through a translator, but Maggie said the principal was very happy. I have to take her word for it.
There are strict protocols when it comes to teaching and following the routine for the children. Any change can cause chaos. Well guess what? Chaos. There are 5 other teachers or helpers in the classroom with you at all times. Each foreign teacher has an English/Chinese aide/teacher.
As mentioned previously mine is 'Angel'. A gentle, sweet, delightful girl just out of teachers training, I am her first teacher!! She treats me with a gentle but strong respect that makes you want to teach her well too.
I keep doing things that have not been done with Sun Class, and sends all my Chinese aides into squawking and flapping like a flock of geese! Putting paper up on the wall and giving the children paint brushes, oh horror, "never done Dawn, sun class special". The kids had a ball and the mess wasn't that bad.Left aligned photo tag:
There is a wall surrounding the school with ornate metal gates at he entrance. These are manned by the school guards. Each morning the gates are opened to let the children, parents and staff into the school and locked at 9:00. As the children enter the school building they are first checked by the doctor and her assistant. Each child takes a seat, has his/her mouth and throat looked at and any bumps, bites, bruises or scrapes are examined and noted. There is a reason for this I'll explain later.
Then each child escapes to their room. If the parent accompanies them they have to slip on hot pink cloth bootees over their shoes as not to bring germs into the school environs. It is quite a sight in the morning with 2-3 dozen parents in their pink booties and designer clothes, wandering about the place. If the parent chooses they can view their child, in their classroom, through the close circuit television monitors on the front verandah. Each classroom is displayed on its own monitor. I often watch what my angels are up to before I hit the class!
Breakfast is served around 8-8:30 then Chinese lessons commence followed by outside activity. I am in the classroom at 9:30, but have to be at school, and clocked in by 8:30.You lose Yuan every time you are late and if the total exceeds 30 minutes in any month you lose 200 Yuan! From 8:30 to 9:00 the English teachers meet, then form 9:00 to 9:30 the foreign teacher and their Chinese counterpart meet to discuss the day's lesson plan. A weekly lesson plan in English is posted outside each classroom, Monday mornings.
We finish our day at 12:00 for lunch, provided free by the school, great food. The children have their lunch at 11:30, in the classroom, then naps.Left aligned photo tag:
We have 5 classes in the school each catering for between 22-28 children each. The first class is Sun Class the youngest. The classes are named for the expansion of space first Sun, then Moon Class, Sky Class, Star Class ending in Cosmos Class. The same teacher travels with their children as they go up each class level. Me with Sun Class, Ramon, American, has Moon Class, Sandi, Kiwi/Aus (my flat-mate and friend) has Star Class, Tony, South African, has Sky Class and Mark, English, has Cosmos. The teachers are all great and love the kids. We all have good days/bad days and it's good to share and swap stories and teaching hints.
Mark, Ramon and Tony have made china their home. Mark and Tony both have long term relationships with Chinese partners. Tony has been here 3 years and will marry his partner Paula. I hope it is while I am still here. Chinese weddings have great food!
The majority of foreign men here have Chinese girl-friends, some have been here for up to9 years. Sandi leaves in a few months, I'll miss her, she has really made a difference to settling in here.
The Chinese/English teacher is responsible for the physical well being of each child in her class. If a child is hurt, it can be a bruise, split lip, head bump, bite mark, anything, her pay is docked according to the severity of the injury. These girls get paid only 1200 Yuan a month, we are paid 3500, they work from 8:00am till 6:00pm each day. 30 Yuan for a bump is a lot to lose especially as there are 22 children and 25 days they can injure themselves. That is why each mark is noted on the child's file when they enter the school. Like a rental agreement and condition report.
The teachers are responsible for all their toileting requirements, making sure they have enough fluids and eat enough to gain weight. The Doctor comes into the classroom to see that the babies are eating and drinking enough, and medicine both Chinese and western is given in the classroom. The children are weighed regularly and they must gain weight according to their needs and the doctor's orders.
The children have a hot lunch everyday. This can vary but always has rice (mifan), noodles, baozi (steamed meat filled bun), meat ( pork or beef)or tofu for the vegetarian children, and soup. Lunch is brought into the classroom by the kitchen hands, and served by the class 'Auntie'. Sun Class use spoons but all the other classes use chop sticks. That will be an interesting lesson for us all!
The children are encouraged to eat all their food.
It can be rather uncomfortable watching the process but the aides must get each child to eat a proportion set by the doctor. The children are often tired by this time they have already been up and at school for 3-4 hours and are starting to cry (if they have stopped) and find the eating process difficult. But patience and fun can make the process easier.
So peace reigns most days in Sun Class.