Friday, March 13, 2009 ;
5:37 PM
This morning was a special morning.

I had initially wanted to go to school for the Grade 3 drama anyway, but then I received a call on Mon from the Sec school secretary asking if I can take over some Chinese lessons on Friday.

Although Chinese isn't my best subject, I jumped at the chance. Why? The previous 2 times they called me, the kids were ill and I had to give up going to school to teach science to middle school graders.

So this morning, I wore some comfy but nice clothes, and put on my favourite Nine West boots (winter what, and I feel that if I walk around in the heeled boots, I make a nice clicking sound which makes me feel more professional, haha).

Dh sent all 3 of us out to the bus stop on his scooter. We attract quite a lot of stares this way, cos can you imagine? ds1 stands in front, on the scooter feet platform, in between Dh and the handle bars. Dh is seated right at the tip of the scooter seat. Followed by ds2 then me with my considerably larger bum (ie takes up the bulk of the scooter seat). Picture that, then add in 1 large schoolbag each for each boy, bulky winter jackets for all 4 of us, gloves, beanies.... And then I had 2 bags on me. One "teaching bag" (Anya Hindmarch's 'I'm not a plastic bag') and my usual Espirit sling bag.

I should have a pic, but how to have a pic in the rush hours of the morning, and who will take this photo of us. We seem crazy enough to them. If we stop a passer-by to take a pic, I think they will run.

So we got on the school bus, and the school bus ayi and driver already knows I am going to teach. I told them to wait for me after school too, so I can go home on the bus with ds2. I chatted with them till we reached school. They always tell me how well-behaved and good both my boys are on the bus. I don't know if they tell every parent that, but I always feel very happy to hear praises of my sons, since I always wonder if they are the rascals they are at home when they're outside.

I met the secretary who handed me my timetable for the day, the payment details sheet (very impt document!) and the teacher's notes for me.

I must say that, had I not been a trained teacher, the teacher's notes would have been insufficient.

These are the day's events:

8.20-9.45am Grade 8s. There were about 13-15 kids, I didn't count, and I forgot to take pics. They were a very lively bunch. I recognised some faces from the school musical. 1 Australian, 1 American and the rest Korean.

Surprisingly, their Chinese was not bad! Better than I expected.

The teacher I was substituting for is the head of dept, and she set dictation and spelling tests for this class. She instructed to do 1st set first, consisting of a full page passage. Let them peer evaluate and check, then the next set - 2 pages of a conversation, like a play. All to be dictated to them, for them to write out. Looked very tedious to me.

Indeed, they started groaning the minute I announced the 1st set. But we went through it. However, you know how dictation is... I had to read out every single punctuation mark too, and repeat every 4 words or so, then after the sentence is over, read the whole sentence again for them to double check. It was tiring for my vocal cords too. I was surprised that their level was not bad, considering that for all of them, this was their 3rd language. They could all converse with me and I could understand them pretty well.

When it was time for peer-assessment, they were startled (mock or not, I don't know) and said their teacher always marks it for them. I said I don't care since that was her instruction, and so exchange, get a red pen and mark your friend's.

When they were done, I said let's do the 2nd set and all hell broke loose. I can understand. My hands would ache too, if I wrote so much in my 3rd language (malay) and if I was struggling to think about each word too. But as the teacher, I cannot relent. How can a relief teacher not finish the work that was assigned? I disliked relief teachers who messed up my class for me, so I cannot be such a teacher!

I then told them I will give them 5 min break and use the 5min to review the next part of the test. They looked through the 2 pages and groaned and grumbled, complained and whined. I also felt it was very long but I just shrugged with a smile.

Then the 4 Korean boys (cute yes, but no, I won't relent) right in the first row started to bargain, plead and ask for longer breaks. Later, when I started the dictation, every sentence or so, they would ask for a break. They would say in their most adorable Chinese that their hands are too weak and they are going to die anytime soon, their brains are bursting...

The 2 periods flew by. Then they were gone. I wasn't used to them not greeting me as a whole or thanking me as a whole initially. Back home, my classes would greet me together, thank me and also be very respectful when we meet outside of class. Here, they say "See ya!" "Bye!" "zai jian!". And dash out of the class. okie!

I had a short break, the next class would come in at 1005am. I looked around, nice classroom actually, and with my desk and resources all here, there was no need to walk anywhere! Cool! The only weird thing that I felt missing was the interaction with my colleagues! There was no one around at all. I loved walking back to the staff room in between classes, sit down and chat and even a smile and nod or a joke was good enough. I loved being around people and having meals and sharing breaks with them.

Now, I took out my snack box (Dh packed for me and kids this morning cos I was busy dressing up nicely, haha) and ate alone, all by myself. A bit lonely and sad. Will get fat in the long run too, not having to walk around a lot and climb many stairs like I did in the past teaching in hc!

I barely finished reading what I had to do for the next class when the kids strolled in. These were the Grade 10s.

There were only 3 girls! All Korean. Turned out some of their friends went to Beijing for a trip so they were absent.

This class was split into ability groups. So I told the group A girl to get her laptop out and research on the topic assigned by her teacher. She had to complete an assignment and email it to the teacher. She said she forgot to bring her laptop. Ok, I said, borrow one from the IT dept. She went and couldn't loan one. So she went to the library to do it.

The other 2 were in group B. They were supposed to have a dictation test too! Sob sob. I was tired of reading words over and over again. But I guess it's probably more exciting than having to sit and watch them do homework.

They are older, so they are smarter. You know what they said? Instead of groaning, they told me they needed to wait for their friends to come back from Beijing. Then they would take the test together next week.

I said, the both of them can do it first. They said, no, they will take it together, it was arranged with the teacher already.

Hmmm, I said. I will not be naive. However, just to make sure, in case the teacher made a mistake in her notes, I called her on my cell phone. Ah, she said no such thing, go ahead with the test. She said, they must be unprepared.

Ok then, I told them, let's start.

Oh no no no no! They cried. They pleaded. Both of them were well dressed, fashionable young women. Permed hair. Stylish overcoat. Funky shoes. They look like they stepped out of a Korean drama serial.

I checked the time, ok, I guess they had enough time because there were only 2 of them, and 1 test only. Not like the earlier class who had 2 tests to go through.

I gave them 15min to review. Then I quickly read up on the next class' activity. Bear in mind, there was no lesson plan given to me. I was told to go through 3 exercises. I took a look at the exercises, no answers given. Ok, I went through 10 years of Chinese lessons, I can handle this.

So I completed exercise no. 1, very sure of the answers. It was those passages with blanks kind, and choose the correct word from 4 choices.

Exercise no.2 was trickier. They had phrases that are unique to China. Terms like 特别,自治区,行政区, 食品,工业,面积,总,民族,少数。。。 They were all jumbled up and then students are supposed to match them up to form as many meaningful phrases as possible. There were some I was very sure of, then there were some combinations I wasn't sure worked or not.

Exercise no. 3 was the worst. Although I know the geography of China better than many other Singaporeans, this had a map of China with most of the provinces blanked out and I had to fill in the blanks.

Huh?? I wasn't sure where Qinghai is, only Qingdao. I wasn't sure where to put Hubei, Hebei, Henan, Hunan, Zhexi etc etc. I only managed to pinpoint Guangdong, Sichuan, Yunnan. Congrats man... I panicked.

But it was time for the girls to have the dictation, so I read the whole passage out to them. We took such a long time... But they were good. They had been whispering to each other in Korean so much during review time that I thought they weren't concentrating. But apparently they were practising their words.

Again, not bad, since one of them said she had just moved to Tianjin for less than a year, and started school here since Aug 2008. For her, learning a new 3rd language, and being able to write out this passage on the management of zoos, anti-animal abuse and not wearing leather or fur items is commendable.

After they finished, I had to mark their work on the spot (as in the teacher's notes to me) while they revised for the next lesson's test. They fared very well. I am impressed.

Then the group A girl came back from the library and said she has emailed the assignment to the teacher already.

Then it was time for them to go! "Bye! Zai jian!" again. Nice girls.

Right away, 2 boys streamed in. One Japanese, one unidentifiable (mixed culture, I think). They were very cute. "Huh? Laoshi mei you le?" 老师没有了?

Me: Yes, she has other commitments today, I am the substitute. (In chinese).
Them: 你是什么名字?(furthermore in very funny accent)
Me: You can call me Ms. XXX. (in chinese)

The rest of the kids were not here yet, so I left them to check out the other classroom. Thankfully, there was another teacher there. Guess what? She is a Chinese national and she couldn't answer the blanks on the map too. Ok, I don't feel bad anymore.

She had a laptop, so she checked Baidu maps. (china's google). Ahh, finally I got the answers. Thanks to her. Or thanks to internet.

Popped back into my classroom, and the kids were all there. About 15 also?

1130-1210 (Grade 6):
All very very cute. This time, I was positive I got the Group Cs.

You see, at each level, the kids are divided into different World languages. Some take French, German... Some want to take Chinese even though they are not Chinese. Like the Americans, Australians, Japanese and Koreans. They feel that they are in China, so they'd rather pick up Chinese than French or German now.

Yet, at each level, there are Taiwanese, Hongkongers, half-Chinese who are excellent in Chinese, but there are total beginners too. So these students are further divided into beginners, intermediates and advanced-ers. (I think I mentioned before that ds1 got into the advanced group very narrowly, and I was glad because he was pushed to learn more Chinese, and was forced to speak like the native speaking Taiwanese and Chinese.)

I think for this class, it was definitely the beginners. But they turned out to be the most fun!

I don't know whether it was their age (the younger, the more enthusiastic, the more innocent...) or because I didn't have to do dictation with them, the class was very lively and there was so much more interaction so I enjoyed it much more.

Before the class, they said they needed to present their 成语 (chinese proverbs/ idioms). So I said ok, (that was not in the notes, but this was a good thing). A very adorable Japanese boy started first, on 井底之蛙。He had drawn up a poster for it. He first explained each word, then the overall meaning. For the sample sentence, he gave this, "他是井底之蛙。"

None of his classmates laughed. They were very serious, asking about the meaning of wa, and asking about his picture of the well with the frog at the bottom that he drew.

I asked him to elaborate. I said, you have to explain why this guy is a frog-in-the-well. You cannot just say he is, and stop there. He wasn't able to, so I prompted him.

I remember him from the school musical, so I said, you remember the King and I story? They all perked up and listened up at once, and his eyes were suddenly sparkling and startled (that I remembered him?). {He was a very good actor}

I said, the kids of the concubines in the palace had thought that Siam was the largest country in the world right? They were not well-read, they were not taught otherwise. They lived only in the palace and listened only to the King of Siam right?

The boy caught on quickly. He continued to explain from there. Orrrh, so they are 井底之蛙!

Next a girl came up to present on 口是心非。She too drew a picture on a poster. She explained each word, gave the overall meaning, and then said her sample sentence, which was like this, verbatim!
"我的朋友要回国,I cry but I 口是心非。"

First, I had to ask her what she meant, then I gave her the chinese characters for "I cry but I".

What she meant was, she had a friend who was leaving, and she shed tears in front of her friend but actually was very happy in her heart that that friend was going to be gone forever from her life!

I honestly didn't know what to say to that or how to correct her sentence to better reflect what she explained, so I let her write it down the way she wanted it. Leave it to her teacher to comment on that.

After that, we went through the answers to the 3 exercises. I initially thought of going down the row for each one to answer but they were all so forthcoming and I had so many volunteering and raising their hands that I need not do that. I did make sure everyone was called upon though.

Time passed so quickly and we were all having a lot of fun. Then they all left in a flash too. They were a lot more appreciative and grateful than their seniors though.

I quickly filled in all the forms, including one reflection and evaluation one, something like what I did, any students I encountered who were a problem or were impressive, difficulties encountered, and so on. Then I filled in the details for payment. That made me very happy because I haven't earned so much money in a looooong time.

Then I photocopied the forms (learnt to make copies of everything ever since being in the civil service) and left them with the respective personnel (finance director/ head of dept). Then I rushed to catch the bus that ds2 was on.

All the nursery kids were on the bus already! All belted up and waiting for me! I thanked the kind bus driver and ayi. I glanced at the clock, ah, they were 5 min later than usual. Normally ds2 will reach my estate between 1220-1230. Today we were later by 5 min. If every kid is delayed, sometimes the last one gets home really late.

One of the boys took out his pacifier from the bag, wiped it with his hanky (he knew how to do all these!) and put it in his mouth. Too cute! He was fingering 3 hankies/ towels/ blankies (dunno what to call them since the size is about in between) and closing his eyes gradually.

Another one fell asleep promptly after the bus started moving.

So cute. All the 6 half day kids- 5 boys, 1 girl.

ds2 almost fell asleep but because I was there, he didn't. In fact he was very surprised to see me come up the bus. Didn't he recall I was there in the morning on the bus too? Apparently kids of this age don't remember so much. haha.

And when we got off the bus, he was very sleepy and got upset when the stroller was not there. He insisted it was in the Bank of China. See how funny his thinking can be when he is sleepy and upset? I reminded him that it was at home because today I didn't pick him up from home, therefore did not have the stroller with me.

Anyway we have to walk by the Bank of China to get home, so I let him check the glass windows. True enough, it wasn't in there. Then he insisted it was in the hair salon. Ok, we next passed by the hair salon. Another check. Nope...

He was whining all the way back after that. I just laughed and laughed at him because I was happy today.

For lunch, my ever-kind neighbour H got me and ds2 something from Paris Baguette and also baked us some muffins!

At night, we bought take away from a different restaurant at Korea Town. Told Dh it would be MY TREAT for a change, haha. Now I am rich, you see.

And the kids are asleep now and we are going to enjoy a DVD together. "It's a great day, it's a great day..." (as ds2 always sings in his nursery class)

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

about us ;
-{dear-hubby}- dh
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-{dear-son}-ds2 J
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