Monday, April 13, 2009

Another last year photo and flash back

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A photo from around this time last year, Haikou, China. This is one of the classes I was teaching English to, all of which were 50-something children in number! A daunting prospect, and making it a little harder than expected to keep attention and discipline going, but undoubtedly fulfilling. For the most part, I was accompanied by their original English teachers (that is, native Chinese teachers who learnt English in school and teachers' college). Now, I never understood why they paid the Gap year scheme what was likely a ridiculous sum of money for our services. Fair enough, they want to utilise native English speakers but when the level of English being taught was so basic, their level of English, which was passable at least in my opinion, they would have been more than adequate. When you're teaching them how to say "mango" and "banana" in some of the younger classes, sometimes you can't but wonder if bringing in overpriced native English speakers is overkill.

But some of the classes were unbelievably cute! Little chubby faces and kiddy voices. I also found that the cute ones tended to be the cleverer ones too, or maybe I was just blinded by adorable face. From my observation, the teachers were almost always amazingly friendly, helpful and definitely hideously underpaid. One must take into account the exchange rates and the price of living in that area of China but nonetheless, for the time they put in, some of them while raising children... I felt sorry for them, especially having got to know them and their good hearts. The classrooms were freakin' huge as well. The smaller females teachers incapable of projecting their voices or yelling had little microphone and speaker headsets they used to help. I found it absolutely necessary at times to actually walk around the classroom to ensure that I met all of their eyes, especially when kids at the back were being noisy. They also got very excited when games or points were involved, so I used that fact to keep them involved, adding a competitive angle to half the class so that they remained keen, especially the classes just before or after breaktimes.

Couple of random facts:
- Apparently teaching English is considered a woman's teaching role, in a profession already deemed to be quite feminine, the male teachers more customarily teaching PE or kung fu.
- One of the less friendly teachers introduced me as "Miss Gao" (translation into Mandarin) so many times I couldn't be bothered to interject and correct her after a point. The children like to yell you name and wave at you when you walk through the playground to go home so for ages I had some 120 kids yelling out "Miss Gao" on my way around. That was... weird.
- Being of Chinese heritage but not actually from a 'Chinese' country or with the ability to speak Mandarin was unbelievable to them. One of the cuter questions I got asked to me during my first week was whether I used chopsticks or a knife and fork to eat my food. Bless.

1 Response to Another last year photo and flash back

13 April 2009 at 17:17

We're very lucky to be able to record our memories this way... sometimes I look at old blog posts and photos from my gap year, and I just feel so grateful that we're able to keep these moments in some small way...

Thanks for the comment over at ADE, it's great to expand my reading pool a little!