Sunday, July 28, 2013

Christmas in July

The last 2 days of camp were spent covering the much-anticipated Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. The students were pretty excited about both holidays and we spent the first half discussing Thanksgiving food which received many "whoas" from my audience :) We made hand and foot turkeys and talked about what it meant to be thankful - of course Karl said he was most thankful for me:
Of course the most excited response came when we finally talked about Christmas. My students knew about the holiday already - at least the Hallmark version (no religious affiliation) - and were thrilled to chat about "Christmas Man" aka Santa. Unfortunately, the morning we were supposed to cover Christmas was also the one morning I slept through my alarm. Nothing like arriving 30 minutes late to class and hearing a chorus of "STEPH!!!! Where were you?!?" from a room full of ten year olds. I was pretty embarrassed, but I think I made up for it in the awesome coloring sheets we did for the next hour. I had no idea that coloring a Christmas scene could take an entire hour, but I don't think any other activity I did all summer made my 10 year olds so quiet and focused. 
I can't get over Warren and his adorableness.

The most exciting part of it all was the tree decorating session. Each classroom was given the SADDEST looking Christmas tree you could find. I'm pretty sure Charlie Brown's was better looking than these 12 inch disasters. My one class had lights on theirs, the other didn't even have that. Of course the tree that did have lights couldn't really stand up unassisted, but that's another story. Each classroom was also given a set amount of ornaments - I think I had 6 total? So in another sad, sad moment each table of five students had one little ornament or garland to come hang on the teeny tiny tree at the front of the room. Luckily, I don't think they know any better so they seemed satisfied with this task anyways. Then we had a celebratory countdown for the 'lighting of the tree' (at least in one class) and you would've though I had just lit up Rockefeller Center. Students gathered to gaze into the beautiful lights and blew bubbles in the tree's honor while singing a rousing rendition of Jingle Bells. My poor twelve year olds had no lights, so we just rotated picture taking while listening ot their favorite Christmas album - Justin Bieber, obviously. 
Bubble time
Look at the thrill on Bruce's & Bill's faces!  
Wenny, Kery, Lucy, Karl, Bruce, Bill, and Tom 

Like any good Christmas celebration, the tree was lit underneath the President's Day banner. 
Susan, Kery, Lucy, Alice, Karl, Bruce, Bill, Tom, Davey, and Janet in the background
Of course, no true Christmas is complete with cards and a pageant. I didn't realize the students would be making cards, but as the afternoon went on I started getting a few knocks on my dorm door and there'd be one of my students proudly delivering a card. The cards were randomly very religious, even though we were told not to discuss the religious aspect of Christmas with them (and I asked them if they had heard of Jesus...they hadn't, and I didn't go down that road any further!). I probably received more Christmas cards from the students than I do during the actual holiday! 
Karl's is just classic. In case you can't read it, he wrote "Dear: Miss Steps teacher. I'm Karl. In today me and you say bye bye. I love me. But, I don't and you afternoon play and run. I love me. Mrs: Karl." That pretty much sums up most of our confusing conversations. Oh, Mrs. Karl. 
I also love this one - In my eyes, you are a good teacher. In other peoples' eyes, maybe not, but I really think you are! 
As for the Christmas pageant, well...there was one. The foreign teachers were asked to throw together a 90 minute performance. It wasn't great, and I'm hoping there isn't any footage of it out there...of course what was worse was the closing ceremony performance, but I'll leave that for another entry! 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Day in the Life

In case you were's how a typical day at Hangzhou Entel Foreign Language School Camp went:

5:30am - Wake up, go for a jog around the track while it's still just 85 rather than 100 degrees out
My dorm room

The lovely morning view
7:30am - Breakfast time. We were given tickets for comp'd food the entire time, though after five days everyone was pretty sick of it. You brought your tickets up to the cafeteria window, and then the confusion began - we had no way of knowing exactly what was in each vat, so it was a fun game of point and pray! Reliable items included green beans and rice...breakfast was probably the best meal of the day since there was fried rice and regular fried eggs. Lunch and dinner were much more suspect!
8:20-10:55am - Class 1. Technically, this class was broken up into 3 forty-minute sections, but some days were tougher than others! It's a long time to be with one group of kids. I alternated between my A7 class and my B1 class - A7s were the 10 year olds, B1s were 12 year olds.

11am - Teacher meeting. We'd have a little debrief each morning in case there was something important to discuss like where and how we'd be getting our salary that week :) On the days when we finally did get paid, it was in a stack of cash - this is what 18,000 yuan looks like:

11:30-2pm: Afternoon break. AKA rest time :)

2-4:30pm: Class 2. Another block of forty minute sessions...this class was always the one with a lot more energy. If you were lucky, the AC had been turned off during break so the hot classroom helped suck some of their energy out as the afternoon went on. When all else failed and I ran out of activities, a little Justin Bieber was a lifesaver. This video doesn't quite do it justice, but every.single.student - boy or girl - looooved to sing a nice round of "Baby." It was the cutest thing I've seen 12 year olds do all summer:
One of my 10 year olds, Bob, was a great Jason Mraz fan but I never could convince him to let me capture it on video.

5:30 - Dinner time. Back to the dining hall for more point and pray. Occassionally I would try and go for a run either after or before dinner, but ever since Karl started following my schedule I had to go back to morning runs otherwise it was a 40 minute run with Karl by my side the ENTIRE time.

Back at it the next morning! 

Raging Halloween

After the excitement of the spelling bee, it was time for the much anticipated Halloween celebration. The students seemed to have some idea of it - they were THRILLED to talk about pumpkins and other "Halloween symbols." The first order of business was to decorate the classroom. My students drew and cut out pumpkins, bats, ghosts, haunted houses, skulls - anything! We hung them on the windows outside:
The second order of business was carving pumpkins. This was a pretty foreign concept to the students, and I certainly hadn't done it with a classroom full of 10 years olds before either. The school provided knives for each student, though most of my students carry xacto knives in their pencil cases - something I don't see every day in the US! The school also had a lighter and candles ready for the pumpkins once we finished carving. It felt pretty strange to have lighters and knives handed to me in the classroom! 

Of course the knives provided were just table knives, so hacking away at the pumpkins took a looong time. We "Dexter'd" the whole room in plastic sheets and then they were off to the races:
Bob's group (left) seriously committed themselves to a mess-free zone and taped their plastic sheet down. Most tables just leaned on it and hoped for the best :)

The proud pumpkin parents:
That evening was Trick or Treating...aka the most insane amount of chaos I have experienced on this trip! The story was that each class would split in half - half would stay in the classroom to play 'tricks' on the arriving treaters, and the other half would go visit other classrooms. In order to get candy (or 'sugars' as my students called them...), the students had to answer tricky questions or complete obstacle courses. In reality, this looked like a bunch of kids screaming and running around in masks with no idea what was happening. I was especially clueless as to what was going one point I went back to our classroom to check on the half we left behind and the room was pitch black except for a blasting youtube video Gangnam Style playing on the projector and my boys were running around like crazy dancing it up. Not quite the Halloween I was used to but I think they at least had fun! 

This class was really into zombies and kept running around the room yelling "I'm a zebra!" until I had the whole class look at images of zebras vs. zombies. I think that helped clear it up.