Some stories and shots from school.
My schedule if pretty heavy this year, as I’m teaching double kindy in addition to higher level evening classes. I took over a class of six year-olds who are so-so in terms of English ability and are pretty wild. Not my favorite three hours of the day. Fortunately, I also teach my all-time favorite four year-olds – this is a class that has been mine since they first came to school last year. Back then they couldn’t even say hello in English, and now I overhear them saying things like, “Who is this grass?” (translation: “Whose grass is this?”) during art time, or “Teacher Sara, I’m a little handsome and a lot cool!” It’s the best thing ever to hear their little voices scrape together all the English words they know to tell stories and ask questions.
Since they are middle level kindergarten, I’m enforcing an all-English classroom now, and it’s going pretty well. Of course, there are always a few who have their names written on the board and are banned from playing toys that day, but once the first name goes up it acts as a pretty effective deterrent to Chinese speaking and general misbehavior.
Two months into this semester, and my little hooligans have already let fly with some real humdingers. I’m teaching two kindergarten classes this year, one all morning and one all afternoon, and then I have evening classes three nights a week too. I so enjoy watching so many brilliant little minds thinking and then listening to their ideas. Here are a few of my favorites.
Brian comes up to me in class one day: “Teacher Sara, why you face is so dirty?” I ran my hand over my chin to see if there was anything on it. “Where is it dirty?” I asked him. “Here, here, here and here,” said Brian, pointing at my forehead, chin, and cheeks. And Brian learned the word “freckles” that day.
Jojo is one of my very favorite students, one of the sweetest and quiet girls in my class, but smart as can be. I often tell my older kindy students to read their Easy Reader books when they finish a project early, and every so often, when the volume of 23 six year-olds sounding out a story becomes too much, I’ll ask them to read it quietly to themselves rather than aloud. One time Jojo finished her writing assignment first, so I told her to grab her Easy Reader and sit down with it. She came back and said, “Teacher Sara, I will just read it in my heart, ok?”
We’ve just finished up a week of Halloween teaching, and when I first introduced some pictures to my four year-olds, who are learning the subject for the first time, we had some funny moments. Ethan, one of my smartest, saw a flashcard with Frankenstein on it and shouted, “It’s a ‘jumbee’!” I looked at the picture, which I’d planned to teach as ‘monster.’ “A what now?” “A jumbee! He like this…” Ethan rolled his eyes back and took some halting steps with his arms outstretched, looking more than a little like somebody off The Walking Dead. Then it hit me. “A zombie, Ethan, a ZOMBIE!” To the child’s credit I later found out that in Chinese culture some corpses are believed to jump after death, so maybe he was just combining his English words and ideas. Smart, really.
We also learned about skeletons, which proved a hard word for my four year-olds to master. Anderson, whose English is probably the most natural out of my class of twenty, was struggling when telling me what he planned to be for Halloween. “It is a black shirt and has so much white… inside me have this.” I waited patiently for him to remember his vocabulary and was rewarded with, “I’m gonna be a BONEMAN!”
Another of my little four year-olds dropped the cap of her marker on the floor and was quite concerned when she couldn’t find it on the floor. “Teacher, where is the marker’s head?!”
Wilson, one of my more forward thinkers had a astute observation during our unit on construction vehicles, which came a solid three months after a theme about natural disasters. “Teacher Sara, you know what?” I braced myself for a Wilson revelation and wasn’t disappointed. “Excavators are like tsunamis, because they dig the earth same like a tsunami comes and…” he made a digging motion with his arm, clearly imitating a tidal wave sweeping across land. Oh, the minds of six year-olds.
In the same class, James clearly took to heart the meaning of the word “scootch,” which I used whenever I wanted someone to move their chair over a bit. One day we were riding on the bus when we heard an ambulance. James looked at me and said in all seriousness, “Teacher Sara, when the ambulance comes, all the cars have to scootch.” Right on, kiddo.
Just the other day I was listening to two of my kids arguing about a crayon and trying to drag me into it. “Teacher Sara doesn’t want to hear it,” I said. “And if you keep fighting I’m going to bye-bye your stars,” the most dreaded punishment in my classroom. A few minutes later they were back at it, in a quieter fashion. Out of the corner of my eye I saw one kid scrawl on the other’s book and then lean in to hiss, “Tell it to the police!” Haha.
Once my older kindy class was discussing the Chinese zodiac and I asked who knew in which animal year they’d been born. When Una’s turn came around she said, “I’m a snake and my mom’s a mouse.” After a pause, she continued, “So, I can eat my mom!”
In my class of teenagers we spend a solid fifteen minutes each lesson discussing how to use new vocabulary. One lesson we were talking about kidnapping and ransom notes and such. I posed a question about the naughtiest kid in class: “If Shawn were kidnapped, would anyone pay money to get him back?” Tommy, who I used to consider the nicest kid in class, voiced what everyone was probably thinking: “They wouldn’t even want to kidnap him in the first place!”
A girl in the same class had an interesting take on an idiom we’d recently learned. I was trying to elicit a response along the lines of “help someone do something” when I asked my students what to do should they run across a grandma crossing the street and asking them for help. “I’d tell her to go fly a kite!” said Ivy earnestly. Well, way to use the new vocabulary, girl.
Many of the students at the school come from well-to-do families, and sometimes it shows in conversations. While talking about what it means to invent something, I threw out a final example. “And do you know who invented the car?” An eager kid shouted out, “Benz!”
One of my classes, which I’ve actually just given up in order to play rugby, includes the school’s well-known problem child. My boss claims I’m the only teacher who’s been able to control him over the past couple years, but he clearly has no idea what I put up with in a given class. Last week during break time, said kid was tossing around an orange and decided to throw it as hard as he could against the front wall of the classroom. I swear there was orange juice on the back wall, too. I made him go to get a mop to clean up, and just as it was becoming clear that he had no idea what to do with one, the whole bucket of water tipped over and soaked the entire room. Fun times.