hilarity ensues

Sunday was crazy…we were moved from our hotel and into dorm rooms. This was welcome, as we heard rats scuttling around in the walls, and everything was really dingy at the hotel. The dorm rooms were a refreshing change. Everything is tile, so no carpet to hold icky stuff and germs. the beds. Well, they’re spartan. “Mattresses” are a piece of wood with a blanket on top. No kidding! The shower is over the (open with no lid) toilet. BUT, we have a FLUSHING TOILET in addition to a latrine. VERY lucky. Our hosts also bought us brand new, mini fridges with freezers, so we are able to freeze our water bottles to have cold water. What a luxury! The bathrooms are separated from our rooms with a door…and each bathroom has its own water heater. AND (drumroll please) WE HAVE AIR CONDITIONERS IN OUR ROOMS. The classrooms have fans only, and I lose about 3 water bottles worth of sweat per day while teaching. It is SO HOT!!!! So it’s wonderful to be able to sleep with AC.

Monday was crazy…we did introductions and realized that with our (very physical, interactive) teaching methods, the native teachers were so aghast that they were doing nothing to maintain discipline in the classrooms. So, our fearless leaders spoke to them about helping us. The native teachers also informed our leaders that their students were all far beyond anything that we could teach them. (This said when we could understand maybe 2% of the kids’ spoken English). Much drama ensued behind the scenes. We also learned that these kids have had lots of training in reading and writing, but have trouble understanding and emulating a native English speaker’s speech. We stepped up our critiques and became very exactingwith them, and suddenly, more respect came and we were able to actually have fun with our students. Monday also involved a mid-day classroom switch that none of us were told about. Oh, yeah, that was fun. Apparently, we don’t merit a schedule with room #s. Our schedule says “8:30, 5th grade”, etc. Running up and down stairs in 1Million % humidity and 99 degree weather…not very fun!!

Tuesday was interesting, and much more enjoyable–we worked on Money and Numbers, and the kids LOVED the fake money we brought in to show them. We also made sure we spoke in a normal, conversational tone with the more advanced kids, and that was a bit of a shock for them. But hey, better here at summer camp than over in America! :) The first half of Tuesday was devoted to opening ceremonies for summer camp. We were all bused to a neighboring campus, and waiting in the VERY hot sun for close to an hour. The poor kids had no water to drink, and almost no shade. They still behaved really well. Poor babies. There were a few speeches made in English, and then we all signed our names on a giant, house-sized banner touting the ESL4ASIA summer camp. Good times. :)

One fun note: the background music while all 700 students and teachers was upbeat, fun, and had English lyrics. We heard “Welcome to Hotel CA”, and then another techno sounding song came on. Keep in mind that all of our kids are age 10 and under (with a smattering of 12 year olds). The introduction faded and the singer began belting out, through 4 huge speakers at a very formal ceremony: “picturing you on me, in my fantasy. ohhh, oooo, ohhh, whoa”…ETC, ETC!!!! I actually cried from laughing so hard.

Another fun anecdote:
Overheard during conversation with a 9 yr old:
Student: “My brother speaks good English. My grandmother, not so much. I live with my grandmother b.c my mother is a whore”
Teacher (visibly shocked): umm. Oh, really? What’s your favorite color?

Our entire group sounds hilarious when we converse–we’re all enunciating clearly, properly, and automatically rephrasing “Tricky” words when we speak to each other!!

Today we’re teaching body parts, so since my group is in charge of the “Songs” portion, we’re teaching “Hokey Pokey”, “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”, and “3 Cornered Hat”. The kids love when we take words out of the “Hat” song and just do gestures instead. They especially enjoy laughing at the 1 or 2 people who forget that we’re NOT saying a certain word and belt it out when everyone else is silent. LOL.

One cool technique that’s been very effective for teaching the VERY problematic “th” sound (as in mouth, Kathy, etc) has been to have kids take their index finger and hold it up to their lips. Then, we tell them to say the word, and when they get to “th”, their tongue has to touch their index finger. A bit exaggerated? Yes. An effective, visual way to demonstrate “th”? Very!

Another cool technique for “eh” vs “ah” (as in apple) (another BIG problem area) is to put the top of your hand under your chin (so if you’re using your right hand, your fingers point left). Then, you say “eh” without your hand moving. Then, you say “ah” with a huge chin movement that moves your hand visibly.

Team teaching is a lot of fun–each team of 10 is sub divided into pairs. It’s great to have a partner to deal with 1/2 of the 40 or 50 kids while you deal with the other half. It also helps in keeping the energy level up.

Sorry this post was such an info dump–I’ll try to be more focused from now on! Comment with any questions you have!

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1 Comment

Filed under china trip 2007

One response to “hilarity ensues

  1. Nick

    Hang in there Miriam, you can do it! Make sure you eat the snakes, they are pretty yummy. I don’t know about the smelly dog sauce though. Hey, when in doubt, just put ketchup in it. If I known you were going to live 3rd World style, I would of lent you my mini inflatable air mat. Gosh, you are really hacking it! Tony will surely be impressed with your survival skills. I hope your sore throat gets better, I’m pray for you.

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