Thursday, March 29, 2012

I am become death the destroyer of flies

For those among you who have no lived in a rural area where trash is disposed of in giant piles that are then burned, poop rests in troughs and slowly becomes a writhing mass of maggots, and livestock droppings litter the landscape, you have no idea how prolific and terrifying swarms of flies can become. They buzz around a lot normally, and there are always about ten or so that will sneak into my room over the course of the day, and having them hover around during meals become commonplace.

Today, in my haste to grab flags from my room for flag football, I made the rookie mistake of not completely closing my door, and the enemy took advantage of that thirty second lapse. When I returned to my room after football and dinner, things were dire. But, with the experience that I'd gained over the past few weeks, I wielded my blue flyswatter in defense of my room (and all that is good and just). The battle raged on and on, but after chasing down the last crafty survivors, I swept up all the corpses that hadn't fallen behind my desk, and took stock of the enemy strength. Sixty two dead flies. (Yes, I counted). Which means that the total number of dead was much higher. Victory was sweet.

tl;dr I just killed sixty plus flies, and I'll be picking flies out of the places they fell for a long time.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

School Inspections

The school is getting inspected tomorrow, which means that every student spent the entire day cleaning their dorms, the campus, classrooms, and the bathrooms. They're normally responsible for cleaning everything anyways, but whenever there are education bureau officials swinging by, extra effort is made to make the school look immaculate. Over at the elementary school, in preparation for a similar inspection, about an entire week was dedicated to this cleaning process, and artwork was specially made by the students to hang on the walls. It's impressive how much effort goes into this cleaning, and right now my school is looking awesome.

Completely unrelated, but there's a speech contest happening on 4-20, so I'm pretty excited that one of the kids from my class is going to get the chance to show off their awesome English speaking ability and hopefully do well in the competition. I'm still not entirely clear on what the contest entails because all the instructions are in rather formal Chinese, and I've decided that rather than slogging through it I'm just going to ask a local teacher what I'm supposed to do.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Quick Update

Flag football has been awesome--we've tossed it around two times with groups of students, and they're getting into it. We'll have our first legit practice this Sunday, and I'll definitely have pictures to post up.

Class has been fine. There's a ton of content that these kids are responsible for, which means that some kids are definitely struggling, but I think it's going as well as can be expected given the circumstances.

In other good news, I'm hopefully going to help design part of the curriculum for a fun summer camp that a second year TFC fellow is putting together. It sounds awesome, so I'm really excited about that.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

High School Kids and Saint Paddy's Day

So, we had a bunch of high school kids here, and it was cool, but strange seeing so many foreigners that I didn't know walking about town. I was in the supermarket while the group walked by, and the supermarket ladies thought it was the most fascinating thing ever. (To be fair, not much happens around here) It was great having a few kids come to my class. My students were really shy, but it was cool having them do self introductions that my students could understand. They were really excited to realize that  I hadn't been tricking them this entire time and that they could actually speak a little bit of English and understand what was happening. Earlier in the day we had done some ice breaking activities with the high schoolers and groups of students from all the TFC classes, and that was fun (especially for those of us who got to watch them try to build towers out of newspaper, mime things like going to the restroom and not having toilet paper, and doing the human know) and I think all the students (local and foreign) enjoyed it.

My favorite part of the trip, however, was definitely watching some of these high school girls confront the horrors of the restroom in nicest restaurant in town (which is really pretty comparatively clean). Ladies, if you somehow end up finding this blog post, I'm sorry, but I lost it when one of you walked out of the restroom with tears in your eyes. (I should really work on being a nicer person)

Also! St Paddy's went well! We had a bonfire with extra papers that had accumulated in our rooms, and roasted marshmallows (one of our amazing second year fellows brought them back from Beijing) and made s'mores. It was great to spend time with everyone--it's rare for all of our local TFCers to get together, so it's always a good time when it happens.

Now  I just need to crank out a ton of lesson plans, worksheets, and other stuff so I'll be ready for class tonight.....

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Hello People!


So, for the past two days power has been pretty intermittent, which is not really a big deal, but it definitely cut into my plans to write up a nice blog.

Class continues to go well, although several of the worst students in the class seem to have given up on school completely. Another kid in my class (one of my favorites) isn't coming to school anymore because he'd been stealing a whole ton of stuff from other students. Still, having all the students in class return from New Years break is definitely a positive thing, and I just need to spend more time creating a radically different curriculum for those students who are at the bottom of my class and aren't experiencing that much success.

Although many of the students at the very bottom of my class have given up, there's one kid who hasn't, and is working really hard and it's freaking awesome. he seems to have some sort of speech impediment (in Chinese as well as in English) but he's been coming to extra review sessions, and is spending a lot more time on his homework than he did last semester. He's a great kid, and seeing him work hard makes me want to do a better job for those kids that need a slower and less involved curriculum to find success.

And, St Paddy's day is coming! In what is apparently a regional TFC tradition, we're going to use all the extra papers that all of us have all over our rooms (and trust me, there's a ton) to build an epic bonfire. We will then sit around and be merry.

Also! This Friday (tomorrow) there are a group of high-schoolers who (through a connection with TFC) are coming to visit our school. We get to do activities with them and some of our students, and then they're going to come and observe my class, which should be interesting. I'm going to try and use them to have an "interview the foreign person!" activity, which hopefully won't go too horribly wrong.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Back in the Swing of Things

I feel like I'm readjusted to teaching, and living at school, and things have been going well. While I might not be a good teacher yet, I'm a ton better than I was last semester, and I feel like classes are going more smoothly. As is normal, I have a ton of grading and worksheet making to do, but I've still had enough time to hang out with friends, and we're planning on playing some flag football this weekend (partially to rediscover how to throw a football and all that, but mostly just because it's gonna be lots of fun). 

This semester I've decided that rather than only tutoring the weakest kids in my class, I'm going to make every single kid in my class meet with me once a week so I can make sure they're not going off in the wrong direction, and just to give them a chance for some practice by themselves. During meals, I have 6-7 kids come and have little practice sessions. Last night was the group with the strongest (and hardest working) kids in my class, and it was awesome. These kids tend not to get much attention in my class because they quickly master the material, and are paying attention, so it was great to get some time to practice with them, and it was awesome how much English they've got down. It's made my entire week a lot better. 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

I'm a football coach!!

I just got a package full of all the flag football materials that I'll be using to try and make a flag football team here at my school. By far the people who are most excited by this development are other fellows up here, although the kids do seem interested. It'll be fun to see how it goes, especially given my lack of football knowledge. If it goes well, we might be able to get an NFL player out here, and that would be the coolest thing ever! Imagine a three hundred pound, muscled, NFL player walking around the town where Tim and I are the tallest people, and I'm one of the heaviest people around for miles.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

I've Made it Through the First Week! (again)

I've finally made it back after a long time away, and just finished up the first week. It's been pretty busy with preparing stuff for the semester, and just trying to get everything running smoothly in class, but it's been good. At the end of last semester, I was a little burned out on teaching, but I got pumped about it again over break, and now I'm coming back to school to realize that my kids didn't spend the entire vacation getting pumped about learning.... I was pleasantly surprised, however, by how much they remembered from first semester. We just got done with review, so I'm excited to start actually teaching new material next week.

Things I came back to:
1. a messy room (I was somehow expecting it to get clean over such luck)
2. two packages from my family! my bookshelf is now full of chocolate, green chili, coffee, and other delectable treats!
3. the smell of burning trash
4. a letter from one of my cousins! it was awesome!
5. my lovely squat toilet   (I actually missed squatting while on vacation. having a throne is definitely better when you've got food poisoning, but on a day to day basis I'm a fan of a nice squatter)