So we have finally started teaching. My last post was leading up to this, and this is my first week in the classroom. We got into the school, which is about a 30 minute bus ride for us each way. I am teaching Socials Studies 10, to a class of twelve Grade 11 students, English Development 10 which is basically an ESL course that leads into English 10, which has 31 students, and Communications 11 which has 23 students. We only have 43 students, and they are split into three groups: The Grade 10's, the Grade 11's who are repeating certain subjects, and the Grade 11's.
The english speaking ability of the students is lower than I expected so that presents a challenge right away, especially in the class of 31. Apparently we will be getting four ESL teachers, we just don't know when. The students are pretty typically grade 10/11 students. Disorganized, don't like taking notes, and they will talk any chance they get. Another big problem we are facing is them falling asleep in class. The Chinese school is quite a bit different than ours but we have had to give the school certain concessions. The students start at 8:30 where all 4,000 + students go outside onto the field for DPA (Daily Physical Activity.) They come back in around 8:50 and start class with us. Our blocks are 8:50-9:45, 9:50-10:45. 10:50-11:45. Then we have lunch until 1:00pm. 1:00pm - 1:55pm, 2:00pm -2:55pm and 3:00pm - 3:55pm. We have double blocks everyday so our schedule either looks like: AABCCD or ABBCDD. The order of the blocks never changes, so I get a double block prep to end the day every second day, as my prep is in D. After we are done teaching the students have PE for an hour on Monday, Tuesday, (Run by the Chinese School) or Basketball Wednesday and Thursday (Run by Keinan, and I am going to start helping him) and Friday I believe they have free time. The students have to be back in class at 7:00pm for homework time which run from 7-9pm. We had to negotiate on that as the Chinese school runs from 7-10pm. The problem we are figuring is that the students are probably not going to bed at reasonable times, and with how long of a day they have, their biggest chunk of free time is after 10pm. It is a daily battle with kids falling asleep and it doesn't seem to matter what class, because all three of us teachers are battling it (no it's not just that I'm a boring teacher.)
The first week was like any first week, it was a feeling out process. Our school laptops weren't available, the wifi wasn't connected for the first few days, then didn't reach our classrooms or office, so we couldn't do much work at school. We also didn't have textbooks in, and my projector didn't work for the first week, so I ended up having a couple of days that were pretty creative, and admittedly a couple days that were fairly lecture based and boring. Fortunately we have all of the stuff in now, so it should be a lot smoother sailing.
The other problem I am dealing with is that my sleep is still a disaster. I am going to bed at 9 or 10pm and waking up at 4:30 or 5am right now and not sleeping soundly through the night. A great sleep would be lovely right now. The beds here are also extremely hard so that doesn't help.
The first three days of the teaching week were still bloody hot (35-40 degrees, huge humidity) although it has cooled off a bit. It was pretty awful as you basically walk out of the apartment building and are instantly sweating, and I mean full out, I feel like I should be running a marathon right now for the amount of sweat pouring off of me.
One thing that has blown me away is the ability of the support staff at our school. We have Jane, Seven, Shannon, Jerry, Wesley and Eric in our area and they are absolutely amazing. They are extremely organized, and when you ask for help or something to be done, they are on it. They also help with personal stuff too which makes life so much easier. Shannon showed up at the apartment on the first day of school to help Denise and I with the buses, Seven has set up train tickets, taxis and helped us figure out the bus routes for our main points in the city. Seven also came to the gym where the three of us are going to work out to translate, read the contracts and help us get set up. We took a trip to Gulin and Yanshou (I'll talk about in my next blog post) and Eric picked us up from the airport, took us to dinner and then set up a driver for us to take us around Guilin and then set us up to get to Yanshou. We're constantly on the phone with these guys to translate for us to cab drivers, servers etc. and they are just absolutely amazing.
Jane is our main support within the school, and is referred to as the secretary/receptionist although she plays many roles in our school. She will be in the classroom helping both Denise and I at times, she does printing and photocopying for us, she helps Wesley, who is the students' homeroom teacher and really is just the force at the school to help keep things organized.
Wesley caught me off-guard because one thing about the people over here is they are not very fit. Most of them are skinny, but you realize they are not in good shape, as most of the women have arms you could snap between your pinky and ring finger, and most guys are pretty small, especially in the upper body. Most people have pretty fit looking lets as you definitely do a lot of walking while you are here. So Wesley caught me off guard because wow, he is not the usual Chinese man here. He is an inch or two shorter than I am but he is an intimidating man. He is a solid, well built man and kind of reminds you more of a soldier than a teacher, but he works extremely well with the students and is a great homeroom/homework time teacher for them.
The first week was pretty uneventful school-wise but man did we have an eventful weekend, which I will write about tomorrow because I am needing to go to sleep. I am now on Facebook/Twitter etc so send me messages, let me know how you're all doing and I will talk to you soon.