Laoshi (laow-shur) means “teacher”…. my kids alternate between the English and the Chinese when calling me, but it’s a word that makes me perk my ears as much as my own name these days. “Teacher, teacher! Laoshi, laoshi!” Often they say “Katie Teacher” or “Miss Katie” (that one’s cute). Do I actually feel like a teacher yet? Only sometimes.

I have a LOT of weaknesses that often make me feel embarrassed in front of the Chinese teachers (in all but my 3rd grade, the regular Chinese teachers are there to help or watch me flounder, whichever they feel like!). Mostly in classroom management and general child-wrangling. Yesterday I witnessed my preschool teacher, Keke, maintain the interest and enthusiasm of 5 three year olds with counting blocks in Chinese where minutes prior I had been unable to keep them in their seats for English counting games. She is experienced and talented, and I truly respect and envy her abilities. Her English is limited but she is the sweetest person and I’ve already learned so much from her. Like the fact that children that age can’t sit still for long and need lessons that involve movement. This led me to one of my extremely successful counting tricks! For any other teachers or interested parties, I’ll share:

It’s a rhyme I made up that goes like this “Five little fingers on my hand. Oh! Here comes the FINGER EATING MAN!!” I hold up 5 fingers on one hand, and with the other hand I “eat” one of my fingers and make it disappear. Then we count the surviving fingers “One, two, three, four. Four little fingers on my hand. OH! Here comes the FINGER EATING MAN!”… etc… The kids do it with their hands, count their fingers, and are hilariously captivated! They sit still for that WAYYY better than watching you point at a white board or a piece of paper.

When they are going crazy, I try to roll with it. Instead of forcing them to sit in their seats, I use whatever it is that’s distracting them as an excuse to use English. They want to run laps around the chairs? Fine, every time they pass me, we high five and yell “One! Two! Three!” Also, seeing “how many times can you spin?” was fun. Spin them in place like they’re about to go after a pinata, when they get to the target number (five in my case) I pick them up and make them “fall” and of course they love it. Keke taught me that with kids that little, you really just have to let them learn while doing what comes natural for them.

Kindergarteners, about 5 years old, are so cute. They love to play pretend!
Playing "restaurant"
Playing "restaurant"
Here we are playing “restaurant.” That’s one of my naughty boys pretending to dump water on his customer’s head, but ya know somehow the naughty ones are my favorites in a way! He just has a lot of energy and a lot of imagination. When I get him engaged in an activity he gets really into it and he’s actually very bright.

They also love when I get involved in the pretending. They fight to “serve” me food and drink during that unit, and today when they pretended to be animals (mostly puppies), they couldn’t get enough of me taking pretend bones out of my pocket and throwing them across the room. I have to admit, I love it, too! I always loved pretending when I was little and it’s incredibly fun to have an excuse to indulge in some good ole fashioned pretend as an adult!

When things are too wild, coloring is like a natural sedative. The whole energy in the room changes when it’s time to color, and it becomes a peaceful, quiet place. Ahhhh I love coloring.

Coloring day
coloring day
This coloring day we practiced “shirt” and “dress”… they then got to choose which picture to color, the shirt or the dress. The woman in the second picture coloring in Cinderella is Keke.

Issues: The kids don’t take me seriously a lot of the time. They do things to me I never see them do with the Chinese teachers, and it’s probably because they see me as a playmate… They do what kids do: Snatch my teaching aids, hit things out of my hands, pull on my clothes, run to the board and mess up my drawings or whatever when they think I’m not looking. I’m not quite sure what to do about it. Part of my job was described to me as “just play with them” and it’s really fun when the pressure is off and we do just play, and the kids who are interested wander over to me, we practice some English without them even realizing they’re learning, then they wander away when they’re bored. And they are sweet as pie! I love it when they run up to me and give hugs and kisses and sit on my lap and hand me books (that I can’t read because they’re in Chinese but I just make it up). But I am also expected to have a class. Sometimes I manage to maintain that balance, and often I don’t, but I’m still learning.

Primary, though, is a WHOLE DIFFERENT NIGHTMARE. Primary consists of ‘gradeschool’ and I teach first through third grade. First and second grade aren’t too horrible because the Chinese teacher is present and she helps out. But third grade I am on my own with the animals. Bribes and threats have done nothing, the kids don’t take me seriously, and I think part of it is the precedent set by past oral English teachers. Oral English time is free time in their minds, and the last two days I taught them I pretty much let the class dissolve. The five or so out of the 25 kids who were interested I allowed to come up to the board and we played word scramble games and drew pictures, and frankly it was much more manageable than trying to corral 25 ADD monkeys into some kind of organized activity. I feel guilty because part of it is laziness on my part. And I know they know they are inappropriate because twice one of the boys called out a warning and they rushed into their seats when they thought a Chinese teacher was coming. I could go to the office and get a chaperone and conquer the savages with the help of a respected authority figure. But it’s hard for me to care. It’s like…. I’m not paid enough to expend this level of energy. I’d much rather use my time and free time thinking about my kindergartners and preschoolers.

Anyway, that’s my short novel about teaching so far. And it’s only been a month…. dear lord….