Archives for category: zombielace

Teaching continues to be a series of satisfying successes outnumbered by failures, and most of them surprises.

My strengths seem to be and my satisfactions continue to come from teaching the young children. I’d like to share one little easy, successful thing I did with any other beginning EFL pre-k teachers who like me, often flounder with how to entertain and instruct the little ones. Again and again, it always seems to be the simplest things that are the most effective. This week, I focused on “Apple — a, Banana– b, Cookie– c”…. and without any real intention behind it, threw in “all done!” to supplement the whole eating theme. Much to my surprise, “all done” turned out to be the catchiest part! Here’s how I did it:

all doneall done

It was SUPER easy to make these little flippable pages, which were given rave reviews by my 3 year olds. I would have a child come up and “eat ____” then open the page saying, “all done!” at which they would all laugh their butts off. Even though it wasn’t my target vocabulary, “all done” became the phrase of the week, and much to my glowing pride I heard them using it during playtime with each other and to the other teachers. Since they got such a kick out of it, it was a piece of cake to provide them with their own flip book thingy.
all done
They colored it, folded it (with some assistance) and got a lot of entertainment out of showing them off and shouting “all done!” Also, the coloring activity was good because I was able to apply “all done” to something other than food. When a child finished drawing and raised his or her hand, I could say “all done?” I guess I’m pretty lucky that I can draw a little bit because they don’t provide a lot of teaching aids. If you can’t draw and you want to try this, I’m sure there’s plenty of clip art and stuff online that you can use!

With my slightly older, more advanced kindergartners, we made our own books for the last two days. This was both a success and a failure. Day one was a complete success, and here are some pictures of my class operating like an adorable, well-oiled machine:
book making (thanks for the materials, mom!)
book making (thanks for the materials, mom!)
book making (thanks for the materials, mom!)
book making (thanks for the materials, mom!)
book making (thanks for the materials, mom!)
The success was that they understood the book and enjoyed making it and “reading” it with me. The failure (completely on my part, obviously), was that on day 2, a lot of kids were missing their unfinished books I was planning to use the period by working on. It was a complete idiotic oversight on my part not to make sure I collected ALL of the books the day before, because turns out a lot of kids took them home and left them or just plain misplaced them. Also, I didn’t write names on the unfinished ones (it can get tricky with the kids without English names so sometimes I’m too lazy–big mistake this time!) and they had a hard time recognizing their own work. Luckily I had brought some other picture books, so while people with work left did that, we had a little reading corner to keep everyone else busy. It was…… probably the worst lesson I’ve done with them, but we survived.

They are my favorite class to teach and the ones who have me considering kindergarten teaching (particularly Montessori) as a profession. I have so many fun ideas dreamed up for them already that I couldn’t wait to try. So here’s something upsetting I found out today and a cultural clash between my values and the Chinese education system. Starting tomorrow, I have to start preparing them for an oral English exam they have in December and can only teach them words and sentences out of this one particular book. They’re 5 years old for goodness sakes, and they have to take an exam??? And to top it all off, the sentences are SO stupid, they make my skin crawl and I can’t stand that I have to teach them. I kid you not: “Mr. Black is a good man. Most men like football. Mrs. Black is a nice woman. Most women like nice things.” WHATTT???? I was warned about having to suck up certain disparities in modern values and whatnot in teaching, and this is pretty minor compared to some “behind” seeming practices at other schools (paddling is still a common form of discipline)…. I feel weird making kids recite crazy gendered statements like this that my hippie dippie nurturing side rebels against, but I’m here to do the job they ask and pay me for, so all I can do is just teach the ridiculous sentences.

I also taught my really bad third graders today. Here’s what I wore and here’s the face I was making by the time it was over:
if i go to hell when i die....

I don’t have any other pictures from that class because I’m not sure these kids would show up in mirrors or on film. I’m joking about it, but I actually cried over it today. I haven’t seen them in a few weeks, and last time it was sheer pandamonium in the classroom and I kind of gave up and let them go Lord of the Flies on my ass. So this meeting, I was determined to bring them back to the light of civilization! I read up on classroom management in some great teaching manuals my mom gave me (First Days of School by Wong, Tools for Teaching by Jones), where as the first title suggests, they underscore the importance of establishing a management system on the FIRST DAY….oops….

Despite this, armed with my brilliant new skills and a newfound confidence, I brought a Chinese teacher in to translate for me, and the children were all big penitent eyes and angelic arms folded on desks while they received my translated finger-wagging and helped suggest rules for the entire class and learned and recited the word “RESPECT” with me. As soon as the Chinese teacher was gone, though, they were back to their antics. I wrestled with it for awhile before bringing ANOTHER teacher in to help. This time, we went over consequences and rewards and I made class teams. Again they transformed into Jeckylls moments after the Chinese teacher was gone. By this time, class was practically over (yes, this all took 45 minutes), and without having taught a single thing from my super fun lesson plan, I left in a storm of grabby hands chorusing “sweets, sweets, sweets”…. It was a nightmare. It’s easy to joke about the kids being evil but I know it’s not really them that’re the problem. I am so frustrated with myself. I knew I was screwing up the techniques from the manuals even as I was doing it. Like an out of body experience, I watched myself do all the wrong things and botch the whole experiment. Like good little cannibals, Grade 3 Class 2 skewered me and ate me alive.

I would love to run into MY third grade teacher, Ms. Ernst, again. I was a difficult, stubborn, mischievous third grader myself, and I really want to shake her hand. Actually, I want to grovel at her feet, beg her forgiveness and make her swear to be my sensei and tell me all the ancient magic and mind-control meditation she did to maintain her sanity and actually teach imps like myself. I’m pretty sure she can probably levitate, walk on coals, and be consumed by fire without a burn; I only have to do this once a week and my knees already shake at the idea, but she had to face us every day!! Amazing woman.


I can’t believe how much people work here sometimes, including kids. I’m lucky in my schedule in that I have every weekend off, but most people have every other weekend off. I found out that even some of my little babies 1-2 years old spend the night at the school in dormitories all week. One years old! And they only see their parents on the weekends! I got a taste of this grueling schedule this week, when we had to make up for the Mid-Autumn festival days over the weekend. This means I was working straight from Friday to Thursday, an exhausting trial for me and the norm for most of the other teachers here. Being the big clothes dork that I am, sometimes getting dressed in the mornings was the only way I could get pumped about the day! Here’s my super long week in outfit form.


Saturday: work shirt



Tuesday: big shirt day

equestrian print wednesday

Thursday is robin egg blue day

We had two blessed days off in the middle of the week to celebrate the Moon Cake Festival (or Mid-Autumn festival). Ironically, waking up that morning I found it was the first day that felt like fall! Silly me, though, I didn’t really pack many warm clothes from home, so had to be creative with garb. Mostly hung around the house then went on a nice evening bike ride (quickly becoming my favorite pastime)
Wednesday: mid autumn festival outfit
Wednesday: Mid autumn festival
(Sweater: Energy ace!
Silk blouse: Vintage, from my aunt
Scarf: Vintage, also from my aunt
Thigh highs and flats: Target
Bag: thrifted
Glasses: Street market… people like to wear fake glasses here and I kind of fell in love with the stupid trend! Also I think I love them because they remind me of Cortney <3)
A place near my house

That silly diva the moon couldn’t even come out for her own holiday, or maybe the weather was too suddenly brisk for her. However, she did make a glorious appearance the next night. My friend and I rode out to the graveyard to get a good spook and a good vantage of the city.
venturing into the graveyard at night!
View from the graveyard

Preceding the graveyard, here’s the rest of that day off in picture form:

1. Took the bus to town
bus to suzhou

2. Ate a snack from a bakery
a little bakery treat

3. Walked around drooling over window displays
Window shopping in suzhou

4. Had a gingerale at the Bookworm
had some gingerale

5. Got home in time to see my school looking very dashing in the dusk light from the busstop
my school in the background

6. Ate at a little hole-in-the-wall nearby.
delicious hole in the wall

Bla bla bla boring stuff about clothes bla bla bla…. What I wore to work during the week. My outfits have to cover my tattoos and be practical for being pulled on by lots of grabby little hands. This is the first week it’s been cooling off, too, so it was nice to break out a few warmer items to put in the mix!

Super old blouse I have had forever.
Thrifted 70s prairie skirt.
Thrifted flats.

Violet Foklore etsy top
Homemade skirt
Yangshuo street market shoes

Top: thrifted
Skirt: Vintage Dickies, thrifted
Plaid thigh-highs:???
Flats: Target

Pencil skirt: target
Green blouse: target
Sweater: From old job
Socks: Betsey Johnson
Shoes: Thrifted

Blouse: love culture
Leggings: ghetto fabulous store in Underground Atlanta
Flats: Target

In China, there is a day like Valentine’s day or Memorial day set aside just for teachers. Since we don’t have it in the West, I was quite confused when my kindergartners ran up to me shoving flowers in my arms babbling about “cake” later… Then I was educated about the wonderful holiday known as Teacher’s Day!

teacher's day

Teacher's day outfit

It’s weird feeling like a grownup, but being celebrated as a teacher definitely had that effect. To be quite honest, I feel like an impostor! It’s only a matter of time til they figure out my clever deception. Hey, she’s not a mature adult!!

Got to the airport. Wearing my comfortable batwing blouse and biker shorts, with some slightly less comfortable nude heels. And of course, you can’t travel to China without a string of pearls.

My besties came along to see me off ❤

Had some unusual Korean food on the plane.

Best of all, I didn’t have to share my row of seats with anyone! Stretched out with my tea, complimentary paper sandals, and a book of Chinese poetry from my aunt.

So far so good! Now just have to fly to Shanghai, then from Shanghai to Guilin.