A short hop, skip and a jump from the flat/apartment, is a smallish local market, nestled along one stretch of an intersection. Strolling up and down its length was my first experience of such a market in Shanghai. The mission was simple, yet dangerous … gather food for dinner! (Dun dun dun! Insert film clichés here).
The open air and alive fish section caught me a little off guard. Sure I’ve seen pet shops and fish markets, but nothing quite like this. In each bubbling basin lay an array of different sea food, all alive and kicking. A good few making a mad dash for freedom during my short visit alone. The stall itself was sharply decorated by one gut ridden chopping board, on which the seller executed and gutted his goods there and then. Fortunately me and my Aunt purchased a number of shrimp, which didn’t require such special treatment. But don’t get me wrong, I’m not judging the practice, I’m merely describing how this new and interesting experience unraveled before me. Take for instance the carrying of the purchased shrimp. My Aunt handed me the bag they were contained in, I think their jumping and kicking freaked her out a little, I know it freaked me out a little, but I wasn’t about to let that show.
Moving on through the market came the less alive produce, vegetables. This part of the market was altogether a little less remarkable. Not too dissimilar from market days back in England, just a large selection of fresh lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers etc. One clear contrast however, was the lack of catchy slogans and deals bombarding the ears. At least not in the manner I am used to. There is every chance the vendors were advertising such deals, but I couldn’t understand them if they were. No £1 fish songs or get your potatoes 50p for a pound.
But alas, market day was a good day, a window into the everyday lives of some of the locals. It’s funny how some aspects of life seem so universal, don’t you think?
So, the next step. The first week at my new school, the school I’ll be teaching at for the next year. My first impression were mixed, the school occupies two floors, the first and second (not the ground), of a building which also hosts a hotel. A little hidden, but not impossible to find. The other teachers and staff have been nothing but kind and hospitable, showing me the ropes and where to find what I need to find.
The content of the week itself was a little disorganized, although I’m not sure the severity of the word is justified; muddled perhaps. I wasn’t always sure if I was supposed to be teaching, and once I was thrown into a lesson a few minutes before it started. Which turned out to be a little less daunting than I had imagined it would be. If you have classroom management sorted, it seems, the pauses between activities are often overlooked or forgiven by the kids. The breathing room was almost definitely a necessity.
I ended up teaching more than I was promised. But that’s certainly not a bad thing, just a little more experience to calm the nerves. On the topic of nerves, the most I have experienced so far in my new role definitely gravitated around the Open House I took. For anyone wondering, in this case an Open House is a demonstration lesson, in which you are expected to perform a routine to children and their parents, in the hope they’ll sign up to the curriculum. Mine went fairly well, it was perhaps a little rushed, but all the content was covered and the kids had a good time. In the end, all you need to do is play the fool a little, if the kids are laughing and the parents are laughing, well … full steam ahead. A little more practice and it’ll all be under my belt.
To the next week then, I’ll be taking a few classes and shadowing the man I’ll be replacing. From then on out the classes will be mine. A prospect that scares me less and less as I progress.
To the next week then.
That’s it, all done, no more training; at least not for the time being. Shortly I will be heading to my new school to begin sculpting the minds of my students.
The last week has flown by. After dipping my toe in (running half a lesson). I took the plunge, planning and presenting every lesson I could before my time ran out with my trainer. It’s fair to say I enjoyed every minute of it, even the classes that were a little trickier to manage. What really struck me was just how quickly a hour and a half lesson can pass. It’s truely daunting at first, imagining how you’ll fill the time. But after presenting a few vocab words, playing a game or two and some concept checks, you find yourself asking just where has the time gone?
A few more observations I’ve made are as follows:
Projecting confidence is key, even if you feel the weight of those crushing nerves looming over you. Don’t let them smell your fear! If these kids sense a whisper of a weakness they’ll walk all over you! Althought it’s not all as dramatic as it sounds. There is definitely a sense of respect for teachers, but at the end of the day you are dealing with kids, who just want to have fun after a long day at school.
The pressure these kids face is immense, especially when compared to what I experienced back home. Sure my parents wanted and still want me to do well. But that pales in comparison to the expectations these kids face. In an environment in which passing a test with the score of 99/100 isn’t enough, the pressure can manifest itself in all kinds of ways. Not just for the kids, but you can certainly feel it yourself if you let it creep in.
Fun is vital if you want to keep the kids engaged, especially during the less interesting activities like drills and phonics practice, in which you can really see the enthusiasm drain from the kids. And fun is just one of the three corner stones of teaching.
The second is classroom management, simple enough once you’ve developed a system. And of course teaching the material itself. There’s no point being a teacher if you don’t impart any kind of knowledge!
So there it is, an unedited and unplanned rambling of what training taught me.