19/2/16 - 22/2/16 18 °C
"How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard."
– Winnie the Pooh
As I sit here typing and eating peanut butter, it has now been 5 days since I last stepped foot in the bustling city of Beijing. I arrived in Dongguan, China in the Villas Royal Foreign Language School after a 25-hour train ride and 1-hour bus ride with my 5 other teachers-in-arms last Friday.
The first day was just us settling down and unpacking. I was a little disappointed as on the second day at 8am we were already at work and meeting important members of staff. The third day was also very casual with us showing our faces around campus as parents came to drop off their children or to tour the campus. Today started as a normal day, with all of us prepared to teach, when we got word that today was just a testing day. So instead of teaching the 3 classes I was supposed to today, I prepared lesson topics and reviewed movies and prepare to teach my 5 classes tomorrow.
My classes are relatively simple. I will be teaching around 10-12 hours of my own 1st and 2nd-grade classes plus an additional VIP class or two. VIP classes here are for children who have the highest English-language-levels in their classes. I am very excited about the curriculum here, as they are a movie based learning environment. This means that they use songs, movies, and video clips to enhance learning and aid in areas of pronunciation and natural speech. Since my colleagues and I are in the second semester, we have to teach the children things they didn’t learn in the previous semester, which might prove to be difficult to target. With the help of last semester’s notes and lesson plans, I am hoping to figure out what they know by the end of the first or second week so that I will have my lessons prepared and they will get jumpstarted into learning new words.
The accommodations I share with my roommate are spacious and surprising. I didn’t expect to be basically in the lap of luxury here. The area surrounding our two-bedroom apartment is clean and green! We live in a gated community complete with its own country club and lake area. The only thing I would love to have is a heater, an oven, and a separate shower so we don’t wash next to the toilet and make our bathroom a Sea World Splash Zone.
In addition to such nice living spaces and environment, nearly every staff member – guards and teachers alike – will smile and say “hello!” when you pass by. Tom, the head of the English department, made what was expected of us in the classroom rather clear the first day and always talks about the school with pride and enthusiasm. This is refreshing, especially since I have been worried about my placement school since Day 1. Billy, our intern manager at Villas Royal, is beyond helpful. He asks about our wellbeing each day and is always available to be contacted through WeChat. He goes above and beyond what he has to do.
Before I end it with you, the beloved reader, thinking that everything is lollipops and rainbows I need to lay down some honest words. Over the past month or so, I have never felt so emotionally and physically drained in a very long time. I miss drawing on my tablet and being able to gain creative inspiration from watching animations all night. I crave the company of my family, friends, professors and pets back home. I miss being in a place I could always find a friendly face in. I know I rag a lot about my home state of Texas, but there really are some extraordinary people with such generous and honest countenances there that I have yet to find anywhere else in all the places I’ve been to.
As I start to realise I miss all the small things, I also miss not having any real responsibilities. I went from being a live-at-home community college art major to an English teacher in China. I now have the weight of one of the top 3 rated schools in Dongguan on my shoulders, expecting me to get my 9 classes of 1st and 2nd graders to an acceptable English level for their next year of schooling. I have to live with not being able to talk to my friends and family on a regular basis due to our 14-hour time difference, some I can’t talk to for weeks at a time because of how busy we both are. I have to live with not being there for them in the most important stages of our lives like high school and community college graduation. I won’t get to celebrate with them in-person. With all of these thoughts suffocating me, I also have to remember that should I quit this program for any reason, not only have I let my school, my students, and my program down – I will let myself down.
My goal is to upload my teaching diaries, at least weekly, and picture blogs when I get the time (and pictures!). So for now, thank you for reading, and see you next time!