I thought teaching English would be easy. Holy Cheesestick it’s harder than trying to put a sweater on a wild panda! At least that’s how I feel after the recent stint at the J Plus English school and the tutoring lessons I’ve done here in Xi’an. Kids are like monsters on little legs!
Granted, I’ve never taught this age group before, but how hard can it be? I thought. A few weeks ago I answered the plea of a desperate friend in need of a substitute teacher, he couldn’t make it to class that weekend due to the flooding in his town. They would pay me 100 kuai an hour, I would teach classes of 4 to 7 year-old kids for a few hours each day. Cake walk, I thought.
Nothing went as planned. I had a whole lesson in mind when I walked in to the classroom, and managed to get through about 10 minutes of it before the classroom became a circus of clowning kids vying for attention. First, it was questions after questions of, Are you Chinese? Why are you from the U.S. when you look like you’re Chinese? To … “Look at me teacher look what I can do”! Luckily, the experienced assistants knew what they were doing and were there to dig me out of the hole before things got out of hand. I would be strung up like Gulliver and his little people otherwise.
I reviewed their ABC’s by using The Body Language Alphabet Dance, imitating each letter with my arms and legs. I taught them how to sing the Itsy-Bitsy-Spider Went Up the Water Sprout song. I had them pick their favorite colors from the box of crayons I brought, drew pictures of bears and cars and houses, played hot potato while counting up, played Hangman with the older classes, and read them the story of Sleeping Beauty and Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. We must’ve done a million things. I swear Einstein’s theory of relative kicked into full gear, as the speed at which time passes was proportional to the hyperactivity of the kids. I was drained by the end of the first class.
I did enjoy reading the stories to them as they gathered around huddled on the cushioned mat floor. You don’t get the same enraptured attentiveness from your adult friends. They were all wondering why the princess was so stupid she let an ugly old hag pricked her with a spinning wheel.
They also taught me this joke:
What kind of “ma” (horse) has only two legs?
Answer: ObaMA! Ahahahahaa!
At the end of the second day, a little girl and her mom came up to me to say their goodbyes. The girl tugged at her mom’s dress, she had something to tell me but she was too shy so she was making her mom do it. The mom said, “She wanted to ask if you will come back next week to teach the class.” I told them I didn’t know, it depends on if the school still needed me or not. Then the little girl said something quietly to her mom. The Mom repeated it to me, “She said she wanted you to come back because she really likes you.” And then the little girl ran away. That was so sweet, but it broke my heart knowing that I would probably not be back anytime soon.