Jun 2, 2012

an afternoon with the munchkins.

I'm a little rusty when it comes to 7 year olds. 

For two years I worked as a preschool aid in college, it was the highlight of my day to go to work. For three summers I worked at a summer camp with the youngest age group. It was the joy of my life to sing songs while holding little fingers in my hands. 

In my mind, I interacted best with little people and was destined to be a child's educator in some way. 

But then I moved to Chi.na and ended up a college professor. The median age of my students for the past 4 years has been in the 30's. Aside from the random tutoring job, my teaching comfort zone is now adults. Funny how life works. 

So when my old Chine.se friends, Cecilia and James texted me a few days ago asking if I could teach a class to 10 seven year olds today, I was a little nervous. But I love James and Cecilia and had no other plans and therefore no reason to not help my friends. And with all the help and love they have given me over the years (I've known them 3.5 years), I basically had to do it according to the Chin.ese guanxi system of relationship. 

They picked me up in their car today and drove me to the Zhejiang Education Bureau where a room of eager parents and kids were waiting, cameras in hand, for the foreign teacher to arrive. 

A college student usually teaches the class, but once a semester the parents are promised a foreigner teacher. I got to play the part today. Cecilia is 9 months preggers, so she sat while I pretended I knew what I was doing. 

I didn't. I sweat profusely. The kids wiggled in their seats. 

The teachers tried to coach me. But it was basically a train wreck for 70 minutes. But it ended, I was paid 20 bucks, and then they drove me home. Cecilia tried to comfort me when I told her how much I sucked, and she said, "You just don't know what they know. You will be much better next time." Which is Chine.se for, "Ya, you sucked." Ha. Oh well. I had no curriculum or idea what these kids know, so I can't blame myself too much. 

I did do one thing right. They learned one of my favorite songs from my preschool days. Modified to fit the religion-free nature of the Chi.nese classroom. 

To the tune of frere jacque

I am special
I am special
Don't you see? 
Don't you see? 
Someone very special
Someone very special
I (God made) (am) me.
I (God made) (am) me.

They liked it. Phew. 

The kids were so cute and smart. They had wonderful English names: Frog, Fish, Angel, Lucy, Grace, Ann, etc. These English learning centers are popping up everywhere because of the demand of learning English. People are willing to sacrifice a lot (and shell out a lot of dough) for their kids to be early English learners. Ch.ina lags behind other developing nations in English fluency and this generation of parents is trying to change that. 

(Confession: Sometimes I feel guilty that my first language is English. I never had to go through the pressure of learning the international language. It's not fair.)

performing, "Row Your Boat."

The cute munchkins, their regular teachers, and the foreign guest weirdo...

my secret weapon with kids: bright clothes/big jewelry/flower in hair

Cecilia is due in 21 days! I can't wait to find out if it is a boy or girl because I get to give the English name! Exciting. (Finding the sex before birth is illegal in Ch.ina because of preference for males and the one-child policy).

What do you guess? I'm thinking...boy. 

Cecilia and James are two of the coolest, easy-going Chi.nese people I have ever known. They really are awesome. Can't wait for their baby! I'll never forget when James told me they were preggers. I was walking home from the gym last year and saw James in the window of a noodle shop on his lunch break. He waved me into the restaurant and shared the news. It was such a fun moment. I was still in the early stages of weight loss and was embarrassed to be seen in spandex, but when he told me the news I forgot all about it and squeeled with him!

there's a dragon in there! 

I hope I didn't embarrass them too much with my rusty kid skills. Anywho, we all had a good afternoon together and it was great to catch up. I haven't seen them in several months (life is so busy).

I know that I will always cherish these years in Ch.ina. And while often I ask God, "Why?" I will be very grateful for the long-termness of my life here because of the gift of walking through life with people. I'm glad I could fill the need for a teacher for my friends (even if I sucked) and that I get to share the joy of the birth of their one child. Exciting times. (and they get a dragon baby! :) )

I'm off to go make friends with some 7 year olds. I need my mojo back!

walk slow. xoxo. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am obsessed with that song. I just might sing it to myself every morning while I'm getting ready. xox, ellie b