My little munchkins are a source of so much joy – it’s hard to imagine not waking up and seeing their bright little faces every day. We’ve been together for three months, all of us adjusting to new schedules and new people and a new environment.
We have a routine. Every day after morning exercises we help them put their little backpacks on and walk them to the classroom. We help them roll up their sleeves and they go to the bathroom, wash their hands, and then grab their water cups. I put (hot) water in their cup and greet them by name in a muppet voice. They love silly voices. “Good morning Ron” I growl at Ron and he always replies in a scruffy little voice “Good morning Rachel!”
After they eat breakfast we’ll have our English lesson. When we sing English songs we also practice different emotions, one of their other favorite things. We sing a song, “Open, Shut them” probably 50 times a day because I’ll ask them, “How should we sing it next?” and they’ll yell out “Happy! Angry! Sad! Hungry!!” I can’t get enough of it.
I have so much flexibility in what I can teach and do with my kids everyday. And with a little extra preparation I’ve figured out some fun things to do (relating to English of course!)
We learned transportation words and made paper airplanes, then flew them outside.
We studied animals and made cute little puppets.
On Thanksgiving they saw turkeys for the first time on a video I showed them (it’s not common in China!) and they decorated one to take home.
And I’ve introduced a reward system in class. I bought every kid a wallet, and then I bought some fake money. If they’re good in English class and listen and sing and repeat words and participate in games, they get one dollar. One dollar! If they’re extra good, going above and beyond, I’ll give them more. On Fridays they use this money to go shopping! I have all these cute little toys for them to choose from, each costing different prices. Fridays are so fun for all of us!
More importantly than educating them about capitalism (LOL), it’s a great motivator for them. There’s 31 of them, and that can be a little crazy sometimes. I wanted to find a way to reward the kids who were behaving very well, and also encourage all of them to speak more English. At the same time, it’s a great way to enforce consequences. If they don’t listen, I can take away a dollar. My Chinese teachers were a little worried this would be too difficult at first for 3 and 4 year olds, but now they’ve jumped on board and are a great help in utilizing this system! (And they give/take extra money during other times of the day, which I love.)
Working at the kindergarten has been great for improving my Chinese – I’ve learned more vocabulary about classroom objects, clothes, body parts, and weather. As I teach them different topics, I get the chance to hear them talk about it and get a better grasp of Chinese grammar.
- To finish something – Wan le
- He wan le ma: have you finished drinking?
- Chi wan le ma: have you finished eating?
- Head – tou
- Clothes – Yifu
- Pants – Kuzi
- Socks – Wazi (I learned this when one kid laughed and shoved her dirty socks in my face, saying “chou wazi!” – “chou” means smelly)
This also means I’ve picked up Chinese “baby talk” When one of my kids has a snotty nose they’ll say “Laoshi, you bi ti!” which means, well, snotty nose. Sometimes I run fast enough to grab a tissue, sometimes I end up being the tissue. And when they say “Laoshi Rachel, wo yao niao niao” this means they have to go to the bathroom. (Niao niao is like our baby talk for pee.) I mentioned this to my Chinese friend Emily and she said, “Rachel you sound like a Chinese child, please stop.” Needless to say, I’ve started Chinese lessons with a real teacher and maybe I’ll learn some more besides baby talk.
One of my students Richard came up to me and showed me his cute little Woody shirt. He was so excited and said “Laoshi, ni kan! Wo de yifu mei tou!” (Teacher look! My shirt has no head!” Get it – because Woody has no head? My heart fell all over the floor.
It’s challenging being in a kindergarten – it’s very different from my previous work environment where I was very independent in my lessons. At the kindergarten everything is interconnected, as it should be. We all depend on one another to make sure the children are learning in a happy and safe environment. And sometimes there are variations in how Chinese and Foreign teachers see things and get things done. And that’s okay. I’ve learned so much about better communication this past month, and I’ve had to challenge myself to grow as a kindergarten English teacher, too.
I love seeing these little precious faces – everyday they do something new or hilarious or heart-meltingly cute. I feel so lucky I get to spend time with them, growing and learning together.
I’ll leave you with a classic Chinese English sentiment: Happy everyday, and drink some hot water!
Laoshi Ruiqiu, Chinese Kindergarten Teacher/Human Tissue