I'm not where I want to be yet, so I have to keep reminding myself to be firm, clear, and consistent. If I have to tell my class to be quiet 3 times, I take a class point away. If I catch individuals, I card them and they have to come see me after class. I'm now creating a poster so my classes can see how well they are doing relative to each other. Hopefully, the competitive drive will boost classroom behavior. And stronger lesson plans. I think at the beginning of the week, I made it too hard or too hard to understand. Then I made it too easy so students found themselves with free time to goof off when they were done or bored. I need everyone engaged all the time. I'm not giving up until I've shown these kids that I deserve a quiet classroom like their other teachers. I'm worried that students are hitting each other when my back is turned, and when other students tell on them, I struggle to penalize them because I didn't actually see what happened so I usually wind up saying "I need you both to work and keep your hands to yourself or I will be back".
Maybe I'm really not trying hard enough. I don't know, that's sometimes the impression I get talking to others: that I'm too kind when I need to slam things on their desks and let them know they are in trouble. I do want them to know they are in trouble and for my class to see that there are consequences, but I don't want to shame them or kill their enthusiasm either. They're not bad kids, but I need to be a better teacher.
This has probably been one of the most frustrating and one of the most rewarding weeks as I condition my students to enjoy English but behave well in class. I love it when they're excited like when we went over family members using the Simpsons and especially the reactions of all the Lisas in my classes, but dang. When your smallest class is 55 students you cannot tolerate talking. At all. Get it immediately or you'll find it growing. The last thing I need is 55-60 students distracting and disrupting each other.
Sounds that have become a part of my everyday life in Zhuzhou:
- Motorcycles honking as they ride behind me on the sidewalk
- Cars honking all the time to tell people and other cars they want to go ahead
- Enrique Iglesias's "Escape" playing at the accessories shop across the street everyday
- Some song at the Vanguard shopping center that has the words "I know that, I've gotta get out of here" that plays every time I'm there
- Firecrackers/fireworks. From early morning to late at night. While this isn't quite daily, it is regular enough that I don't run around looking for the source when it happens. Most of the time, it's off the top of building nearby but one morning I got up extra early because the light was flashing through my curtains and later walked to the stationery/convenience store behind where I live and found bits of red paper strewn everywhere.
- The school bell. Except that it's not a bell. When I was in middle school, the submarine beep meant it was time to run off to your next class. Here, it's the teachers that move from classroom to classroom and I know my work is done when I have managed to wrap up just as I hear a piano start Beethoven's "Für Elise". I have also heard a piano version of "The Ash Grove" which I think signals the end of lunch and the beginning of the nap period.
- There is also some lively tune they play for the students eye exercises along with a woman's voice going "yi, er, san, si, wu, liu, qi, ba". The students have 5 minutes for these eye exercises and they do them twice a day, though since my earliest class is at 10:25 I've only heard it before my 16:00 class.
- "Teacher! Class is ended!" if I continue speaking after the bell.
- Fast-talking store employees advertising aggressively, but with such incredible speed and clearness to their voice that it's really an art.
- The "Xiao Ping Guo". Because it's viral and everywhere. Whether it's a street food stand, middle-aged women dancing out in a square in a large group, my students during their music or dance class, a dance competition, or a nearby KTV, "Xiao Ping Guo" by the Chopstick Brothers has also come to take its place in my daily life
- The incredible enunciation and rhythm produced by the other English teachers' classrooms. I often hear one teacher come in with his mic and very calmly and clearly recite the vocabulary the students need and have them chorally repeat it. It's amazing. It's completely the opposite of my classroom where I often feel choral repetition is the only time I have for getting all my students to focus and participate. But to keep them engaged I'm going to have introduce something a little tougher or include a few more words.
I imagine this is only the beginning to a growing list of noises. Forget China's smells, it's the sounds that seem to be making an impression on me.
I have a ways to go, but I've already been in Hunan for over a month. My vocabulary grows with every trip to the grocery store and with the assistance of my energetic, bright, loveable, but often mischievous students. I hope to grow as a teacher and make it very clear that helping me with Chinese is only for before or after class. As their English teacher, I'm there to speak English and make sure they do too.