Hot Dog Delight

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The TV didn’t work in one of my classrooms today, so instead of watching The Lion King, I helped students prepare for the big Arts Festival coming up on Monday.  They wanted me to help them sing a song called “My Thankful Heart.”  I’ve never heard of this song before, so it was interesting trying to teach it to them.  Luckily one of the students had it on his mp3 player, along with a copy of the lyrics.

I played the song over and over again during class, and students chimed in during the chorus.  A select few sang the song in its entirety.  Eight girls performed a dance.  When I asked a student why only 8 girls danced, why not more, he responded, “They are the most lovely, the most beautiful.  No boys.  Just girls.”

He said the song was for teachers, parents, friends.  He said it was a good song and asked if I liked it.  I told him it was wonderful, and that I liked it a lot.

The lyrics are below, for your enjoyment.  They don’t completely make sense, but it’s China, and English translations often don’t make sense.  The singer is a Chinese woman, and the melody sounds like an old-school Chinese song.  The words are nice, my students seemed to really like it, and they are kind of adorable when they sing in unison.  They definitely melted my heart today.

I came from fortuity,

Like a grain of sad dust

Nobody seem to know my frailty

Where did I come from,

Where’s my heart going

Who is calling me, waiting for me

Heaven to earth is wide,

But it’s hard to walk through

I see the world full of

Frustrations and toil

How much love I have,

How many tears I’ll weep

Get the heaven to know

I’ll never give up

Chorus:

My thankful heart, grateful to you

Keep me company,

Let me brave to be myself

My thankful heart, grateful to fate

Blooming of fading,

I’ll still cherish them

 

 

i came from fortuity,

like a grain of sad dust

nobody seems to know my frailty

where did i come from,

where’s my heart going

who is calling me, waiting for me

heaven to earth is wide,

but it’s hard to walk through

i see the world full of

frustrations and toil

how much love i have,

how many tears i’ll weep

get the heaven to know

i’ll never give up

my thankful heart, grateful to you

keep me company,

let me brave to be myself

my thankful heart, grateful to fate

blooming of fading,

i’ll still cherish them

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Last week I had a great day.  My lessons went smoothly and my students were well-behaved, for the most part.  It made me feel proud to be a teacher.  I felt like I was on top of the world.

Then, as quickly as the day came, it soon left.  And I was greeted with an awful day.  One of the worst.  It was Monday.

Mondays are perhaps my most dreaded day of teaching.  Not only is it Monday, and I’m sad that the weekend is over, but I have what I consider my worst classes on Monday.

I start the morning with the class that wrote the apology notes.  The students have reverted back to their chatty selves.  While there are good students in the class, I am distracted by the talkers, and starting the week off with them isn’t something I look forward to.  I ran into the head teacher the other day and she asked me how her class was doing.  I told her they were quite talkative recently, and they don’t really like to listen when I talk.  She told me that the students are just excited, and they tell her that they love my class, but that she will talk to them about being good in oral English.  I felt a little awkward after she told me that, since I had just told her students that morning that even though I would be showing the rest of my classes a movie the following week, I wouldn’t be showing them a movie because most of them were too talkative, noisy, and did not listen.

Regardless, I don’t quite buy the whole being excited for oral English class excuse, which is something I get a lot.  Some of my students definitely have no interest in learning or practicing their English, and those are definitely the chatty ones.  I’m also not sure that being unable to contain excitement over learning new verbs and adjectives is really the reason why any of them can’t keep quiet for 40 minutes.  It would be easy to remove those students, the chatty ones who like to misbehave, but it’s hard to see which ones are actually talking.  There’s usually a general murmur in the class, and there are just so many students I can’t always determine which students are the perpetrators.

I did give that class a chance this week and told them that if they were all quiet for 5 minutes, I would show them the movie.  But they had to all be quiet.  If even one of them said a word, we wouldn’t watch the movie.  I said this in English and had a child translate in Chinese to make sure everyone understood.  Students were eager to start the clock.  I timed them, and after 1 minute, a student started talking and passing a note to another student.  After 1 minute.

Anyway, back to Monday’s schedule.  After the apology note class, I have a decent class.  They are fairly well-behaved so time usually passes quickly.  Then on to lunch.  After lunch, I have 2 of my worst classes, and then I end the day with a well-behaved class.

My worst classes…are the bane of my existence as a teacher.  They happen to be two of the top performing classes of the grade.  They are classes 2 and 4.  Kids in the lower-numbered classes (class 1, 2, 3, etc.) have better grades than students in the higher-numbered classes (class 20, 19, 18, etc.).  Classes are determined by test grades — math and science grades are of higher importance than English.  So while the students in class 2 and 4 may be smart when it comes to math and science, many of them could care less about learning English.  They’re quite chatty, obnoxious, bratty, and entitled.  They are accustomed to my rants and raves by this point.

I probably hit rock bottom as a teacher when I completely stopped teaching class 2 this week.  I wrote on the board, “I will listen to my teacher.  I will respect my teacher.  I will be good in class.” and I told students to write each sentence 50 times.  If students didn’t write each sentence 50 times in their notebooks, I wouldn’t let them in class the following week.  I even told them that the kids who weren’t in class had to do the assignment if they wanted to be let into class next week.  Children found this unfair.  And I guess it is unfair.  But I wanted the class, as a whole, to realize the error of their ways.  So I told everyone to do it, even though not everyone deserved to be punished.  I told the students that while they were writing each sentence, they should be thinking, really thinking about how they shouldn’t waste the oral English teacher’s time anymore, how important oral English really was.  I said I wanted everyone to think about it since I was tired of coming to class and having students talk through it.  I told them they were one of my worst classes.

I was fed up with the smirks, the laughs as I tried to lecture them about the importance of listening and being quiet.  Granted, it’s not fun being lectured.  I know this.  But I wanted them to at least take what I was saying to heart.  I wanted them to take it seriously and realize that being a teacher is hard.  And that I didn’t have to be there.  And that they were lucky they even had a foreign teacher to teach them oral English.  But I got laughs from several students instead, and that was more than enough to push me over the edge.

I’m sure certain students will rebel, and I will have to assert my authority again.  It is quite authoritarian, what I’m doing.  But Chinese students are used to such approaches.  It’s nothing new for them.  Most get it from their other teachers.  It doesn’t make it any more okay, but it does make it more acceptable to do while I’m in China.  One of the students came up to me after class and told me she was sad that they were naughty (they use the word ‘naughty’ to refer to misbehaving in class).  I told her I was even more sad!  She said that they are used to me yelling at them since I do it every week, but next week, I should try something different, a new approach.  She wanted to learn English and she told me I should just remove all the troublemakers.  I told her okay, but I would need her help in recording names and kicking students out.  I said I would be better next week and actually teach them something.

A part of me wishes I could take it back, and re-do the class.  But what’s done is done, and I have to live with my actions, as much as they make me cringe when I think about them.  I’ve become that teacher, the one that goes off on rants and commands respect!  Ugh.  I can only take solace in the face that next week is a new class, it will be a new day, and I can start clean.  I will be better.

This week is round 2 of The Lion King.  I’m showing the rest of the film to all of my classes, and there are new observations to be made.

For those of you who may have forgotten, here’s a quick recap of things that happen after Mufasa’s death.  Simba runs away.  Scar tells the hyenas to kill him, but they don’t succeed.  Simba escapes, but everyone at Pride Rock thinks he’s dead.  Simba befriends Timon, the meerkat, and Pumba, the warthog.  They teach him the carefree lifestyle of Hakuna Matata.  Remember, it means no worries…for the rest of your days.  But life gets more complicated when Nala reenters the picture, and tries to get him to go back to Pride Rock.  They have all suffered since Scar has become king.  Simba and Nala have a little musical number, where they feel the love tonight, but reality hits when Simba must face what he’s been running away from.  In the end, with Nala, Rafiki, Timon and Pumba’s help, he reclaims his rightful place as king by defeating the evil Scar and his pack of hyenas.  The Circle of Life is restored to its original glory and all is right in the world.

The Lion King is a pretty amazing movie.  And in 2-D animation too!  Released in June of 1994, it is the highest grossing 2-D animated film of all time in the United States, grossing over $783 million that year alone.  It also ranks #27 on the list of highest grossing films worldwide.  The Lion King is timeless.  Even though I will have watched the movie in its entirety close to 20 times by the end of this week, I still love it.  It’s funny, charming, warm, deep, and meaningful.  It’s without a doubt my favorite Disney animated movie, and I’m glad of all the movies out there, I decided to show my kids this one.

My students love Timon and Pumba.  They were highly amused during Hakuna Matata, and they burst out in uncontrollable laughter when Timon and Pumba act as bait by doing a hula so that Simba and Nala can get past the hyenas at the end of the movie.  Check out the scene below:

It’s funnier this time around, and for some reason, because my kids like it so much, it’s made me really appreciate that scene too.  One boy, a little boy less than 4 feet tall with thick framed glasses also kept shouting “Hakuna Matata” at random parts of the movie, just because he liked hearing it out loud.  He shouted it during the battle between Simba and Scar and he also shouted it when Simba and Nala’s baby is being introduced to the kingdom.  It was precious, even though other students were clearly annoyed at his outbursts.

When Simba and Nala are frolicking in the jungle during Can You Feel The Love Tonight, my students had a number of noteworthy reactions.  Given that there were no real people on the screen and we were dealing with lions, animated lions at that, it was quite funny that my 7th graders squealed, giggled, laughed, moaned or emitted other strange  sounds.  Children would turn to their neighbors or friends and give each other embarrassed looks.  The best part was when Nala licked Simba’s face, and the two proceeded to nuzzle each other.  Awkward noises were at a peak.  One class had the most peculiar reaction.  Students erupted in applause at such moments during the movie and would yell certain names.  Apparently there was a budding romance between 2 of my students in that class, and their classmates were giving them both a hard time.  I had to ask a student to explain it to me at the end of class.  She told me that they were joking around and calling one of the boys Simba, and the other girl Nala.  I asked if they were really going out, and she said that the class suspected it, but nothing was confirmed.

I was surprised that 7th graders would already be dating!  They all seemed so immature, much more immature in terms of social relationships with the opposite sex than 7th graders back in the states.  It’s also against school rules to date each other, which is why there are tons of underground and secret relationships, especially among high school students.  I just thought, if my kids are squealing and moaning over lions showing affection toward each other, how could they be ready for a real relationship?  Things definitely move at a much slower pace here in China and boys and girls, for the most part, start dating at a much later age than in the states.

Anyhow, I can’t wait for Valentine’s Day so I can teach about love and romance and get even more awkward and embarrassed reactions out of my kids!  In the meantime, I’ve definitely gotten my fair share of the love tonight.

Here is another special treat for you.  Entitled, “Written self-criticism,” a student’s apology note is below.

Teacher:

I’m sorry!  Went to and save the class we are too noisy, let you angry.  Here I apology of deep table watch.  After we can not again this.

Please accept our apologies.  finall sincerity.  The field is spoken: “I’m sorry!”

your student:  Jane

There are times when foreign English teachers have to judge English competitions here.  It’s part of our job description.  We recently had one at my school.  It was the Finals Competition for 7th graders, 8th graders, and high school students.  The competition lasted about 2.5 hours.  There were 3 rounds, and in each round we had to eliminate 1-2 participants per grade based on our scoring.  There were 3 judges:  me and 2 other foreign English teachers at my school.

The most memorable participant was this little boy in the 8th grade.  I wish I had a camera that night so that I could have recorded it and shared it with all of you.  It was absolutely precious.  I had tears in my eyes because it was so funny, but I had to stifle my laughs since he took the whole thing so seriously.  During the talent portion of the completion, he reenacted a scene from Titanic.  Most students memorized speeches, read passages, or sang a song.  He reenacted the scene from Titanic when Jack and Rose are on the ship, and they are pretending to fly.  That’s right.  He played both roles.  He was Jack and Rose.

He would physically switch sides whenever he was switching roles.  Throughout his act, My Heart Will Go On was playing in the background.  Then when he was done with his act, he started singing, belting out the lyrics right alongside Celine.  It was by far the most entertaining part of the evening.  His pronunciation wasn’t very good, and he wasn’t a very good singer.  Sadly he was eliminated early on, but he definitely made a lasting impression!  If we could have picked a winner based on creativity, it would have been him.  Some of these students are kind of amazing and I heart them.

Last month, one of my classes was really rowdy, really chatty, and not paying attention to the lesson.  I took points away from their class grade (each class starts off at 10 and I take 1 point away each time they are noisy or disrespectful).  The last straw was when a student, who was eating a banana (they all get snacks twice a day:  fruit in the morning, yoghurt drink in the afternoon), threw the peel at someone, missed, and it landed on the floor.

At that point, I was already frustrated at the noise level, so I stopped class, made everyone put their heads down, turned off my computer, told them we would sit for the last 15 minutes in silence, and then I told them that if they wanted to come to class next week, they had to write me an apology note in English.  If they didn’t have an apology note to hand to me, they wouldn’t be allowed in.

This was the second time I stopped my lesson and made them sit with their heads down.  It might seem severe, but I felt as if I was wasting my time.  Few students were actually paying attention, and the chatter was so loud it was hard for the good students to even hear what I was saying.  One of the Oral English teachers at my school used to do the same thing, and it worked for her.  The apology note technique worked for me too, because the class is now well-behaved.

The best part of the whole thing was reading the apology notes.  Kids use whatever English they have, they look up words in their dictionaries, or they copy from their friends.  Most don’t make sense.  One of my favorites is below:

In English class, we have happy time.  So, we are talking about happy.  Don’t see teacher.  finaly, English teacher are very angry.  Because, we are very bad.  We have afraid.  So we are very very sorry.  I feel afraid teacher……

Sally

In English class, we have happy time.  So, we are talking about happy.  Don’t see teacher.  finaly, English teacher are very angry.  Because, we are very bad.  We have afraid.  So we are very very sorry.  I feel afraid teacher……

Sally

I played a game of Pictionary at the end of one of my lessons a couple of weeks ago.  It was a lesson called Food in America, and kids had to come up, pick a card with a food name on it, draw the food on the blackboard, and pick a student to guess what food it was.  My kids love drawing stuff.  A bunch of them in one of my classes immediately raised their hands and jumped up to be called on to start the game.  Many of them said, “Teacher, teacher, let me try!”  One of my students, who just so happens to be one of my favorites in the class, said, “Teacher, let me try!  You are beautiful!”  What else could I do but pick him.  I had to.  He said I was beautiful.  Sometimes flattery will get you everywhere.