Week four in China
05.09.2011 - 12.09.2011 32 °C
So another week has passed & I’m still in China! Every now & then, when I’m not busy with school, shopping or socialising, I stop & look around me with the sudden realisation that I’m in China. It’s kind of odd; even though I’ve been here for four weeks now, it’s still sinking in that I live in China now. It’s a very strange feeling. The rest of the time, everything feels kind of normal – work is work, my apartment is my apartment, going out for drinks with people is almost the same as anywhere in the world.
Last week was the first proper week of school for me, as the first week I spent half the time at the hospital. My foot stopped being swollen, I did all my duties (everyone has three, break time & lunch time, 20 minutes each) & we did proper lessons. For some reason I still didn’t manage to do all my planning for this week, despite having at least one hour each day when my class was being taught by a specialist teacher! The kids in my class are really nice, generally well behaved, apart from the odd bit of chatter, but no major behaviour problems, which is nice. One boy that’s supposed to be in my class still hasn’t been to school yet, but apparently he’s currently in America & is coming back this week or next week. There are still some things at school that don’t seem as organised as I would expect, but I think that’s at least partly because of the turbulent time the school has had in the last couple of years, with lots of changes of staff & senior management (not all good, from what I hear).
On Tuesday we had a ‘Meet the Teachers’ session for the parents – they came to school from 4pm til 5pm & we (me, the other year 4 teacher Laird & our teaching partners, Susan & Joy) went through what kinds of things we’ll be doing with the kids, explained about uniform & streaming for Maths & English. Apparently the parents can get quite funny about their child being in the ‘bottom set’ for anything, so the way we (well, Laird) told it is that we’re splitting the children into groups that need support in different areas, e.g. one English group will focus more on reading comprehension, the other more on grammar & writing. The parents seemed to be quite happy about that, so that was fine! We did have some parents asking pernickety questions; one set of parents asked me, Laird, Susan & Joy the same thing – maybe to see if we gave the same answer? – about the differences between the Cambridge education system, the British National Curriculum & the International Primary Curriculum, & whether our education system at school was better than other Chinese schools. Of course we all said that there’s very little difference between the three systems, mostly different topics & we take the best of each & make sure we are always teaching to a high standard. To be quite honest, I thought it was a bit of a waste of time, as we’d already met the majority of the parents on registration day, before school started, and any other information had been sent home via letter or email.
There are two other things we have to do every week. One is a newsletter to the parents telling what we’ve done in school each week, including the learning objectives for each subject, any particular events or activities & any school news. The other is a tracking sheet which we have to complete for every child in the class every week, which is then emailed to the parents every Friday. You have to fill in an academic comment & a pastoral comment for English, Maths, PSHE, PE, Music, Chinese, ICT & Art, although the specialist teachers are supposed to complete their subjects.
Thankfully, Laird did the newsletter for our year group last week, but we’re going to either complete it together or take it in turns to do from now on.
On a different subject from school stuff, I was supposed to be playing netball (for the first time since secondary school!) after school on Friday with people from work (thought I should make a bit of effort to do some exercise after all the great food I keep eating!). I ended up not playing for two reasons – the first was that my foot started to swell up a little again & I thought it best not to aggravate it, the second was that Mandy told me that my new washing machine was going to be delivered between 5 & 6pm, so I had to get home for that. Of course, the minute I walked in the door, Mandy texted me to say it was now going to be between 6 & 8pm, so I could have stayed for netball! A group of us were going out about 7pm ish for food & drinks for Laura’s birthday (one of the other new teachers), so I got ready straight away, hoping that they’d come at 6pm & then I could go more or less straight after. 6pm came & went, then 6.30, so I phoned Melissa & Caroline, who I was supposed to be meeting at 6.45pm to share a taxi to the pub with, to let them know I may be late. Melissa told me that they were probably working on Chinese time, which meant it was probably more likely to be 9pm - & she was nearly right! 8.20pm the delivery people turned up with my washing machine. They put it on the balcony (which is where the washing machine lives – quite common here) & took off most of the packaging, & then left, without plumbing it in or moving the old one out of the way. I phoned Mandy & she said that she’d arrange for someone to take away the old machine, like we did with the old fridge freezer, but I should try & plumb in the new one myself! If I couldn’t do it, she’d ask the landlady to send someone round to do it. By this point I was already quite late to meet people, so I decided to leave it until the next day. On Saturday afternoon, I decided to have a look at it & see if I could figure it out. Luckily the washing machines here all seem to be quite light, so I was able to move the old one out of the way & the new one into place fairly easier. Also luckily, some of the instructions had pictures! It was quite straightforward to connect it, especially as there’s only one tap, & after an empty wash to check it worked & didn’t leak, I was actually able to wash some clothes! So I now have another skill to add to my CV – plumbing in a washing machine!
Friday night (when I finally got there!) was really good. We went to a pub called Macawley’s, which is a regular haunt of a lot of people at work. They do really good food there, quite a choice, including things like spaghetti bolognaise, pizza & fish & chips, for a fairly reasonable price. There were probably about 15 or so of us altogether; most people had food (which I wasn’t too late for, thankfully) & everyone had drinks, some more than others! It was really good chatting to people & getting to know them a bit better. We also had some end-of-the-evening entertainment, in the form of a very drunk Chinese bloke who decided he wanted to join our group, leaning over the barrier & talking very loudly at people in Chinese (& deafening Melissa in the process) & when a couple of the lads went over to try & pacify him, he kissed one of them on the forehead! He then tried climbing over the barrier, got pushed back, so went around, at which point all the lads went over to try & get him to leave – without any injury to anyone. He was taken off the premises & down the road a little by a couple of the lads as the rest of us were wondering where security was & most of the bar staff (admittedly all female) were leaving, as the bar had closed. We decided it was time to leave at that point, but someone needed the loo, & as the bar was closed two of the girls went into the club next door to use the facilities. While the rest of us were waiting outside, another very drunk guy came outside & promptly threw up right in front of us! At which point, me & Melissa backed off quite a lot, although some of the lads decided it would be a good idea to talk to him! All of this very much reminded me of being out in England, although the main difference was that no fighting kicked off, which I’m sure would have happened in England with either of those incidents. As soon as the girls returned, we left, some people for home & the rest of us round the corner to Rapscallions, a really nice bar that also does food & is owned by some of the local ex-pat rugby lads. A few more drinks were had by all (I managed to avoid the tequila that appeared in front of me at one point!) & I met a couple of other ex-pats that don’t work at the school, but know some of the people there because they play Gaelic football together. I’ve been invited to join them on Tuesday evening! I might go along & see what it’s like… I ended up getting home just before 4am, not too drunk & having had a really good night (apart from the slightly annoying drunk people!).
Saturday I decided not to go out (people were going out for Paul at work’s birthday), partly because my foot was swollen again & partly because I just fancied a night in. I’m getting too old to do two nights out in a row! Instead (after plumbing in my washing machine & doing two loads of washing) I caught up on Doctor Who & Torchwood. I can’t watch anything on BBC iplayer here, unfortunately, but Judi at work told me about a great website called www.pptv.com, on which you can watch quite a lot of different TV programs & some films for free!
Sunday I was invited to a barbeque at Alex & Jenny’s apartment (more people from work) – they had a mini barbeque on their balcony & they have a table top electric oven (which I’m considering getting – apparently they cost about £60) & there was loads of really nice food, particularly the corn on the cob, edamame beans, barbequed tiger prawns (which me & Caroline bought) & home-made potato wedges. We (me & Caroline) managed to find some really nice Australian wine in Vanguard supermarket for about £8.80, which we shared at the party – although it went fairly quickly so then Alex kindly gave us some of his wine to drink! It was a really nice evening; I met some more people, chatted to lots of different people, saw some people that I’ve met before & heard some interesting (& not always pleasant!) stories from the ex-firefighter who now tutors English privately. I think we were all really glad that we didn’t have to work on Monday. This weekend was the Mid-Autumn Festival & a public holiday for China (a bit like our bank holidays), which meant that we got Monday off work. Saturday was also Teacher’s Day (a bit like Mother’s or Father’s Day, only for teachers!)! I got a couple of nice cards & a flower from some of the kids in my class on Friday, which was lovely.
It also gave me an extra day to get my planning done for this week! & of course it means we only have a four day week this week, which is great. I know I haven’t been at work that long, but I really feel like I need a holiday, probably because I haven’t really had one this summer, everything has just been non-stop since before I got here & once I arrived. I’m really looking forward to October half term, which is the first week of October here. I’m thinking about going somewhere nice & relaxing for it, not sure where yet. The only down side of halving half term early, is that there’s 10 weeks with no break between half term & the Christmas holiday, which will be tough. The other thing that makes me think I need a holiday is that I seem to be coming down with a cold. Rubbish.
Anyway, that’s another week done, I’m off to bed!