Sunday, October 21, 2012

When it rains it pours!

‘When it rains, it pours.’ I understand the origins of that saying now. It rained here for about ten minutes and the street was flooding. Brodie and I were hiding under an umbrella and we still got drenched. The funny part about it was that we were on Facetime with Mom and Dad earlier and had just finished explaining that there had been no rain since we came to China. Not two hours later it rained. Lord you have a great sense of humor ☺. 

Oct 5th 
Brodie and I went to Ikea (yes we found Ikea!) and we bought a bunch of stuff like kitchen supplies. We were carrying everything in a fabric bag and I was walking down the street and the bag broke and so did the plates. The first thing to run through my mind was “Aww, now I’ll have to buy new plates,” The second thing was “those people who clean the streets are gonna be pissed!” Then we quickly picked up the broken pieces and threw them into a garbage can. We were walking over to a taxi when this happened and while we were driving away he tried to ask if we still had the broken plate pieces. I had no idea what he was trying to say for the longest time but it was kinda funny after we figured it out. We probably freaked the taxi driver out with our sharp plate shards. Woops.

Two days left until we teach our first full lesson. Our 90 minute class is on Sunday and I think our written exam is on Tuesday, so we are almost done our training!!

 For the past month we’ve have been watching other teachers while they teach their English classes and we have been getting teaching lessons. Now we are coming to the end of our training and we’re going to be teaching our own classes soon. 
 Our days are long and I discovered recently why that is. Last year they had thirty ACT kids come to China and take this program. They had two months to do the in-class watching (so they watched the kindergarten for the first month and the training center the second month). Since they had the different types of classes so segregated they had the ACT students do a 90 minute class and a kindergarten class as part of their training. Because they had only one class to watch, after they were done they just went out drinking and partying.
We have one month to do what they did with two. We watch both kindergarten and Training centers in one day so by the time we’re done we don’t have the time or energy to even think of going out to party. That part isn’t very upsetting for me but the workload sucks (on the plus side we only have to do one 90 minute class instead of two. ☺) 
Last year the school provided housing but there were thirty kids so it was hectic. One guy told me that there was one house with ten people in it (as far as I know the houses here are made for three to four people) and they completely trashed it. So this year we had to get to the house and check out everything and report any damages within one hour of arriving. It was like four in the morning when we finally arrived so I didn't even care (also Paul told us not to worry about that, it was just for insurance reason because of the last group. If we don't report the broken stuff right away it's the same as if we reported it that hour).
We are allowed to miss one day of classes, any more and we need a doctor’s note. Last year the kids kept getting drunk and calling in hung over. I am proud to say that I have not missed a full day of classes (the only class I missed was the kindergarten on day two when Brodie and I got lost... which I will blog about at some point in time. I asked Paul if that counted as a missed day and he said I’ve missed nowhere near enough days for it to actually be a problem. So yay!). 
Last year the ACT students were placed in a different gated community than the one we’re in and ACT printed booklets for the students to be able to find their way to the school. They printed half a million of these books so this year we each got one. Brodie and I soon found out that the most useful part of that booklet is the metro map. The bus stops and directions are either outdated or for a different garden (gated community) or both.  So we just ask the teachers for directions instead of using the books. I’m so happy that the metro map is there though; I would have been so lost this past month without it.
Today we were told what classes we’re going to be teaching. On a random note: Our homework scores are confidential so I’m not positive but I think I’m at the bottom of my class with scoring. Not that it matters at all because the only good these test scores are is to determine who is getting first dibs at a job… there’s six of us and we’ve had people wanting us to teach at their school since our plane landed so I’m not worried.  So I’m not positive and the way I came to my conclusion was by using my handy dandy detective skills. We were told first week that Allayna was top of the class with most of the homework. Then we were told that Tomi beat her at the last second (those two actually want to be teachers as a career. Tomi has been a teacher’s assistant for a year and they both went to this super intense school for kids who travel around the world. It’s like Math Pure but harder and for all the subjects, not just math. Safe to say I’m not surprised I’m not at the top of the class). So right away we know who the best in the class was. My scores for week one were terrible because I didn't fully understand the homework and bombed it. Brodie did a bit better than me, Kelly did a bit better then Brodie and I don’t know what Olliver had for a grade. I did hear that he did well this last week though. 
My homework grade has gone up now that I know what to do with the journal (we have a journal every week. We’re supposed to watch classes and talk about them. My first journal I got like 70 or something low like that, but my last journal I happily claimed 100% of it ☺. The only issue is my lesson plans, which was the rest of my homework grade. I can figure out half of the page, which would be what level is the class, what are you teaching, estimated problems for students and teacher and so on. This makes up maybe 30% of my mark but when it comes to the procedure (what order I’m going to be teaching the subject matter and how long it’ll probably take) that's when I completely mess it up and have no grasp of how to do the class (and that's why I’m at the bottom of the class, my lack of lesson planning skills). In the long run its not that important but yeah, because I know I’m lacking in these skills I’ve been working really hard to fix the problem and figure out exactly what I’m not understanding.

Wish me luck!

We got a five day vacation! Five!!! We were supposed to have 7 but Chinese people are weird. I know I sound mean but its true. In Canada when we get a vacation we work until our vacation, have our break and then get back to our normal work schedule. In China they work extra hard before and after the break to make up for the workdays they lost during the vacation. (this vacation was one week… I’m suddenly not looking forward to the two week vacations…) 
So anyway, this month the plan was to have a five day work week and have Sunday and Monday off, but for some reason they over looked the holiday (which was the Mid Autumn Festival and National day squashed into one! They had a lot of fire works on October first that we could just barely see over the tall buildings in the distance). Because the holiday was coming up Paul had a meeting with us (or I guess it was more of a chat before he started our teaching lesson) and asked if we wanted to have an extra week after the holiday to finish the lesson or just cram as much of it into the two weeks before the holiday. We picked the later one, which means we worked on Sundays as well and had extra classes to watch. I was practically a zombie by the holiday. 
First thing we did after the classes on Friday is Brodie and I met up with a friend of hers from the kindergarten named Nick and we ended up going to a restaurant thing and played a board game (it was called something like ‘Betrayal at the House on the Hill. Sort of like a hybrid between Clue and Dungeons and Dragons) it was pretty fun, but my character got cursed on the first round and it was just down hill from there for my character.
During the holiday we went with Karl and Hasan, two of the teachers from the Teinhe training center and Sarah, our new room mate, to the zoo (Teinhe sounds like Tea-Anne-Huh. We went to one kindergarten and four training centers all together) (there was a spot where you can go pet and feed giraffes, they had a baby tiger, white tigers and, because of the vacation, so many people you could barely move. The zoo ticket was only 16 kuah so compared to what we expected it was super cheep. 
The next day we went to the water park and stayed the whole day. That park has some awesome slides. There’s one where you're holding onto a tube (like what we use for tubing) and float along a stream thing in a giant circle. That water is heated so it was nice and relaxing. The fun part was that it was hooked up to a wave machine and if you were in the just the right spot the wave would fling you five feet in the air; it was so much fun! I think we stayed in that for like an hour.  There’s another slide that you have a foam mat and you sit on it and slide face first down a waterslide and race other people (there were I think 8 slides side by side). The lifeguard even had a flag and told you who won! Yep that was fun.
The next day Brodie and I decided to go out and try to find a book store because our booklet said that there was an English section on the sixth floor of this massive book store. We had no luck and ended up riding the metro for two hours so we could work on our homework (not sure why that plan was better than doing it at home, but it was way more interesting). The next day Karl was going to the bookstore and showed us that on the fourth floor (the unlucky one!) there’s a room full of English books! He’s kind of a book warm so he recommended a ton of classical and sci-fi books and we left with like ten of them.  and we also checked out the movie theater (which, by the way, was really freaking expensive!! Like 80 kuah each! We didn't know it was going to be that expensive until we were paying for it, but its supposed  to be American equivalent so it was like a fifteen dollars. We watched the movie Looper.
We didn’t see Kelly, Alayna or Tomi for most of the vacation and it sounds like they just went out to the bar every night with a few of the other teacher from the training centers. Tomi was getting used to sleeping in and getting twelve hours of sleep but the night before we had to go back to school she only was able to get about two hours of sleep. She was having a reeaaally long day but I hope tomorrow is better for her.
One thing that keeps happening is there’s this weird siren that I keep hearing. It sounds like a warning bell or something but no one seems to be bothered by it and it’s gone off at least five times since I came to China. I asked one of the Chinese staff what it was the first time I heard it and she told me that they were just doing a practice run. So I don’t know why its gone off so many times but its creepy. 

Well that is what’s been happening. 

Talk to you soon
Love Makenzie 

Oct 10/12
One month exactly since we came to China!

DONE! Our evaluation test where we teach for 90 minutes was on Sunday here, but Adam made us teach a 90 minute class the day before as practice. I can see the logic in that and I’m happy he made us do that but a little heads-up would have been nice. For a month the only thing we’ve taught is maybe 20 minutes or a game. Adam is good at springing stuff like this on us and us not knowing until we have like 30 minutes to prepare. All the other managers who help us figure out our schedule or teach our lessons also do things last minute but Adam’s schedule is usually the one that makes us all think “What?! Why? Noooo!!!” :P. 
My first class went poorly. They were doing construction in the room underneath my classroom and so I had to yell over that noise. Then the kids were trying to talk to each other instead of listening to me and they had to talk over the construction as well. So I was shouting at the top of my lungs for most of the class –I think I almost lost my voice.
Also I had to teach stories (…if you read these books you’d understand why most of the teachers I know and I don’t like teaching the story parts of them. They're odd and kind of annoying to read). The story I taught was called AJ and the Monkey and I have seen this story being taught like five different times. They always tell me to break the story up and make the kids learn each word (Chinese kids have a good memory I hear, and they’ll memorize the story without actually understanding any of it, so you have to break it down and explain it). I have tons of games to use with that so I was getting ready and I only had half an hour to prep for the class. About five minutes before class I asked Jacob (the teacher I was replacing that day and the next day for my evaluation test) what he would do to teach the class (so I had more of an idea of what this class would like and advice on a good teaching strategy. Jacob basically told me that these kids are gong to be standing up in front of their parents and reading the story perfectly, so don’t worry about them knowing it and just get them to memorize it; and that's where my lesson plan died. I had no idea how to get the class to just repeat the sentences in the book over and over AND make it fun. I kind of succeeded and I did learn a lot for tomorrow’s class. 
The evaluation test. Brodie was the first to go at 8:40 am and I was the second to teach at 10:30am, so we were able to leave the training centre pretty early. Kelly’s class was at 5pm but he arrived when Brodie and I did at 8:00am. It seemed weird because he could have slept in and stayed home till his class (which is what everyone else did) but he wanted to hear what advice Adam and Paul gave to everyone so he would hopefully have an easier time in class. Smart. 
Class went okay. I still need to work on my transition from activities to games and I was trying to play a game where two kids run to one side of the room and high five the Teacher’s assistant and then run over and high five me, then I ask a question and the first kid to get it right won. As far as I knew the High Five thing was supposed o slow them down but one kid nearly ran me over. 
Apparently a fight almost broke out in Brodies class and she had no idea until she got her homework back and had docked points for it. My problem was that my lesson was choppy and student safety (high five thing, woops).
Over all I think we did all right. Paul told us that at any point during this 6 months period we were able to retake the test and get a better mark. We are so doing that after we get more practice.
Written exam. At the beginning of training we were given ACT workbooks. I lost my first one, bought a new one, and then forgot it at a training center (the same day I got it >.<) and then Adam asked our room mate to bring the book home and somewhere along the way it got lost at her friends house. So she brought me a book from one of the ACT students from last year (it's a huge binder). It was the longest chapter in the book, grammar (this year they changed the book a little) and so since we had so much homework with that chapter we figured it was on the test. So we worked for hours and rewrote that whole chapter into a notebook and I am so glad we did! There’s two tests a really long one that covers most of the book and a shorter one that is just grammar. I liked the grammar test more than the other one, because I had to write out most of It, I knew where everything was!  
I was the second last to finish the grammar test. Paul told us that the other test was huge and to stretch our legs and go to the bathroom before we started. So after we handed in the grammar test we all did just that. Before the test we were asking how long it would take to complete and Paul said about three hours. We were starting at 2pm and supposed to stop at 5pm but Paul said he’d be fine if we went over time till like 5:30, but after 5:30 we weren’t his friends anymore :P. He was really busy all week and just wanted to go home. Brodie was the first to finish her second test and I was the last to be done my test and I finished at exactly 5:30! I found that pretty funny. 
Tomi, Alaynna and Oliver had already gone home, Kelly had just finished maybe ten minutes before I did so he hadn’t left yet and Brodie was waiting for me to be done. Kelly likes to wander around our garden and see if he can find anything interesting. He found a noodle restaurant and the food was cheep, so we checked it out before going home. Brodie and I order what looked like spaghetti on the menu but turned out to be a huge bowl of noodle soup, which tasted fine too, and Kelly ordered a rice thing. When our food came Brodie and I had chopsticks and a funny looking spoon to use. I was just poicking up the noodles with the chop sticks and ignoring the spoon but Brodie had trouble getting the desired amount of noodles she wanted, so she used the spoon to rap the noodles around the chopsticks and then eat them. It was the funniest way I had ever seen someone eat with chopstick. The owners of the store thought so to and took pity on her by walking over and giving her a fork to use. She just left the fork there, though, and, kept on wrapping up the noodles (which could have been ten feet long, they just went on forever). One of the guys ended up taking a picture, which was even funnier because he didn’t even try to be secretive about it. He sat down at the table next to us, which was like two feet away, and took the picture with the flash on and had a shutter sound. It was hilarious and Brodie tried getting a picture of him just to be funny.
So now I’m at home blogging and all the running around has made me easily stir crazy and I want to go check out the city some more, but we walked around the city so much after our evaluation test to try and get the internet stick working (we went to a store down town, needed a card for us to use, went home, searched the house with no luck but we found the package and thought it might work, went back down town (it takes about 40 minutes to get there from our house), found out that the package was useless and then wandered around the city trying to follow directions to a friends house (no we aren’t bad at following directions, these friends hardly ever take the metro and we always do so they just gave us bad directions because they didn’t actually know.). So by the time we got home my feet wanted to fall off and my ankle still hurts when I walk on it. Staying home it is… but I’m bored.

Oh! Dad I finished Vampire Zero yesterday!!! I did not expect that to happen at all! I mean that Vampire was smart but I thought the fight would be something boring for some reason. At the ending I was like “well that sucks, you didn’t even get good info from that guy with the frozen feet anyway.” I’ve started 23 hours and I’m still trying to figure out how David Wellington is going to have his main character fight vampires in the state that's she’s in, right now. 
Brodies been reading 1984 and is really close to finishing it (which is great for her but sucks for me because she’s almost done an entire book at the same time I just read the second half of a book… same old, same old). She seems to really like it so far  ☺.
Oh. There’s an underpass we take everyday to get the bus/metro and usually there are street venders down there; particularly a lady who sells umbrellas and socks, who we  like to call the ‘Umbrella lady’. Brodie and I say hi to her when ever we see her and she usually smiles and says hi back. Well the other day we walked past and said hi but she was reading something and didn't hear us, so we just continued down the tunnel. We were close to half way down the tunnel (she’s right next to the entrance) when suddenly we heard shouting and turned to see what it was. The umbrella lady was waving and trying to say hi to us. That was awesome and made mine and Brodie’s day ☺. 

Today at 2 we have to be at the Tienhe training center for our final grades ☺.

That's all for now


Oct 11/12

Alrighty we are just about finished and able to start teaching. We took the open book test and got 90s! (it’s open book so if you failed its really dumb but I’m still excited at the high grade anyway ☺. And one funny thing about this is for the first time, EVER, my grades are higher than Brodies when it has nothing to do with art! Its so weird!).
Yesterday all of the ACT students were signing contracts and all that fun stuff, except for Brodie and I.  Four of us were wanting to work at a kindergarten and the other two liked training centers, and as it always works out, there was over five training centre openings and only one kindergarten… ouch. Tomi actually wants to be a teacher as a career and basically called dibs the moment we stepped off the plane, so she got it. Kelly also wanted kindergarten but Paul figured he’d be perfect in this new training center that has just opened. Allayna and Oliver went to the same training center as Chino and that left Brodie and I.  Paul told us that there are two training centers we could go to. Tenhe (tea-an-huh),which is our favorite one and the one that Ally and Olie went to, or Leida (lay-a-duh) which is were Adam works at… he told us explicitly that if a teacher does something he doesn’t like at the school (like plays movies all the time instead of teaching) that he goes out of his way to try and fire them… so yeah… jumped on that opportunity. Apparently though he made a request to Paul to have me work there. No idea why, but I now really want to work there just to figure it out, Brodie on the other hand wants to avoid Leida like the plague. BUT Paul told us that there’s a chance we could work at a kindergarten! We would have to both take the metro and taxi to work every morning and night and that would take 90 minutes if we’re lucky or move. So naturally Brodie didn't hesitate to tell him we were all for moving if it meant a kindergarten. It would be easier to take that long trip to go visit everyone instead of going to work that way. The thing is that originally the school wanted two teachers, then they had a teacher’s interview and declared they only needed one (the Chinese staff like to count their chickens before they hatch), then they needed two and then one and then Paul figured no one was willing to move that far away and said we weren’t interested. So now he is calling and seeing if they still need two teachers. In the mean time we might have to work at a training center until a spot opens up (we’d probably go to Tenhe). 
We haven’t signed anything yet and are still waiting on the schools answer. We’ll keep you posted.

We made an awesome discovery that the bakery next to our garden has Wifi!! We were in the middle of the city looking for an Irish bar that had Wifi and a VPN when Allayna told us about the bakery but that's okay ☺. This is defiantly waaaaay easier to get to so I’m happy. We’ve been told that our Internet may be coming next week or the week after (which is what they thought since we got to China) so we’ll see.

Thanks for reading

Love you lots!

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