Saying Goodbye to My Class of Monsters
Today, my most treasured class graduated. Although small in numbers (7 kids!), they were a complete handful from the beginning to the end. These children have taught me many things but most importantly that patience, understanding and perseverance will never fail you.
They’ve taught me that there’s no point in shouting or punishing them with less stars when they’re being naughty, they’ve taught me to never give up and to take each lesson step by step.
Last but not least, they’ve taught me that children are simply misunderstood. It takes time to know a child’s personality and to understand how they think, what they like, what they don’t like, what their strengths and weaknesses, how they learn and what they respond to best and of course, what their limits are!
This post is of course different to my usual traveling posts, but in light of things that are happening in my life, I felt I needed to get some things on paper (or screen in this case). That my job as a teacher, working so close to children everyday, shows you just how precious, fragile and intelligent children are.
In the beginning…
…they would jump, scream, run around, throw things across the room and never listen. The previous teacher, I found out, would only ever play games and mess around each lesson, never really teaching them a thing. I knew I had my work cut out from day one.
Having the centre director acting as my local teacher wasn’t any help either! He hadn’t a clue what to do and only ever allowed the kids to jump over him. I never felt like we were on the same page or that he understood what my intentions were in terms of teaching the kids, despite me clearly stating this before every class!
Each lesson I was dreading the tiresome routine of trying to impose some form of order or rules, but never did I feel like it had any effect.
…I was gifted with the incredible Cherry, my fabulous local teacher. A loving and fun teacher who grasped how I worked so quickly and understood the value of patience and persistence. We were an amazing team!
It seems like there’s a definite distinction here in China that female teachers are favored over male teachers. Well, I guess it’s mostly down to the majority of the class, but as soon as my class were presented with two female teachers they changed almost immediately.
We suddenly had the children listening! Now that was a huge step compared to where we were in the beginning. They sat on their chairs, they would listen to us both, they began to understand the difference between good and bad, and they showed respect to both Cherry and I.
We both taught the children the value of saying “please, thank you, you’re welcome, excuse me” and for the occasional burp “pardon me!” The feeling of hearing these small little things made the battle worth while.
Every class was another step in the right direction. Their reading ability shot up and they began to pick up vocabulary and sentence structures in an instant! Not only that, but I discovered their love of performing, so we made each Unit song an event and a particular focus of the lessons. We learnt the lyrics and added movements. Perfection!
Now that we had formed understanding and respect, I began to discover their amazing and incredibly loving personalities.
Cola – A loud, loving and clever little girl. You’ll never see Cola without some form of food in her hand! She’s always keen to learn and cares very much for her friends. Cola’s incredibly polite and loves to pick up daily English phrases and always manages to slip the in during daily talks. I hope Cola carries on reading and listening to as much English as possible, she’ll go so far in life. On our graduation day she was very upset, not understanding why she wouldn’t be attending class with me and Cherry anymore. They’re so young. At the end of our last class and graduation, Cola’s mum looked at me and gave me a big hug, that’s when I basically started to cry a bit! I’ll miss Cola so much.
Claudia – Definitely a cheeky little monkey! The Mr’s favourite too. You wouldn’t believe the amount of chatter that comes out of Claudia! Always blabbering away in Chinese and jumping around shouting “Yay, yay, yay!” When asked “How are you today?” she would jump in the air, arms flaying about shouting “I’m HAPPY!!!!! YAY!” Not only is Claudia a joyous little girl but her ability to pick up words and phrases is brilliant. Her reading improved so much from day one.
Super – Incredibly intelligent, crazy and sweet. Super’s English is so well spoken and soft, his reading is such a joy to listen to. I can tell, as with all the other children, that his mum and dad practice reading pretty much everyday. He loves throwing things around the class when he comes running in at the beginning, which makes him quite a handful! Super knows sentence structures so well now that he’ll always make jokes during daily talk, encouraging the others to do the same. Which, frankly, I really don’t mind a single bit 🙂
Nora – Cola and Nora are like two peas in a pod. They do everything together, from touching the board to copying each other’s dance moves. Like all best friends do, they have their days or moments of falling out. Shouting all sorts across the room and crying (oh my). And like all best friends do, always end up saying sorry. Nora is also very keen to always use as much English as possible. You’ll never not spot Nora without an ice cream, ice bun, waffle waving about in her hands!
Baby – Like Super, Baby’s reading and spoken English is incredible. She picks English up like it’s the easiest thing in the world. She’s so loving, always giving me a hug when she enters and leaves the class, very much like Claudia in that sense! It wasn’t until one of our last lessons together that I found out her mum was an English teacher. Her mum used to tell me how they would read English stories every night before bedtime and this dedication just shows how much it pays off. I wish every one of my students had parents this dedicated. I can’t wait to see how Baby progresses in the future!
Cici – One of the newer members of the group. Cici arrived just as I took over the class. She was always so quiet and I could tell her confidence was lacking quite a lot, especially when reading out loud. You wouldn’t believe me if you met her now. Cici’s confidence has rocketed over the past 6 months! She now stands up proudly reading every Backpack Bear Story on the smart board. Listening intently when I explain word pronunciation and phonetics and always wanting to do her best. I couldn’t be prouder of this little angel.
Jackie – This little madam has been missing few a few lessons now due to her new school schedule. Each of the children have gone up a level at school which means our class isn’t always at a convenient time. Despite this, Jackie (or Jacqueline for long) is a chirpy and clever girl! Like Cici, she’s always been one of the quiet students. She’s also on par with Cola with regards to how sensitive she is. On a good day she’s as active as Claudia and on a bad day, she’ll sit quietly amongst the others and just listen, not wanting to take part much. Thankfully she’s pretty much always on a good day!
For our last lesson together I was trying to keep down this big lump in my throat. Every time the children said they were sad because it was our last lesson together it became even more difficult to stay composed!
I’m so happy that I was able to get hold of their parents via WeChat to stay in touch, just to see how they’re growing up and improving their English. That night, I received a little voice message from each of the kids saying “I love you Nina! I miss you! We will visit you!” Gotta love technology, right?!
I’ll never forget these little angels. Having taught these children will definitely be one of my biggest highlights of our time in Shanghai.