Ladies and Gentlemen…

I am sick. Sore throat, runny nose, itchy eyes, dizzy, and I’ve got the chills. I realized today that I came to China with a lot of medicine that would help me if I’m in pain or having stomach problems, but nothing to help head colds or fever. Thank God Tamlyn moved in: she just made me something liquidy, hot and lemony tasting, and it’s making me feel soothed and hopefully I will be pass out soon after I type this. Just because the room spins when I get up doesn’t mean I didn’t have to teach today. I taught, and I have some very exciting news too!

To answer my dear friend Ben’s comment on an earlier blog regarding my classes, yes! I do have fixed classes that are constant every week. I have 2 Small Star classes that I teach twice a week, 2 HF classes that I teach twice a week, 2 TB classes that I teach once a week (they are both 2 hours long), and I have one Real Y9 class that I teach once a week (all teenagers of 11-14). Also throughout the week, the teachers must teach V.I.P. classes to individual students of all ages who have signed up for one-on-one lessons in English. Most of them are older and want to have more experience conversing with the language before they go abroad or to University.

My personal weekly Hell comes in the form of a 3 year old girl (2 in actual years) named Baby (ugh!) that was assigned to me for two V.I.P. lessons a week! The problem with this is that a 3 year old doesn’t want to learn English. Heck, a 3 year old doesn’t want to sit still for more than 3 minutes at a time. Her mother sits in the classroom with us and just watches, she says she wants “Baby” to go to Harvard, so she should learn English now and be the smartest child in her class when she begins actual school at age 7 (give me a break, lady). Also, Baby has her own private Chinese English teacher that studies with her at home, before she comes to EF. So if you know me, you know that I’m not a baby person. I like kids, but baby’s may as well be a foreign species to me. Another problem: Baby’s extra tutoring is actually paying off, and she knows more then a child her age should know. Therefore, it’s up to me to teach her concepts in English that go far beyond her age capacity…and so far the attempt has been laughable. So every Thursday and Friday I rack my brain for ideas on what to teach a 2 year old that can be both educational and keep her away from smashing the computer keyboard, opening and slamming the door, and/or ripping up the paper house we spent the previous week making so that she could know the names of household rooms (all of these things happened during our last lesson, BTW). So if anyone has some advice, please send it on my way!!

And now the exciting part!! I was given a brand new class today, Real Beginner 1’s. This is a great and awful thing. Real Beginner 1’s are adults (yes!) who either speak very limited English, or none at all (no!). I enjoy teaching adults a great deal more than children, but the children I teach in my smaller classes can speak better English than the students in this new class, which had its first lesson today. At the moment, the class has 4 women in it and I began the lesson by testing their knowledge of English. I walked in and said “HELLO!” and then wrote on the board:
__ ___ ___ ___? My name is Stephanie.
__ ___ ___ ___? I am 23 years old.
__ ___ ___ ___? I am from Canada.
__ ___ ___? I am fine, thank you.
And then I pointed at the blanks and said “What is the question?!?”

……….Crickets. In my head I thought “Ok. We are going to have to start at the basics.” I ditched my lesson plan and spent the remaining hour and 20 minutes teaching these 4 questions (What is your name? How old are you? Where are you from? How are you? In case you were wondering :P), eliciting answers from them and teaching the alphabet and the phonetic sounds each letter makes. So this is the awful part, because it is so difficult to teach these basic principals when we, as native english speakers, don’t even think about. The pronunciation comes naturally to us, but to Chinese speakers, many of these sounds (V, M, Z and TH) involve using the tongue and throat in ways and patterns that are completely unnatural. I’m enjoying the challenge of the class, but I know it wont always be smooth sailing.

The AMAZING part is that none of these women had English names!!!!! It is customary in English school that if a student does not have an English name, it is up to the teacher to give them one. This is what I have been waiting for since I decided to teach in China. This. Very. Moment. When I was told they didn’t have English names, I laughed out loud, drunk from my own power!! Unfortunately, most of the names that I crave to give to students are for boys. This class has 4 girls. Half way through the class I gave them names:
1. Buffy (I know, I know. Amazing right?!?! Hehehehehehhhheeeee)
2. Marie (after my dear friend Marie Dale. I wanted to name her Dale, but she looked more like a Marie)
3. Robin (from How I Met Your Mother. Not my top choices for girls, but unfortunately I had to bear in mind the possibility that some of the names at the top of my list would be too hard for Beginner’s to pronounce or spell. le sigh..)
4. Elle (This women is 38 and by far the lowest level in the class. I have about 30 other names I’d rather give her, but no way could she pronounce any of them. I knew I needed a very short, simple name that she could remember and pronounce, and while we were going through the alphabet we were saying “L! L! L! L!” and it was the first letter that she seemed to pronounce correctly, so I said “That is your name!! Elle!!” And Elle it was.)

So YAYYY I got to name some students!!!! I’m hoping to get more, and I’m praying they will be boys because I’ve got about 100 names that I NEED to give to some students!!! Thinking it over, I might change Elle’s name to Pie. Mmmmmmmm, Pie.

Ok, I’m off to sleep. I just HAD to share this exciting news!!!!!!!!! Hopefully I’ll feel better soon 🙂


10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ben Babcock
    Jun 22, 2011 @ 23:25:45

    I hope you’re feeling better soon.

    Thanks for the expanded explanation of what you’re doing. It sounds like you’re getting a great experience. (Again, a little jealous, as I sit here doing math research and dreading my entry into professional year.) The adult language class sounds really cool, and I love you for naming one of the women Buffy. ^_^

    Regarding Baby and teaching … hmm. I dunno, you took Children’s Lit. Have you tried reading her children’s stories? You can read her something like Winnie the Pooh and have discussions with her about it afterward. Maybe find some copies of English-language cartoons–Winnie the Pooh, … Dora the Explorer? 😛 Curious George! And there’s always Sesame Street.


  2. Lois Christianson
    Jun 22, 2011 @ 23:54:54

    Hi Steph I do hope you are feeling better. You’ll build up an immunity to childhood diseases as you go. That sure is a lot of teaching. Do they sell CARS BOOKs or TOY STORY books. Popular here. The Posties are still on strike hear so no mail going in or out. Do you need us to send you kids books ? Its rainin here to-day. William & Kate will be in Canada next week, but aren’t coming to Winnipeg. Toooooo Bad. How was your birthday dinner with the staff? Honk if you miss Steph…Honk, Honk, Honk
    Aunty XXXOOO


  3. Alanna
    Jun 23, 2011 @ 00:12:57

    Oh my god Steph this is the most entertaining thing I have read in awhile. I can’t believe you named that lady Buffy! HAHAHAHA. I wish I could be there the first time she comes to North America and introduce herself as Buffy. Sounds like you are having fun! Can you give me a chinese name?


  4. Pam Sontag
    Jun 23, 2011 @ 02:11:53

    Hi Stephanie,

    Wow. It sounds like you’ve been given a challenging assignment with respect to teaching English to a 2 year old! It’s not that long ago that I had two 2 year olds running aroud so here is my advice: I would make yourself an outline of just what exactly this (advanced) little girl needs to learn (for example: her colours, numbers, alphabet, animals, people, days of the week, weather, nature, etc.) and find ways to play with her (use toys!) in order to get your lesson across. You will have to change activities fairly often as their attention span is obviously fairly short. I don’t know what your supplies are like but if you’ve got any kind of a teaching budget you could hit a toy store and try to get some stuff for her to play with (doll house, farm yard, building blocks, stacking cups, puzzles…). Music, videos and books are great choices too. Variety is the key. Good luck.



  5. Tricia Allan
    Jun 23, 2011 @ 07:49:23

    Sorry to hear you’re under the weather. Hope is clears up soon!

    As for your little holy terror – how about teaching her songs /nursery rhymes- eg: Mary Had a Little Lamb – and then have her look for pictures to match the words? Or even the old chestnut: Head and Shoulders – and teach her the actions. Actually from the sounds of her – the action tunes might be better:) Or read English picture books with her and point out the words as you read them. Let me know if these are the kinds of ideas you’re looking for – then I can root around for more.



  6. Tricia Allan
    Jun 23, 2011 @ 18:50:30

    Hey Steph! I just read your blog about honking! I remember that well from when we were in China. And the traffic rules that seem non-existent are terrifying. I felt I was taking my life in my hands every time I crossed a road, and sometimes when I was just walking on a sidewalk. Richard did give me some advice though. I am in the North American habit of jumping out of the way when a moped honks behind me on the sidewalk (not sure that’s actually ever happened – a moped on the sidewalk?). Anyway, he told me the driver is letting me know he’s there and that he will move around me. The one rule of thumb,, according to him, is that you just keep moving forward. Apparently jumping to the side is more likely to get you run over by whatever is behind you. I watched and tried it and it seemed to work – sort of. Keep your head up:)



  7. Lee Stone
    Jun 24, 2011 @ 00:40:23

    To get to your Dashboard you can choose it from the My Blogs list at the top of your blog or use


  8. Holly
    Jun 24, 2011 @ 03:56:26

    OMG YESSSS………….. more naming ASAP!
    ps. I have realized while reading your blogs today how great of a writter you are… you really have a way with words!


  9. Blaine Copland
    Jun 26, 2011 @ 21:08:53

    Hope you are feeling better. I love your blog. What an adventure you’re having. Having lived in Vancouver, where there is a large Chinese community, I have met many mothers just like Baby’s. I am with you: “Really, lady?” And Buffy? I love it. Take care, and enjoy every minute of this opportunity.


  10. Giancarlo Cerquozzi
    Sep 28, 2011 @ 11:20:31

    I am in love with Baby, and the fact that her mom just sits and watches the lesson. Does her mom participate in the lessons as well?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: