It was so refreshing being able to coach basketball. I have always enjoyed the game, but didn’t initially know how it would work with children whose English level was somewhere between “hello” and “how are you?”. But one of the great saviours of an ESL teachers ability to communicate is body language and visual demonstration. So it was actually an incredibly sweaty and enjoyable morning coaching and watching these little babies bounce around and having fun.
Tennis. If you know me you’ll know I have played tennis since the age of six. I love the game, it’s been a huge part of my life. Coaching tennis with these little munchkins was the best thing. We had one pre-tennis lesson in the classroom, where we learnt tennis vocabulary and played balloon tennis and then we headed to the courts. The absolute best thing to come out of teaching tennis, was this boy with me and the balloon. His English name is Easy (don’t ask, I have no idea why!), and bless him he was not talented at language learning. I taught him for 2 years and he was the only student who couldn’t manage to workout the difference between “I’m happy” and “My name is Easy”. When asking the question “How are you?” he would often answer “My name is Happy” instead of “I’m happy”. But Easy was INCREDIBLE AT TENNIS! He had one of those rare talents that I sincerely hope, having told his mother, he will be continuing to nurture. He had never played tennis before, and was able to make perfect contact with many of the first balls he hit and his swing was something Federer would be proud of!
Now these talent shows were mostly for the kids, performing as a class, often some of their favourite English songs (spot babies performing Baby Shark). We were also encouraged to join in these performances. Can you see me and my favourite babies performing Walking in the Jungle? Their parents literally got together and found them matching uniforms for this one performance! We also had an in-school English talent show, which was one of the most hilarious experiences of my teaching life. Little Gary singing the A-Z of Cars and Le Xin performing a poem about ducks were the proficient language highlights. Nothing, however can quite compare to a girl singing (I mean attempting to sing) Frozen’s Let It Go. Now let me just remind you that this was an English competition, English proficiency was fundamental. Now sing the following to the tune of the famous Let It Go…
“LOOBI DO, LOOBI DO, CWAN HUN BIT BAT BENYBORE”
No exaggeration. This was both the most excruciating and hilarious teaching moment that went on for a full 3 minutes and 45 intolerable seconds.
Lets do a class where kids have to put together a cardboard dinosaur and run around the classroom roaring at each other…ok! These dinosaurs were designed for kids, and I could barely get my arms out of the arm holes without tearing the dinosaur!
Halloween dress up was never really on the agenda for me as a child, but I have been known to have dressed up as a unicorn outfit was with my tennis girls at University. It is such a fun thing to dress up, especially when seeing the lengths the kids will go to win the best outfit competition.
Now I am not promoting the consumption of fast food, but this was a very different and entertaining class. We completed the first half of the morning in the classroom playing games involving food and restaurant words and then we walked (with some kids running) to KFC to make a burger! They definitely didn’t give us the nice crispy KFC chicken but the kids didn’t seem to mind! Mia on the right and Le Xin on the left showing off their huge smiles!
Ok so these festive performances were often greeted by groans in the staff room. Often being an English teacher is similar to being a dancing monkey in a zoo having people press their faces at you. But with the right friends and the right idea, they became bearable. I did study Drama at A-Levels so I was often the creator of such pieces. This one below was a theatrical performance of Jingle Bells, where Olly and myself were the high spirited fairies trying to convince miserable guitar playing teacher Jeff to come out of his shell and perform the song! Home made confetti, decorating 30 year old Jeff, and quite a bit of glitter, these performances at least made some of the children smile.
At my first school in China birthday parties were held every month for those kids whose birthdays were in that month, plus one chosen friend. These parties were just like regular lessons, still always learning English, however they were filled with birthday related vocabulary, such as “cake”, “party”, “candles” etc. Then the most important part of any birthday party…the cake. Five and six year old kids seeing a birthday cake will forever be the most joyful I have seen kids! My very first birthday party little Luke photographed at the front left dipped his finger right into the icing!
Team building…can you hear the groaning again! Being an ESL teacher, particularly in a private school is a fun but tiresome job so somethings the last thing you want to do is spend one day of your precious weekend with your work colleagues, partaking in organised fun. Why this team building was not during school time I do not know. Anyway it ended up being quite a funny experience, and a big insight into Chinese work culture. From trampoline parks (I literally did this twice with both my schools) to hot springs, it wasn’t a bad way to spend a day of your weekend. It must also be noted that there is nothing more pleasurable than jumping into a pit of sponge cubes.
When the shiny new, blonde haired teacher comes to work at your school, whats the first thing you do to her? Make her teach live on a Chinese radio show. And Radio in China means video live-streaming. Oh and that’s me by the way, looking like a strange cotton wool sheep! This was a highly embarrassing but fun experience and a part of me was glad I couldn’t understand most of the comments, just in case they were laughing at my sheep face.