I can work out all the "U" pictures except for the falling log man! What word beginning with "U" is he meant to be describing??
Another in my occasional series of "Flashbacks" looking back at blog entries made before this Weebly version started.
I started my trainer-training at Robert's School by observing each of the three Chinese in-house trainers in action. As you can see in the photo, they only have a few new teachers on each cycle and the course is therefore nicely informal and personalised. The three trainers are excellent teachers in their own right, especially with the younger students, with whom most of the Chinese teachers have their lessons (classes of older students are usually taught by foreign teachers).
However, none of them has any specific background in training and so they are keen, if a little nervous, to get feedback and advice. The present course has evolved into a largely didactic passing-on of how each lesson should be taught, right down to standardised gestures and umpteen steps for every moment of the class, which cannot be deviated from. I think I’d like to adapt it so that new teachers work out the most successful methods for themselves and, in doing so, understand why they are the best ways, more than simply being told so. This means having open-ended activities, worksheets to complete and group discussions where the new teachers can suggest their own answers and give their own opinions and ideas. Not a particularly Chinese way of doing things but one which, as teachers, we should already be encouraging our students to do in our lessons...
It's that time of year again when hundreds of peasant workers descend on Kunming's trees and paint the bottom of the trunks white. But why?
The simple answer is, nobody really seems to know! Everyone has their own theory - to protect them from bright sunlight. to prevent the bark cracking, it looks beautiful, it stops insects crawling up, it stops cars hitting them, Chinese tradition, etc. Whatever the reason, the Government spends a huge sum each Winter decorating thousands of Kunming trees. Odd, to say the least!
JD's Primary School celebrated their 80th Anniversary last week with various games, exhibitions and ceremonies. At first, JD was convinced the school was 8 years old until we showed him the black and white photos of the school's first students in 1940.
Can you spot the school's only foreign student in the picture above?
I spent yesterday being one of 8 judges at the Provincial Speaking Competition Final (7 Professors and the obligatory foreigner!). With 36 contestants from all over Yunnan, it was a long affair - we started at 7.30am and finally finished for "lunch" at 3.00pm. I was asked to be the Question Master, posing an appropriate follow-up question based on their prepared speech and before their impromptu speech. So no chance to "drift off" either!
Before it all started, we were given a complex briefing on the elements we should be judging on (content appropriateness, fluency, body language, grammar, pronunciation, speech structure, intonation, confidence, etc) but then told that actually it was only necessary to give ONE overall mark, and it had to be 70-95%!? The topic was "The Challenges of 2020" and most talks focused on COVID-19 and how wonderfully the Chinese people have coped with it! The Oral English standards were pretty high though, and nobody "dried up". The three top candidates now go on to National Finals in Beijing.
This was my favourite opening...
and not having searched for anything exercise bike related! How do they know??
We have kept in touch over the 15 years since then. I even visited her once during a typhoon when she was studying at Hainan University!
Cinderella is now married, a mother and a teacher in her own right at the school where I first met her as a student. Recently she asked me to give an online talk and Q&A to her senior school students. The first two attempts were thwarted by power cuts in her school but we finally managed to connect last week and I was faced with a large class of expectant and excited students, full of questions for "the foreigner"!
But JD was keen to dress up, eat sweets and play scary games, so I put together a simple costume and prepared some fun activities for him and some of his friends to do. Better than nothing!
JD and I visited our den in the Secret Forest the other day.
Good news was the appearance of another den, next to ours! By coincidence, the builders turned up an hour after we arrived. They are a family we met once before there, who had been inspired by our den to start their own one next door! Early days of construction for them (ours has taken four years so far!) but it's fun to have neighbours now.
I've been involved in the annual Provincial English Speaking Contest again over the last couple of weeks. The first round involved viewing and marking 64 x 3-minute videos then later a live Semi-Final with the 32 best. The Final next week will be for another foreign teacher to do. I've done my bit! The theme this year was "2020 - a year of challenges". Most focused on COVID-19 and China's impressive response to the pandemic. Few mentioned where it originated from...
We've finally managed to evict the troublesome tenants from my Wootton Bassett flat. Late night parties, growing weed in the attic, dumping junk outside the house, swearing at the neighbours - they were a real problem over the last year or two. They left the flat in a really poor state and we now have the expense of cleaning, decorating and repairing the place. We'll also spend a little money refurbishing and upgrading it, to try and attract better tenants next time.
Mother-in-law celebrated her birthday this week - her 79th or 80th depending on who asked her. We think she doesn't know.
Ma was her usual "cheery" self on receiving her gifts; a jumper ("Too tight. I don't like the colour"), flowers ("I can't take them home - you look after them") and a home-made gift from JD ("My birthday was two days ago - it's late"). She did manage to fake a quick smile for the camera in front of her birthday cake before declaring, "It's too sweet for me. I don't want any."
Kunming's new underground Line "K4" opened a week ago and our nearest tube station is now just 5 minutes walk away. JD and I tried it out yesterday. Our pretext was to head into town for JD to buy himself a toy at Toys 'R Us with his hard-earned pocket money.
It took us two train changes to get to the right shopping mall, but the stations and trains were all high spec, spotlessly clean and not the least bit busy. It's just a pity the line doesn't really go anywhere we usually want to go!
JD's school continues to send inane homework requests through, late in the evening, for completion by the next morning. So one evening last week we were told (at 9pm) to take 3-4 photos showing homework and housework being done. Having already completed all that by 8pm we had to fake photos of JD reading, writing, doing craft, looking after the hamsters, etc. I imagine most/all the parents were faking it.
We duly emailed the photos off to the teacher but have heard nothing more about it, Another pointless exercise?
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