I've been noticing my left eye getting more and more blurry over recent months. Then last week I had a half hour with quite limited vision in the eye except for a floating zig-zig shape!? So Jiajia and I went to a hospital last week to see a recommended eye doctor. I was given a battery of tests and finally told that my left eye had got significantly worse from 7.0 degree to 15.0 degrees over the last two years! But they couldn't say why - just old age - and had no suggestions for improving it or avoiding further deterioration.
So the next day we went to a different hospital and another recommended eye doctor. He looked at the previous scans and did a couple more tests before declaring that my left eye has a sizeable cataract and needs an operation sometime in the next few months. Jiajia and I felt this sounded like a more believable diagnosis but we are now left wondering why the first hospital had such a different conclusion. Meanwhile, I'm left with some blurred vision and the odd headache.
Our electricity suddenly went off yesterday afternoon. Our fuses looked fine and other flats seemed to have power. But one of the great things about China is that you can usually get a workman to visit quickly, and for little or no money. I popped down to the neighbourhood office and walked back with an electrician in tow. He was initially confused, but then spotted that our neighbour's fuse box had wires sparking inside! Ten minutes later, our electricity was reconnected. For free!
JD has his mid-term maths exam today (Sunday!) and spent most of yesterday (Saturday) practising for it. Let's hope he does as well today as he did in his mock exam yesterday when he finished the hour-long exam in 20 minutes, scoring 99%. Fingers crossed.
Bella teaches 95% of her lesson in Chinese. When I suggest afterwards that she should really aim for at least 50% English she replies (in Chinese), “I can’t, I can’t !”, and she’s probably right. She skips through today’s lesson from the standard, modern textbook in 10 minutes flat, studiously avoiding any games, pairwork or communicative exercises. The remaining ¾ of her lesson is spent tackling some of the hundreds of multiple choice grammar questions in another textbook she has found somewhere (I’ve never seen it before. I hope I never see it again). The questions are painfully dull and many of the answers are dubious, at best. The students are slowly lulled into a stupor of inactivity.
Same school, same grade, same lesson, different teacher – the lottery of which students get a decent chance to learn English and which students don’t …
Half an hour later, just along the corridor, Lily starts her lesson with a quick song. She is all smiles as her students belt out “Do-Re-Mi”. Excitement mounts as she pulls out a bag with something clinking in it. Empty bottles are produced and the new words, “tall, thin, short, wide, heavy and long” are taught. Large pictures of oddly shaped people are stuck to the blackboard and students are called up to write descriptions beneath each one. Lily then uses a “flip flashcard” to present a dialogue followed by a flawless pairwork session, full of encouragement and laughter. Everything is done in English – simple, clear English, repeated often and aided by body language. Activities from the colourful textbook are quickly completed and there’s time left for an “Anagram Game”. It’s a masterclass of Middle School teaching.
…same school, same grade, same lesson, different teacher – the lottery of which students get a decent chance to learn English and which students don’t...
Last Friday I took the 6 hour bus journey to Pu'Er (home of the famous tea) where I'd been invited by my friends LuoHao and his wife "Seven" [see above] to attend a workshop he had organised for 60 Middle school English teachers. On Saturday morning they took me on a 10km walk around a large reservoir. And then, after lunch, the workshop began.
We first watched two demo classes, complete with a class of 50 students. Both of these were surprisingly good, despite being focused on Grammar and Reading respectively. Afterwards I led the feedback session, eliciting the teachers' ideas and thoughts. [see above].
On Sunday morning 5 teachers gave short lectures on various aspects of teaching (in Chinese) before I gave my 1½ hour talk (truncated from the 2 hours requested due to the previous teachers overrunning!). Then, after lunch together, I took the 6 hour bus trip home. It was fun to be in the countryside once again, training young rural English teachers - something which used to be my sole job. But I think I'm getting too old for all this travelling!
When Jiajia took JD to his first sushi meal a month ago (I was away) he fell in love with it. He wanted to take his friends to the restaurant for his birthday, but it only seats a dozen people so we vetoed that. However this last weekend he declared that he wanted to treat Jiajia and I to a sushi meal with some of his Birthday money. Very sweet.
So we went there yesterday. JD loved it and Jiajia is happy to eat it, but it was a bit of a trial for me. I don't like seafood and it doesn't like me. I settled for a seaweed soup with minimal fishy bits, but I still woke with a gout attack this morning and I suspect it's no coincidence.
I heard today that one of the twelve animals on the traditional Chinese animal horoscope is being changed. From today, the dragon ("not a real animal and one with links to many other countries") will be replaced by the panda ("a real animal which is quintessentially Chinese"). I think it's a foolish decision...
Past blog entries