- Getting to 7.40am classes on time despite dropping JD off at his school at 7.20am, some 10km away.
- Passing temperature checks when entering the University AND every new office or building within it.
- Teaching speaking lessons while wearing a mask with 40+ students also all wearing masks.
I've finally finished my first week back at my University doing face-to-face lessons. And I've I managed to overcome all the various hurdles associated with that such as;
The students handed in their first proper essays this week. About half were acceptable - the rest had seemingly listened to nothing I've been banging on about online over the last two months. The simplest thing like "having FIVE paragraphs" seems beyond some of them!! Ho-hum!!
This week sees the return of in-class lessons at my pretty University.
I've been teaching online for two months with mixed success (the internet in China, especially in the countryside where many of my students live, is variable at best). But the students have now flown, trained and bussed back from around the country.
As ever, there are a raft of bizarre contradictions in the University decisions. Foreign teachers living in Kunming start teaching this week but local Chinese teachers started last week. Classrooms are sterilized between lessons but toilets still have no soap or hot water and students must sit at least a metre apart, but classes of 50+ would need students to hover near the ceiling to achieve that!
Exam results from JD's first week back at school saw scores in the bottom five of his class. So, when JD's teacher rang Jiajia for "a chat", we feared some sharp words. But when she called, she said she was just genuinely surprised, as we had completed more of the home-schooling work during lockdown than any other family and so she expected JD to return to class ahead of the other students. She suggested a few exam tips to teach JD (like not overlooking questions and checking his answers) and promised to move his deskmate (the naughtiest boy in the class) to another seat and keep an eye on JD's focus. We also worked through a few homework tantrums with JD in that first week, and have tried various punishments (banning his iPad, limiting hamster play etc), rewards (cup of tea, workpoints leading to a toy, timed competitions to complete work, etc) and scheduling changes (40 mins on, 10 minutes off, etc).
This last week has seen a big change (although we are not so naive as to believe it will last forever) with homework done more quickly and with less of a fight. He has apparently been focusing better in class and has now had a couple of exam results in the top five of his class. JD has also got 7 good behaviour stickers towards the 15 needed to become a "Young Pioneer" (i.e. a junior member of the Communist Party). Not quite sure how pleased to be about that one!
Last weekend JD and I built a Duplo maze and gave the hamsters a variety of races. Being nocturnal critters, we found they were more likely to snuggle up under the Lego and fall asleep than race around the many corners! But by the end, "Whitey" was a clear winner (sorry, "Bitey"!) and got a JD cuddle as a medal...
While the UK Government had to resort to dubious accounting and underhand redefinitions to reach their April target of 100,000 COVID-19 tests a day, the Chinese Government casually announced today that they would be testing all 11 million Wuhan residents in just ten days. That's over a million tests a day!
Love them or loathe them, sometimes you've got to admire the Chinese Government's "can do" attitude. When they say they'll do something, they just get on and do it.
JD's been back at school for a week now. The school insist on the students and staff wearing masks - social distancing is impossible with 45 or so pupils per class. Parents were told they had to wait for their child outside the school gates at the end of each day. At first this proved chaotic [top left] but by the end of the week, the school had worked out more a controlled method of academic escape [top right].
With JD now back at school and my return to University in two weeks, the boxes of Lego have now been packed away. Our daily challenges certainly helped the lockdown pass more quickly as JD and I shared our common hobby. I'm sure it will all be taken out before too long but, for now, we're "letting go"!
We took a trip to the Bird and Flower market the other day to fulfill a Birthday promise to JD to buy a couple of gerbils. Unfortunately Kunming doesn't seem to know about gerbils, but we were able to get a two dwarf hamsters instead and JD is delighted with them. "Mr White" was tame from the beginning, but "Goldie" is a biter and needs more gradual human contact! I also bought a Venus Fly Trap while there which I'm hoping will help keep the flying insects to a minimum in Jiajia's balcony garden!
JD finally returned to school today after four months of holidays and home-schooling. I've quite enjoyed teaching him English and Maths most mornings, but Jiajia has found it difficult to get him to focus on his Chinese (a subject he finds difficult) and there have been quite a few stressful moments. So we're happy to see the professionals taking over again!
Some schools in China are helping students to understand social distancing by using home-made hats. Fortunately, no sign of JD having to make one, but he does have to take a handful of masks to school each day.
We spent yesterday with our friends at a park in the south of Kunming. Although there were a lot of families (being May Day holiday) it was a large enough place not to feel overly crowded and we pitched our tents, and ate our picnic, by a large lake.
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