Parents were invited to sit in on the last after-school Art lesson of the term, last week. So I sat next to JD as the teacher showed them step-by-step how to make an "Autumn Starry Night" picture. We originally booked JD into these twice-weekly classes because there was one day each week when I had to teach late at my University and wouldn't have been able to pick JD up at the normal time. However, we've been surprised at just how well-prepared and enjoyable the class have been, and JD is always excited to stay behind for his class. JD's finished picture is below...
JD's Kindergarten teachers often post photos of the class doing various activities on the Chinese equivalent of Facebook. Jiajia and I were rather thrown to see this one recently though, with the class seemingly praying (in an enthusiastically atheist country, no less!). We asked JD about it later and he said he couldn't really remember but he thought it was about asking Buddha for something!?
One of the nice things that teachers often do in JD's Kindergarten is to take photos of the class doing something and then send them to the parents' mobile phones. So we were able to see JD and his classmates painting outside during the morning and counter his usual, "Nothing" when we picked him up and asked him what he'd done that day!
JD's Kindergarten class had an Open Morning today for Father's Day. The class had a presentation about Fathers [left] and then we made fancy cameras with our child [right]. After that, there were Father+Son running races and a Tug-of-War between the Dads of different classes. Our class were the Tug-of-War champions after 4 wins and one disputed loss. My muscles ache!
Today was Children's Day in China and JD's Kindergarten took over the Kunming City Stadium for the morning to allow each class to perform their well-practised dances.
One parent of each student had been drafted in to perform with the children and Jiajia made her excuses. So I was one of four Dads along with twenty-five Mums! We've been rehearsing for 6 weeks.
Our performance today was 11th out of 16, so a certain amount of tedium had crept into the audience as we began to strut our stuff. We started with some hip-hop and then transitioned into traditional ethnic dances. JD did his part this time (having refused to do anything at all at the dress rehearsal, probably because I wasn't able to make it to that practice) and afterwards Jiajia said, "It was beyond my imagination" which I think is a compliment.
My good wife brought our video camera with us too ...and then completely forgot to use it! But they say there will be a professionally put together DVD of the whole event in due course.
Apparently we won first prize ...as did every one of the dance troupes. This is socialist China after all! Altogether it took four hours to get through and then we were told not to bother taking our kids back to school for the afternoon. I'm not sure UK school would get away with that sort of thing!
For the last month, JD's Kindergarten class have been practising a complicated Ethnic Minority dance involving students and parents. With Ava being away fairly frequently, I got volunteered to participate and attend the dozen or so practices so far. JD got his dancing clothes through the other day, but they were far too big [see left] so Ma-in-law got her needles out and resized them all [see right]. My clothes were so small I couldn't get them on, so they have gone back to be changed. The performance is early June, apparently.
JD's Kindergarten don't seem to plan things very far ahead. We often get SMS messages late in the day telling us to provide something for the following morning. Yesterday evening we received a text message at 8pm instructing us to "experiment with our child to find out whether eggs float in water", and then provide photographic evidence this morning to show the results. We had to drag JD out of bed and fake a couple of photos after which I spent an hour uploading them to the school website and creating a collage to hand in. As I passed it to the teacher this morning, I rather cheekily reminded her that Ava and I do both work full-time and in MY teaching job, I'm expected to plan my lessons at least a week in advance! She just laughed.
For the first 40 minutes JD cried non-stop - so much so that the teacher told him she would send me home if he didn't calm down and cheer up. Cue a rather astonishing transformation from JD who instantly managed to get a grip and show just what he's made of. He was first to volunteer to give a talk about "My Mum" up the front of the class [see photo, left], served all the other students with their snacks and lunch, took part in my mini English lesson and led the class in dancing [see photo, right]. I've only ever seen him be sullen and stand still during class dances before. And no tears as I said goodbye. Wow!
When I showed Ma-in-law the video of JD dancing for the first time she said that he was getting it all wrong and the teachers were not good dancers. Ma is an ex-professional Beijing Opera performer.... with a huge chip on her shoulder!
Last week, JD's kindergarten announced that every parent had to "volunteer" to help in class for two ½-days this term - not the meaning of "volunteer" that I have always understood. Ava promptly left for Shenzhen on business, so I have found myself doing mornings yesterday and tomorrow (before my University classes kick back in next week). JD was a bit bewildered to see me hanging around (despite forewarning) but held it together for the first hour or so. Then it was all tears for an hour, before calming back down for my last hour.
The class had breakfast, did some craft, dancing, singing and then lunch, plus multiple toilet trips. Most of the time there was only one teacher in charge of the 30+ kids, which was a bit worrying, and a lot of the time the kids were just doing nothing between fairly dull activities. But I've seen worse. They suddenly asked me to do a short English activity towards the end. Unprepared, I just fell back on "Head and Shoulders". I'll have something more interesting up my sleeve for tomorrow, just in case.
JD really enjoyed digging holes with his classmates, putting in the tree and watering it afterwards. Then there were snacks for the kids followed by some fun runaround games with little prizes. And thankfully the rain held off until the drive home.
I've spent most of this week doing demonstration classes in various Kindergartens in and around Kunming on behalf of my old employers at Robert's School. It's not really the age-group I'm best with but, as it was the same lesson six times over, it got fairly good by the end. There was a big difference in the look, resources and students' ability levels between the various schools, with the private ones in the city centre looking spotless with focused and talented students. The countryside schools, less so. It was a fascinating, if exhausting, week.
JD's school had a Chinese New Year fun event this morning. Each child was allowed to pick three activities to try, before having a picnic in the playground. JD chose the "bow and arrow balloon pop", the "lion obstacle course" and the "plate painting". I was struck again by just how well-known and popular he is in the school, with frequent call-outs and hugs from teachers and classmates, as well as cooks, cleaners and guards!
Jiajia, JD and I enjoyed a nice meal with JD's class teacher yesterday evening. Teacher Gen invited us to join her for a hotpot along with her private student (English name, Grace) and her student's mother who, rather conveniently, owned the restaurant. We had good food and a nice chat about teaching, JD and life in general. I was interested to hear Gen Laoshi say that JD's Chinese is at, or just above, the level of the others in his class and that he often explains things in class in Chinese that he has learned in English (such as how a plant grows or why planes need to travel fast). I know his English is about the level of a 5-year old (and he's not yet 4) too, so in the language arena he's doing well. Less so in the dancing and singing, apparently!
JD had an Open Morning at his school yesterday which Ava and were able to attend. It was very well run with the students sharing breakfast, dancing, painting, doing PE, having story-time and eating lunch. And we saw first hand what the teachers have been telling us - that JD is smart enough, but not always willing to follow teachers' instructions or participate properly in class activities. Thus, he just stood still during a fan dance, made a green ball of gunk instead of a multi-coloured tissue and was shadowed by a classroom assistant during the PE activities! Not great but, the teachers insist, not a big cause for concern. We forget sometimes that he is 6 months younger than the rest of the class, and coping very well in two languages. Still, I gave him a little talk afterwards about his behaviour.
I gave a short lesson to JD's Kindergarten class this morning. There were 24 kids and we learned the names of six animals before playing some flashcard games and singing "Old MacDonald". It was quite tricky as they had no English at all, so it was all about body language and a little simple Chinese. JD was a bit bemused [see photo] to see Daddy out front and he burst into tears as the lesson ended. When I asked him later how he'd felt, he said "Dizzy"!
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