I normally teach twelve classes a week; although, my thirteenth class will be starting in a couple weeks. This weekend one of the other foreign teachers in my school was out, so I taught two of her classes on Saturday in addition to mine. Meaning, I taught 8 classes over the course of Saturday and Sunday – surprisingly, I survived with much less time for preparation than I’m accustom and my voiced survived.
My Sunday is always a busy day – as I teach 4 classes every Sunday. So what does a typical Sunday look like for teacher Julia? Here are some events of my day today:
I had a conversation with a 5 year old about his little sister, how she goes to a different school and has a green backpack but he has a red backpack.
Another 5 year old told my coworker that I have a knife on my back. (I believe the translation was actually a knife in my back…) When I asked where the knife was she lifted up my shirt and pointed to my tattoo (which apparently looks like a knife to her).
I listened to two students argue in class (in Chinese) over who was speaking Chinese in class.
I was scolded by my students for speaking Chinese in class. (I referred to Chinese currency as kuai.)
I was told (in response to the question, “Does Julia have blond hair?”) “No, she doesn’t. She has gray hair.”
When a coworker was commenting on the very long braided rat-tail of one of the students at the school, I learned that it is customary for some Chinese boys to never cut this strand of hair until they turn ten years old at which time it is cut off. No one was sure exactly which people this was customary among, although “a region around Shanghai” was speculated; nor did anyone know the reasoning or tradition behind it. When the boy was asked why his hair wasn’t cut, he responded, “我不知道.” (I don’t know.)
I listened to one of my 4 year old students reading English and brought another teacher over to show off how good his pronunciation was. I also met his father who, when I expressed my delight in his son’s English, told me when the boy was two he taught him how to speak with both Japanese and French accents.
I finally went an entire class period without calling a set of twins by the wrong name; however, I did mix up the twins in another class for the millionth time.
I was told how to order yet another type of delicious dumplings from the small restaurant next to my school and went and bought dumplings for a co-worker and myself. Spending 12 kuai (less than 2 dollars) for the two of us.
I relayed orders for milk tea (or bubble tea) from one teacher to another – in Chinese. Because if I know anything in Chinese, I know how to order 珍珠奶茶.
I taught the sentence: “I am pooping.” And when one student left for the bathroom, I asked the class, “What is James doing?” The entire class responded, “He is pooping.” If my male students are so obsessed with talking about poop, I at least ensure they do so in a grammatically correct manner.
I explained the difference between the English words chili and chilly, and their uses to four of my Chinese co-workers, one of whom has the English name Chilly.
I sighed a breathe of relief and announced at 3:40pm that I finally had 20 minutes to relax before my last class at 4pm, then immediately sat down at my desk and saw the stack of 55 reports waiting to be filled out.
And, lastly, to top of my day – I, for the first time, had a student spit in my face. I took him by his t-shirt, pulled him out of the class, through the lobby where his grandmother was sitting and into the teachers office where I sat him down and told the Chinese teacher to please instruct him not to ever spit in his teacher’s face again. He was later brought back to class and apologized. The Chinese teacher explained, as he stood there about to cry, that he merely wanted to let me know what another student had done to him; yet, he didn’t know how to say it in English.
I did get a chuckle after class when I learned that when the Chinese teacher told him an apology might not calm my anger and asked him what he should do about it, he responded, “She can spit in my face.”
And after almost ten long hours at the school, I came home with a sore throat, exhausted, but smiling. If nothing else, every day is certainly an adventure.