Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Morning Exercises and Teaching 6th Graders

Today was a fairly eventful day in my life here in Beijing. Several things happened for the first time, and they're all at least mildly exciting.

First, today was the first day that we did morning exercises. Every morning since we've been here before the first block the entire school goes onto the track area. However, up until today it's been too cold in the morning (we do this at around 7:45, the first block starts at 8) to do the classic morning exercises, so the school just runs around the school and the track several times. It's cold, but it's nice at the same time because it wakes me up, which is necessary after waking up at 6:20. This morning the school administration decided it was warm enough to do the real morning exercises. Every class lined up single-file next to each other (with 50+ kids in each class, they were long lines) and waited for instructions. A male teacher got up to a microphone that's on a raised podium in the middle of a wall fence that faces another school next door. He talked for a minute or two, and I didn't understand anything he was saying. Then, we started the exercises. First, he told us to spread our legs and link our hands behind our backs. Then he told us to go back to our original position. He told us to do this about five times, and then he had us raise our hands in several different positions. Then we turned to the right, took a step, turned right again, did a 180, then repeated the same thing. That was about it. It wasn't what I expected, but I'm guessing that once it gets warmer out we'll do the full exercises I've heard so much about (and I'll get a chance to make a bigger fool out of myself :P). I'll bring my camera to school this week and film it, because seeing it for yourself is probably better than my terrible description. It was almost 12 hours ago, and my brain can't remember. Sorry :(.

The next thing that happened in our English class. We Bounders (the term the program uses to refer to the Newton kids who go to China. I think it's because we're "bound" for China. Don't ask me, I didn't come up with it) have this English seminar so we can get our final 2.5 credits in English and graduate. I think I've mentioned it before. Anyways, every Tuesday and Friday, we have one block where our teacher chaperones facilitate discussions on China, based on what we've read and seen. Today, they gave us our first real assignment. We each chose pieces of paper out of a hat, each describing a person. Our assignment was to answer a list of questions about that person in a creative format (i.e. dialogue, journal entry, interview, etc). Mine is "You are a 13 year old girl in the 12th century. You are the daughter of peasant farmers (tenant farmers) in the Yellow River basin." This basically means that I have a pretty crappy life. I'm a girl, which in traditional imperial China is never nice. I'm poor, which also isn't great. And I'm 13, which means I'll be married off soon. My feet are also bound, a particularly excruciating process (ever read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan?). I got frustrated when I was told I couldn't do a powerpoint or a video diary because computers and powerpoint didn't exist in the 12th century, but I'm sure I'll think of something. Feel free to give suggestions.

The last exciting thing that happened today was I got to help teach a class. Our teachers each assigned us a block or two during the week when we get to assist in their class. They teach English to the middle schoolers, and it can be especially tiring for them. We want to get taken out of class, so it all works out. I'm helping Ms. Richard teach a 6th grade class. It was really fun. They read these really thin (like 40 pages) books about different people and topics (Prince William, Surfers, MLK, The Canterbury Tales, Moby Dick to name a few). Today she taught them about Leonardo DiCaprio. She had a timeline of all the movies he's been in (I didn't realize it was so many), the only one they knew of was of course Titanic (which I believe is still the top grossing movie of all time). She then had them write details of DiCaprio's life, the ultimate goal being to write their own autobiography. She had me walk up and down the ailes, making sure kids were doing what they were supposed to be doing and such. When they started writing their autobiographies, I noticed they were all born in 1996/1997. This surprised me because while I know 12 year olds exist, it didn't dawn on me that there are people born in 1997. It was a little weird, perhaps my first "mid-life crisis" of sorts. Who knows. The class was really fun, and I'm looking forward to getting to know some of the kids, rather than sitting in Chemistry class.

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