First week of teaching and I survived…barely. I survived IKEA and the subway on a Saturday. I survived Teacher Appreciation day. I survived the deaths of two people I love this week. Oh, and a bout of food poisoning, and an instance of choking. Yeah, it’s been a week like that.
Monday, the first real day of school and I still don’t get how anything works. The students stay in their class rooms and I move to my classes. But then the room changed and switched, students moved and switched. I have the whole sixth grade at varying levels of English. My Honors are really high honors. They’ve read Harry Potter and can talk about the symbolism. My “regulars” just stare at me. “So what’s the main idea of this poem?” I ask, (that I have told them more than 8 times this week and written it down, and told them to write it in their notebook). Just blank stares. And I have to teach these groups generally the same stuff.
Even harder than that is the “other stuff.” I am responsible for. I need a flow chart for who is my supervisor and who is in charge of what, because I get all kinds of “directives” from all kinds of people and I have no idea what half of it means and why some things seem more important than others. For example, first day, a week before students arrive, we have a day-long meeting of administrative stuff. A guy says, “You need to make a poster of directives with your homeroom students by next Friday.” I feel like my “regulars.” “What’s a homeroom?” “What do you mean by ‘directives?’” Friday, he asks me for my poster. I wanted to say, “What poster?” But, I didn’t. I know what a homeroom is now, but I haven’t seen mine yet. I asked for a calendar of who needs what and when, but they can’t seem to provide that.
The hardest part is the DAMN stairs! 104 up, and 104 down at least three times a day. Then three flights up another building for lunch every day. Lunch is worth it though. It’s really very good.
Wednesday is my “hell day.” Everyone has one. I have five classes in a row except for when I walk them to lunch, after-school duty, walk them to dinner, two-hour study time, and walk them to their dorms at 8pm. Of course, I get paid for the overtime. The other days, I just have 2-3 classes a day, and lots of prep time.
I really want to talk about one more thing, but being social media, I should probably bite my tongue and leave it at that. But it was Teacher Appreciation day, and we were not feeling appreciated.
On Friday night, the foreign teachers all went out for Beers and BBQ. I told them I can’t go because I’m an introvert. That got a funny look. I think maybe I really am becoming an introvert, though. Anyway, then I said, “Really, I have the girls at home.” Which I love as an excuse to be an introvert. They encouraged me to bring them. I have brought them to several things now so far, so ok.
They sent me the address in Chinese to show the taxi driver, and he dropped us off in an unfamiliar place. We walked around for about 30 minutes in a maze of outside cafes in alleyways and asked several people who pointed us in different directions. Then, as we walked toward the street, I saw 2 kindergarten teachers in a taxi who were also lost. I stopped them, called Lauren and handed the phone to one of them. He had GPS on his phone, so we tried to follow that. On the way, we ran into two other lost teachers and it became an interesting journey. Four Kilometers later, we arrived, hot, sweaty, and hungry. It was ok, but it’s not really my thing. I think I enjoy being an introvert, or at least saving my extrovert energy for other things.
And then there was Saturday. We haven’t seen Clarks for maybe a month. So we went there for dinner. Jodie teaches in the afternoon, so we said we would go to IKEA right by their house first. The landlord is arranging to get the girls bunk beds, and we have more broken dishes than whole ones, so we had some stuff to get. We get on the subway and it’s packed. I have to stand! I forgot..It’s Saturday. We get downtown, and I don’t have an address for the taxi, so Rumi made a sign that looks just like the IKEA sign. The driver kept saying, “I don’t know.” I opened the taxi door and called to the closest person walking by. A nice woman stopped. I showed her the sign and asked her if she know what it is. Of course she did. I asked her to tell the driver, and he laughed. We got there. The sign is so big it can be seen from miles away. I don’t know why drivers act like they don’t recognize it.
Shanghai IKEA is famous for people coming to “hang-out.” You will see old men sleeping in the beds and on the couches. Parents bring their kids there to play. And the restaurant has an unbelievable line. We braved it out though. We ate first; it’s so good. Then, we were in a good mood for buying sheets and blankets and dishes. So yeah, we fought the crowds, but it didn’t totally suck.
Then we hung out with our friends. We had a lovely dinner, and they gave Raine a beautiful butterfly kite. We took a taxi home, because we were bogged down with blankets and dishes.
Sunday was “Mommy’s day,” for a little bit. I met Stephen for lunch because I missed eating lunch with Stephen. I got my haircut, and I picked a few things up at the store on my way home. It was 105 degrees, but I didn’t have too much. I still crashed in a sweaty mess when I got home.
I know it seems like I’m complaining too much, but today (Monday) really sucked. I had given my students homework in the middle of last week to write four lines of their favorite English song lyrics and label the rhyme scheme and meter. My honors class did it, sang them, had fun with it, and it was perfect. Then. in my “regular 2” class, only one person did the homework. It was about 50% for my other two classes. They had five days to write four lines. I was so mad.
And, at lunch, we had duck. I should have gone to the Chinese side where they had tofu. I didn’t see it. So I’m eating and I start choking. I was sitting with 5 other foreign teachers. I’m coughing. I’m gagging. I try to drink something and it goes projectile all over my dress. One person says, “Are you ok?” I said, “No. It’s stuck.” She goes back to eating, and the others don’t even look up. By this time, I kind of throw everything up. My dress is wrecked. I want to cry. I don’t know what was worse, no one looking at me, or if they had been looking at me. I couldn’t eat after that, so I just left.
I can’t finish this without talking about my cousin, Deb, and my beautiful teacher, Dr. Royster. They died 2 days from each other this week. Both died by an aggressive, inoperable cancer. Both died so quickly. Both had beautiful hearts and will leave a huge void in mine.