I’m at work waiting for Teacher Sara to get off work so we can go get massages. Sara is her code name which may or may not have anything to do with the friend I miss back home. Sara is a very friendly Taiwanese girl who will work in the same classroom as me this coming year. I told her I wanted to get a massage, and she suggested we go together. She gets off work an hour and a half later than me, though, so I cut up construction paper for the choo choo trains my class will make tomorrow, punched out on my time card, and now I’m sitting at my laptop in a teeny tiny chair that says “Cherry”.
I had a new student today. He fit right in, crying only once when he went down to the big room for break and stood among the organized chaos of kids running around throwing balls, bouncing around on top of balls, climbing the jungle gym, etc. I can definitely see how it would be overwhelming to newcomers especially considering the sound echos in there and it does a number on your ears.
I noticed that when a new child joins the school there is a lot of preparing that goes on. This is the same at any early childhood or elementary institution I’m sure. Since I’m a substitute right now and everyone else had to prepare his things, it wasn’t really difficult for me. The child has to have a new pair of inside shoes, several changes of clothes (they get their shirt changed on Tuesdays and Thursdays upon returning from the park… they also get their hair blow dried at this time because heaven forbid they have to wait 15 minutes until the sweat dries), a cup with a lid, a sleeping bag with pillow, a toothbrush and toothpaste and cup for brushing teeth time after lunch, and a backpack. Then the school arranges a spot for these items of course as well as putting the child’s name in the following places: on the floor for circle time, on the chair, on a spot on the floor near the bathroom, in the cubby where the backpack is kept, on all items like the toothbrush paraphernelia brought from home, on the bi-weekly report folder he takes home, on the sticker chart that is hung on the wall, on a clear envelope which holds two library books chosen by the student every other week, and in several other places I haven’t discovered yet I’m sure.
Today I had two students wearing a surgical mask because, I presume, they were sick. We had to put it off and on for meal times which there are three of usually, but today there were four because it was a student’s birthday. It was not one of my students, but he came into my class with a huge piece of cake with strange (to me) toppings on it. One of the Taiwanese girls (Chinese Teachers we call them if you remember) told me this is tradition, don’t worry, and that I need to hold the cake and pose with this student for a couple photos. I did. Then, he came back later with candy for each of my students and a piece of cake (a different kind) for me.
I have received some really nice compliments from a couple parents who have already brought back the bi-weekly report paper. One mom filled up the whole comments box saying that her daughter is very happy every evening and that she talks about the stories I read at school. “Seriously, she has told us The Gingerbread Boy 5-6 times already,” she wrote. She also said she’s very happy her daughter is learning a lot at school just like before with her regular teacher. I saw this mom after school today, and she explained that she’d read her daughter that same story before in the library, but she would never remember it until recently when I read it. This mom is, obviously, very nice and easy to communicate with. The parents speak varying amounts of English it seems, but this lady speaks it very fluently. I can’t remember why, but maybe one of her parents spoke English or she lived overseas or something.
I also received compliments last week from the school director here and the guy who hired me. He said all the people at this school have been saying good things about me, including the Chinese Teachers. He watched me read a couple stories to two classes on Friday when the teacher of one class had to leave early. That class is particularly difficult, and my school director said I did great. I kind of got the feeling I was told to go downstairs and teach these two classes so that they could spy on me, but maybe I’m paranoid.
Carrie had her first day of work today. They had a long term substitute position open up at the last minute, and they really wanted her to do it, so they asked her to do this instead of the part time 8 week position at Head Start, an afterschool English program. She was very happy about this because she’ll be put on salary starting today instead of having to wait until the new school year starts and because she might get two weeks off before the new school year. Or, if she decides to work, she’ll only work a couple hours in the mornings.
An interesting thing about her substitute position is that she’s been told the students have very poor behavior and she should be ready to be very strict. She went in with three rules and a discipline system that is working well so far. Also interesting is that her class had been quarantined. Some of the students had gotten some kind of sickness that is severe enough for them to want to keep the class away from the rest of the school. During break time and nap time the students have to stay in their room. The quarantine is over now, though, so Carrie only experienced this for one day. But the whole reason she is subbing is because the regular teacher of that class moved back to the U.S. upon becoming so sick she couldn’t stay here. I’m really not sure what that means or what the sickness is, but it all sounds pretty scary. It is Carrie’s third day of this job tomorrow, and she hasn’t died, so don’t worry. And she doesn’t plan to move back either, so don’t get excited. No emotions people, play it cool.
I wrote the preceding info yesterday. I have a few updates: there was another birthday today, a girl who is not in my class, and the EXACT same ritual happened. Second, today it made a little sense to blow dry their hair and change their shirt after park time since it was a very hot and, of course, humid day… either that or because I am beginning to think like the Taiwanese.
I have noticed that I do fit into this culture quite nicely with regards to how they like to plan the logistics of things. The people here like to develop precise routines and are meticulous about cleanliness. I thrive in a highly organized work environment though I appreciate it being fairly relaxed and stress-free within that organization. I am also kind of detailed when I clean. Dad, I think I got that from watching you bend over every five minutes, despite your bad back, to pick up a piece of lint off the floor.
When it comes to my free time, however, I avoid too much structure. I rarely know where I’m going to eat more than 5-10 minutes before it happens. I dislike telling you when I’ll wake up on my day off or even when I’ll actually put clothes on and leave the house. So try not to invite me to something that begins before 2 pm. Thanks.