One of our puppets (and me!)
Life is very different out here in China, as I knew it would be. When I consider that just a few months ago we had one plan for life then it suddenly changed overnight, it made me realise how much our time on this earth can be an adventure, if only we choose to say ‘yes’!
I am currently really enjoying my time here, nearly at the end of my second week of working with the three-year olds, in an international school in Tianjin. The school is quite small with approximately 320 students with ages ranging from the Early Childhood Academy (where I work) to the seniors in Grade 12. I feel the strong sense of community the school fosters and we’re all in houses (I am in the green dragon house!) and there are a plethora of activities, social, school and family events to become involved in – it’s like a big family!
– My day starts at 6:00 am which is when I wake up, listen to the music drifting up from the park below us from the group that meet every morning to practice the ancient art of Tai Chi (TaiQi) and then my family and I get ready, have breakfast and make the short five-minute walk to school. So far, stress levels are non-existent and at this point I am totally looking forward to my day!
– We all have to get to school by 7:45am and the day officially starts at 8:00am. The children start to move in one-by-one – I have 9 children at the moment, all who are three and incredibly sweet and clever!
– I have two Chinese teaching assistants who are fast becoming good friends of mine too – we work so well together as a team and they are always there, one step ahead, and know the routine. I never need to ask them to do anything as they will come to me and ask what they can do. I am so impressed by their attitude and by the way they interact so lovingly with all the children. We put out a few activities, or ‘morning centres’ for the children and for 30 minutes, they engage in these whilst we observe and play with them too.
– At 8:30, it’s specialist time. This involves 2 singing sessions, 2 dancing and one P.E session with other teachers – this is my first planning period. I am so surprised at how quickly my class have settled into the routine. And for two days running now, no crying in the morning when they come in! They sing transition songs whilst they walk to their subject and love each class they go to!
– At 9:00am it’s circle and calendar time and we all gather together on the carpet. I teach them songs, we count, we talk about the weather, days of the week and read a story. Then it’s time for a snack. The children are very independent when it comes to snack time and have already learned how to organise themselves round our circular table, open their packets and boxes and eat quietly. We always listen to music (they are going to have such an eclectic taste at the end of the year!) and I am encouraging them at all times to learn new words – so this is a good time to learn the names of the different foods. I also sometime pretend my banana is a phone, but that’s just an aside!
– The rest of the morning includes a 30-minute recess where they play in an adventure playground outside, art activities and free-play within the classroom. Lunch -time comes and goes quickly then it’s time for their nap! All my children, except one, naps for 90 minutes and this is where I take my lunch and have more planning time. If anyone is reading this from a UK state school, you will now have added up 60 minutes planning so far (add another 30 if I am not on duty for recess) plus a 45 minute lunch.
– Having these breaks enables me to be really on the ball with the children and when I give them my time I make sure it’s 100 per cent effort from me. Compared to working in the UK system where breaks were frequently skipped because we needed that time to prepare, I feel that working here is a very good environment for the mental health of the professional!
– 2:00 we gently wake the children – they are so happy to have had their nap (most of them will go to bed late so this nap is essential!) and then each day we the children experience something different. One day, we have computer time, the next, sand and water, more outside play, a visit to the library and the parents get to come and play with their children once a week for 30 minutes too. At the end of the day, we sing a goodbye song that I wrote (they are still learning it!) and then it’s time for dismissal. We need to stay in school until four and then we are free to go.
– The teachers pool their talents and offer various clubs to the other staff. I have joined the yoga, zumba and TaiQi and my daughter has chosen for her after-school clubs Chinese Art, the Choir and Creative Moment. Life is well-paced here and I feel like I have somehow managed to achieve a balance of home and work. I still spend quality time with my family, get to see friends and love my job!