Several years ago, while trying to lift a student, I felt a pain in my lower back. That was the beginning of a problem that has popped up occasionally, for years. I always travel with my medication and heat packs, and typically, I feel better within twenty-four to forty-eight hours. During the night I felt the familiar lower back twinge, so a I applied my heat pack and took my medication immediately, hoping for the best.
This would be our second and final day in Langfang. Eric and Julian joined us. They were staying to observe and participate in the after-school program, which ran from 5 PM until 7:30 PM. I was very careful with my back.
We visited an English class first. The teacher had two large boxes that he put on the floor. Both boxes contained a scene that showed the sky, railroad tracks, and a road. Then the teacher showed the group a picture of either a train, a plane, or a car. The children had to chose a picture, name it, and place it in the appropriate part of the scene. The next activity was singing along with an animated video of “The Wheels on the Bus.” I sang along, of course.
After lunch (a casserole of meat, beans, and potatoes, with a side dish of rice, and a bowl of rice in broth) it was time for us to meet with the teachers. We showed our videos of Miss Val’s gym class, Miss Veronica and the Hedgehog, and the five year old class at Earthplace. Then, Nick demonstrated the method we use to teach the children how to put on their jackets without help, called “The Flip Trick.” His demonstration was received by applause! Next, we all made fold-up books using a piece of copier paper.
After that came Q & A. The first question was about our lack of math textbooks. A teacher asked, “Don’t the parents worry that their children are falling behind?” I replied that our parents worry that their children are being rushed, and that they aren’t getting enough time outdoors in nature. We have an optional class for five year olds whose parents want to give their children an extra year at Earthplace before enrolling them in elementary school.
The exchange I had with the teachers was a highly valuable experience for me, and I hope, for the teachers. Here are some of their questions:
1) How do we get children to do as they are asked?
2) Why don’t all children stay for Earthplace’s five year old class?
3) In the five year old class, do the children do four year old work again, or five year old work, or something in between?
4) Do we really, as our presentation shows, give the parents written reports about their children? How frequently do the parents get written reports?
5) Do we teach any foreign languages?
In addition to asking questions, they asked me to critique their teaching. I tried to describe what I saw, and to get them to brainstorm ways to make teaching more effective. The headmistress asked Candy to explain to us that there are many changes they would like to make, but not everything that can be done in the US is doable in China.
We were driven back to the school in Gu’an, where our dinner consisted of chicken wing sections, rice soup, and spice cake for dessert.