• About Julie

    NJ native without the accent or the big hair. Currently residing in Beijing. Teaching English. Absorbing all things China. Exploring SE Asia.

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You never know who could use a pick-me-up

I used a writing activity in class last week.  Each student wrote their name on the top of the paper, and then passed it to the next person.  Each person had to write a compliment about every person in the class.  Today, I gave out class evaluations.  In answer to the Which class activities or assignments did you find most helpful? question, here’s what one person said: Continue reading


Now serving donkey meat and ravioli from scratch

Today is rather ordinary in a sort of unordinary sort of way.  I’ve been on a grading blitz since 7:30 this morning, plugging away to get my grade books squared away to turn in midterm grades next week.  This time of year I usually only report students who are in danger of failing, but this year the school is requiring us to turn in midterm grade reports for each student.  In true China fashion they just told us about this and all of my classes took exams and turned in homework last week.  I’m off of work this week, so I’ve been able to divide the work up over each day, interspersed with some pleasure reading.

So today I’m hoping to finish grading everything except for four classes of essays.  I’m having leftovers for lunch today, but I suspect you’ve never eaten leftovers such as these.  Vegetable beef soup and donkey meat.  Yes, donkey.  There’s a restaurant around the corner that specializes in all things donkey and Andrew D. brought me some donkey leg and heart last night from his dinner and I plan on trying it pretty soon.  Then it’s back to grading, but another unordinary event awaits Anna and I later tonight:

Picture 3

Rumor has it Andrew and Andrew (not only do the roommates share the same name, they also have the same middle name) are serving homemade ravioli and we are looking forward to the food and fellowship.  Then I am leaving tomorrow with two other teachers to go away this weekend.  We’ll be running the childcare program during a retreat for a group of young parents in Beijing who do similar work to us.

Why I’m going to bed before 10PM tonight

We had the first of three harvest parties tonight.  It went smashingly well, which I’ll write more about later this week with pictures, but now I’m pretty much wasted and good for nothing the rest of the night.

Case in point:  My 10th grade students are turning in a creative writing assignment this week about a Greek god of their choice.  A student emailed me tonight saying “I just want to confirm that Zeus is a Greek god and not a Roman god.”  When I replied to him I realized too late – after I sent it – that I had signed it “Zeus.”

I was planning on grading for about an hour, but this is a sign that that would be a very poor idea.  And now, I am going to bed before I do anything worse than that.

Countdown to the first day of school

We’re down to the last weekend before school starts! The first day of classes is on Tuesday and in true China fashion I don’t have my teaching schedule yet. We’ll probably receive them on Sunday or Monday.

We had an all-day teaching in-service today with school officials and the Chinese teachers of our classes. It’s mostly a formality where we show the school what we’ll be teaching for the year and they get to look through the books we’re going to use. There are also some teachers who give some presentations on what they think a good class looks like, as well as how to be a good teacher. The Chinese classroom is run vastly different from the American classroom, so it can be really amusing at times. I came prepared with my camera this morning and took some video of the funnier parts of the day. I hope to get those clips up on YouTube as soon as I can get it to work; even with the VPN I’m not able to get it to load this afternoon.

I was going to teach the Diary of Anne Frank in my literature class, but then I decided that there was too much mature content so we switched to The Witch of Blackbird Pond. I remember reading it when I was a kid and there’s a lot of history that Jen and I can teach alongside it. The History class hasn’t changed at all from last year. The two international classes remain an unknown factor and I have a feeling they might be planned on a week by week basis until I get a feel for what the students are like.

We’re headed down to Shi Yi tomorrow for a tour of their campus with the newbs, then to the newbs’ first China tourism experience at Tian’anmen Square. Some people will probably go to the Forbidden City also, but I’m sitting out this time since my aunt is coming to visit on Friday and we’ll visit then.

23 is old if you are 14

You know how your parents talk about stuff that was around before you were born… or how life was different before ___ was invented?  It makes them sound old.  8-tracks, I Dream Of Jeanie, life before the calculator… not stuff I can relate to.

Our discussion questions in class this afternoon were these:

  • What do you see as the pros and cons of technological progress?
  • Do you have any concerns that technology might actually be diminishing our quality of life?

My 8th graders stared blankly back at me.  They’re young enough that they couldn’t think of pretty much anything new that has been invented during their lifetime and haven’t experienced “technological progress.”  My generation remembers life before Windows, the internet, and cell phones but junior high students today were born after the internet and they all have their own phones!

Sometimes I think my parents are old but today I think I joined their ranks… at least in the eyes of those kids!

It’s a beautiful day

I microwaved some leftovers for lunch today. As the carrots heated up the lid got sucked back onto the formerly-circular plastic container. It re-sealed and the result was a newly triangular container. Whoops.

Days like today make me want to listen to U2. Spring comes early in Beijing and we’ve already had several 80-degree days. Today the sun is shining, the breeze is gentle, and the fuzz is flying. The white seeds blow around, accumulating into cotton ball dust bunnies. The fuzz was swirling outside my third floor classroom this morning and looked a lot like snow. It’s the bane of every Beijinger on his bike as he tries to avoid accidentally inhaling it or snorting it up his nose. In the picture, Greg Briggs and his fiance are walking between the track and the building we live in.
We just finished studying the Middle Ages today in history class and we played Taboo to celebrate… with vocabulary words from our lessons. Charlemagne, pope, Joan of Arc, 100 Years War, longbow, gunpowder, religion, Holy Roman Empire, feudalism, bubonic plague. I threw in a few just for fun: Mr. Staab, Avril Lavigne (they love the “Girlfriend” song), Michael Jordan, Easter. The students absolutely loved it. Class 14 held the record for the most words in one minute until today. The old record was eleven but Class 11 broke it with twelve words guessed in a minute. They have so much fun competing against each other they almost forgetting they’re practicing English at the same time. 🙂 Next, we’ll begin studying the Renaissance followed by that world religions that have impacted Western history and culture.
Our students will take their midterm examinations next week so we have a break from teaching classes for four days. Anna and I are traveling with Joel, Mary, and Jacob to Sichuan for five days to visit Mary’s parents, who live in Chengdu. Sichuan is the province where last spring’s earthquake struck and it’s also famous for its food. We’ll spend some time in Chengdu, then spend a day or two in Nanchong which is Mary’s hometown. Most of my travels haven’t strayed more than ten hours from Beijing so I’m excited to see a different part of China! Traveling with Mandarin-speakers also eliminates some stress. 🙂
The three guys were my students last year in Sr 1 Class 5 and were some of my favorites. They have continued to visit the office to see Greg, Joel, and Cherie, who are their foreign teachers this year. The office has experienced an increase in traffic this week because we had our annual campus-wide Easter egg hunt on Thursday. When students bring the plastic eggs back to the office they have a chance to redeem them for candy, money, or prizes. Some students prefer to keep the plastic eggs, which they’ve never seen before, much to the dismay of the foreign teachers who bring them from the US!
The last picture is of a student named Volver in Sr 1 Class 1. She’s been in the office a lot this year and visits me often in my classroom, which is across the hall from her homeroom.
The punishment that brought our peace was on him and by his wounds we are saved.

Happy Easter!

Job update

It looked for a little while that Anna and I would be moving to teach at Renmin University for the 09-10 school year, but things have changed since my last post. Anna and I and our qualifications were initially okay-ed by the Foreign Experts Bureau to go to the University, but we forgot that nothing is final in China until it’s a completed action. Ren Da changed their minds on two accounts.

  1. They will allow the first-year teachers to return to teach their second year, so they don’t have to leave the school as originally thought.
  2. They have told Anna and I that we cannot teach at the University without two years of university teaching experience or a masters degree – our experience at the high school and middle school level don’t qualify. They’re looking for foreign teachers who can bring more prestige to their school, but this is the school’s rule and not the fault of government regulation.

After a few weeks of not knowing exactly what next year would look like, we are staying where we’re at. Nate and Jess, the couple I mentioned in the last post, are still going to Ren Da next year so the University team will number six. Our overall team is growing again – Shi Yi asked for ten teachers and RDFZ (my school) wants 22 teachers among its three campuses. Teachers and spouses bring the grand total to 40, plus three children under the age of two!

I said above that we’re staying where we’re at. We’ll keep the same teaching positions, but we’re moving into a new apartment building . . . sometime. Sometime could mean anytime between tomorrow and August. Since the school promised us we would move by September 1, 2008 I will only believe we’re actually moving after my stuff is over there. 🙂 The overall space is somewhat smaller than what we have now, but it has a few things I’m excited about. There is a lot of storage and closet space, cabinets under the sink in the bathroom (we have a pedestal sink right now), a big shared walk-in closet (if that sounds weird, it’s because it is), washing machines in each apartment, central heating/air (no more radiators!), and a small glassed-in balcony/clothes drying room off each bedroom. The living room has several functions – the walk-in closet is on one side with sliding doors (I told you this was weird), the kitchen counters and cabinets are built in along one corner, and the rest of the space is occupied by the couch area and dining room table/chairs.