Thursday, September 23, 2010

Life is up and running...sort of.

Hey there!
It is 2:45pm on Thursday the 23rd here.
I don't have an art class right now so I'm going to stop lesson planning and write you.
I have tried to write you in the past from the school's internet, but sometimes it doesn't work, and as you know, we don't have internet at home. EVERYTHING is harder here. LOL
We had to find a company to hire to move all our things from 5 different places and then up 6 flights of stairs! Finally they moved our things. Then we had to find someone to hire to clean our new apt. After a long story it was kind of cleaned...but good enough.
We finally got into our new apt on the 18th, only to find out there is no hot water! So, on Saturday the 19th we waited ALL day for a plumber to fix our hot water...yeah, all day. But, by the end, we had hot water in the shower and kitchen sink (that's it). We don't have any water in the room where our washer is hooked up...We are trying to get that fixed. UG! Guess I'll do it the ol' fashion way for now. Blah! Next: the internet. Supposedly someone is going to come tonight to just look at what they can hook up and get our info. Then, we have to wait another week before they hook up the internet. YES....EVERYTHING IS HARDER IN CHINA!!!!! And it's not like I can get this all done myself. NO! I don't speak Chinese (other than to say "Hello. How are you? Very good. Thank you. I don't know. How much? I'm sorry/excuse me." and some other things (we a have Chinese class every Thursday for 45min)) No. I have to rely on others to make these phone calls and talk to these people to get all these little things done.
It is crazy to say that Jeff and I have been here a month and we are just getting moved in. It's also crazy just to say that Jeff and I have been here a month. Period!
I now have 10 students. Six of them are not English speakers. Two of the six speak NO English. Three of the six speak VERY LITTLE English. And one of the six is actually ok. Then, I have 4 English speakers. It is SOOOOO hard to find a balance teaching this mix. For the ESL kiddos I have to go slow and for the English speakers I need to speed it up. So…I am doing my best. And this weekend I will have an individual plan for EACH student and have a parent helper come in twice or three times a week to work one-on-one with each kiddo. Also, I have a Chinese helper named Ms. Judy.
Humph. And just a thought…how do you get 6 students to do as you ask and obey when they don’t understand what you are saying!?!?! NOT EASY! But you can bet that when I come back to the states I will be an expert in acting out charades!!!!!! LOL.
But hey, it’s REALLY a good thing that teaching is my job and my calling in life…otherwise I’d be outta here! LOL. And it’s an even better thing that Jeff and I have HIM on our side!
It makes me think, “Who do people yarp to, or look to, or trust in when life is this tough? And who do they praise or thank when the load lifts?”
Jeff has 6 students 3 of which are ESL students. Jeff is working REALLY hard as this is his first year teaching and his background is in Kinder and 1st. We help each other out a lot with ideas (: I mainly give him classroom management and lesson ideas…and he reminds me to have fun…which, believe me, I need those reminders (:
I don’t mean to complain…please don’t think that is my tone. It is just tough being “molded”…but I’m smiling, knowing that Jeff and I are going to be wonderful “pots” when it’s done.
We have an October holiday coming up the first week of October. Jeff and I might be going to Yushu (where the bad earthquake happened recently). It is another 1,000 or so feet up. We will stay in tents and have no running water. It is a one day bus ride there. It won’t be glamorous, but we will be able to see another part of China, and help out people (: It’ll be like camping for 4 days…silly.
Well, there is much more to say, and many more stories. But I have to go. I am going to be part of a woman’s group here in Xining to help support other ex-pats like myself. I figure when I reach out, there will be others to take my hand and we can help each other (:
Kristine and Jeff Hole

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

School has begun!

Yes, it has been too long since we wrote. Our internet has been out at the apt that we are staying at. So i makes it hard to write or Skype. Right now I am in my classroom trying to think about the work I should be getting done, but I can't because my mind keeps thinking of my wonderful family and friends. I really really miss you, 'nough of tears now...anyway...
Today I introduced Callie the Cat to my class (my Folkmannis puppet) It is our class "pet". The kids LOVED it (especially the girls) (: Also, they love playing with the Wedgits and Zoobs. I use my big finger-pointer every day for calendar time (and now the first grade teacher wants one )
I also use my “Music Maker”/little harp everyday. It’s my sound to have the children stop and listen. Also, my art students LOVE to play songs on it. I had a girl today ask if she could buy one…I told her dad to look up OverThe Rainbow Toy store (:

I have 9 students now, 5 ESL (English as a Second Language) and 4 English speakers. They are all pretty sweet, yet quite a handful. But I'm tough, so I'm whipping them into shape (:

Jeff likes his students. He has 7 now (I think) half are ESL. All his students like him! They are all so happy to have a male teacher that is funny and cares about them.

I am also the art teacher for the 1st-6th graders as well. One of my classes is the 1st and 2nd graders together (that's 25 students!) It's not my favorite, but I'm learning (:

This week and last week I taught the color wheel (primary, secondary, and complementary colors).

This school is pretty nice...but I'm really one for routine, structure, and rules. So at the first staff meeting I brought up areas where I saw that things are needed...needless to say they all agreed...but who do you think is the one that had to spear head it all? Yes, me. That's ok though, my wonderful husband helped. And the teachers say they see how the changes are good, and that these rules and routines are good for the students and school. So now they are all starting to enforce these things in their classrooms as well. I told the kids that I'm not trying to be mean; that ,in fact, I'd rather play and have fun too...but to play and have fun, you must first have firm roots in rules and structure! Silly (:

Tomorrow some of Xining’s police are coming to look at our school and to do some interviews on TV. Then on Friday (either this or next) the Vise Governor of Xining is coming to look at our school. China is all about "gwanshee" (that's not how you spell it, but that's how you say it) roughly it means "relations". So this is really good for our school to have these high-ups coming to see us! Hopefully we make a good impression!

Jeff and I have not moved into our new apt yet. But we did see it...and let me tell is Chinese bling...we even have a small disco ball!!!! and FOUR rooms...I don't really like the place, but I'll work to make it our own...That and we will have a guest room!!!!

We have not moved in yet...hopefully this week's SO hard because I don't know how to do anything in Chinese! We have to get some one to help us move our stuff, get a washer machine, internet, pay the electricity....and so on and so on....We are buying a nice bed and couch from a couple that is moving. We haven't seen these things, but we hear they are nice and from IKEA (: (and we already have a guest bed!!!)

Jeff and I are doing pretty good. We are making friends/connections. In fact last week Friday we were invited over to the Jones (their daughter is in my class) for BBQ chicken! It was nice. The expat community is really nice and good to us. We are so thankful for that!

Oh goodness, I really need to go…but I’ll try write again, sooner rather than later (: However the rest of this week is going to be FULL!

Thank your for all your support and prayers.