Wednesday, August 17, 2011

In Which Stephanie Addresses Reader Questions

Some friends have emailed, skyped, or used other means to message me with questions in the past few weeks, so I thought I'd go ahead and do an entire blog post of answers, since other readers may have similar or identical questions.

Whatever became of that typhoon?
After getting us all hyped up and ready for mega waves, heavy rain, and insane winds, Muifa slowed down, turned, and beat the tar out of Korea instead.  We did get that one day of enormous waves, followed by a storm that night, but then we heard nothing further from Muifa.  Not even so much as a postcard!

What classes are you teaching?  How many students do you have?  What are the kids like?
I teach just four classes, as we have block scheduling.  Our high school classes are an hour and a half on MTWT, and then just half an hour on Fridays.  On Mondays and Wednesdays, I teach both of our sections of Modern World History (10th graders).  I get planning periods from 8:00 am until 11:30, except for the fifteen minutes of homeroom (we have that MTWT; my homeroom kids are ninth graders).  I then have class from 11:30 until 1:00, which is lunchtime (I eat in the cafeteria with the kids every day), and then again from 1:40 until 3:00, when we dismiss.  For Tuesdays and Thursdays, I get planning period from 8:00 until 9:30, then homeroom and tea break, then classes all the way until lunch, at which point I am done teaching for the day.  On those days, my classes are College Prep and one section of Ancient World History (9th graders).  On Fridays, all of my classes meet.

For my fifteen minute homeroom on MTWT, I've themed each day.  On Compassion Mondays, I discuss either a person or organization who is making a positive difference somewhere in the world.  The kids were very interested in it this week: I talked about an anti-human trafficking organization (Justice ACTs) and how they rescued an Albino African girl from witch doctors who wanted to kill her.  On Tough Question Tuesdays, I'll be focusing on a difficult moral question or situation each week.  On Wacky Wednesdays, I show funny (and clean) YouTube videos.  Today's videos were a huge hit:  I introduced the kids to Julian Smith and Monty Python.  Thursdays are Worldwide Thursdays, in which I'll talk about a recent significant news story somewhere in the world, and we'll have a little discussion about it.

I am amazed and astounded by just how good my students are.  Most of them are Korean; I only have one or two "Western" kids per class.  All of my students are quite attentive, respectful, and engaged in whatever we're doing.  One of my tenth grade classes informed me today that they find my classes very fun and interesting, which I was delighted to hear.  My biggest class is the first section of tenth graders:  there are 20 kids in that class.  My College Prep class is my smallest, which only 7 students.  The other two classes have 14 and 16 kids, respectively.  The kids are quite sweet.  In each class, there are at least a few students eager to become "pets".  They like to linger after class or come early just to talk to me.  I really don't have any "bad" kids, though I do have a couple who will require a little extra encouragement and direction on my part.  I can honestly say that I really like every single kid in each of my classes.

What creative things have you come up with in your classes?
Yes, my friends know me well!  I love to come up with odd/creative/weird teaching techniques.  In the tenth grade, I'm quite proud of what I've set up.  Each month, the kids will play a month-long themed competition game with differing rules.  This month, my Sophomores are pirates.  I have split both classes into two teams, who will all play against each other, and each team has their own ship on my bulletin board, which I have set up to look like an ocean with lots of islands.  Participation, good grades, and winning review games will earn the pirates treasure in their ships.  They trade in treasure in order to move their ships around the board.  They can land on islands, some of which are inhabited (though there is no way to tell until they've landed).  Through excellent classroom participation and such, they can earn the rights to steal treasure from each other, fire at other ships, and also bury treasure on an island in order to keep from losing it (they just email me to let me know, so that it is secret from other pirate teams).  And of course, they can earn the right to dig for treasure, too!  At the end of the month, the pirate team with the most treasure will earn a special "No Homework" coupon that each team member will be able to use to skip one standard daily assignment or bellwork.

I am also doing another fun teaching idea with the Sophomores, as we study the Renaissance, our first unit.  I have split them into small teams, and told them that they are traders in 1400.  Today, they had to look at a map of Europe from that time period, and select where they will put their trade route (they had to explain their decision).  They can make it as long or short as they want, but I explained to them some considerations and practicalities to keep in mind.  Throughout the remainder of our Renaissance unit, they'll do research on the areas their trade routes are going through and will watch how those regions change over time.  They'll also be sharing all this info with the class.  We'll have small assignments to go along with this, like making postcards from some of the cities their routes stop at.  One group wanted to know if they could engage in piracy, since their route involves the Mediterranean Sea; I told them that they can do a little bit at the moment, and more once we get into the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

My freshmen are currently being trained as historians.  They learned to evaluate sources the other day, and tomorrow they'll be learning map skills and even practicing a bit of cartography.  We won't get into the really fun and super creative stuff until we actually get into history, but they seem to be enjoying themselves.  I've got fun projects and games up my sleeve for later.

How is China similar or different from Korea?
In some ways, it is super similar; in other ways, it is night and day.  The general appearance of where I live (landscape, buildings, etc.) reminds me a great deal of Korea, which often confuses me.  My brain thinks it is back in Korea and starts assuming it knows how to get somewhere, then gets quite turned around!  The food is similar in that it is spicy usually and involves many similar ingredients; as much as I like the food, however, I have to say that Korean food is even better.  Living-wise, I found Korea less bewildering and generally easier, which I kind of expected would be the case.  Shopping and cooking are both a lot harder here.  The humidity is also much worse.  Overall, it is not unpleasant here -- I really do love it, and Qingdao is a beautiful city -- but I have definitely met with my fair share of "Yuck Duck" moments.  For example, my brand new camera is STILL holed up in customs, with no sign of movement toward me.  I just keep taking a deep breath whenever I get frustrated, and I try to focus on the "Yay Duck" stuff.  The Chinese people that I've met are mostly friendly and hospitable, much like I found in Korea.  I particularly like Lotus, the dear woman that I buy all of my fruits and vegetables from (she runs a little stand right in my apartment complex).  She is very friendly and speaks good English, plus she has discerned my deep love of mangoes and always finds the very best ones for me!

What weird or unusual things have you been eating?
Let's see, here are the ones that spring to mind:

  • Green tea ice cream flavored Oreos (and they really are made by Oreo)
  • Vanilla ice cream flavored Oreos
  • Sea kelp and beef noodle soup with odd floating mini-hotdogs in it
  • Stewed tomatoes with eggs
  • Banana-flavored microwave popcorn 
  • Apple-flavored soda
  • Coconut and palm juice
  • Aloe vera yogurt
  • An exceedingly odd type of ramen noodle soup that thoroughly defies description, which I still can't decide if I actually liked
  • A delicious type of Muslim noodles with beef and onions
  • Two different types of curries
  • Something unidentifiable that I sincerely hope was beef
  • Dragonfruit
  • Dragonfruit, vegetable, and crabmeat sushi
  • Kiwi and lime popcycles
  • Pea ice cream (yes, normal green peas)
  • Strawberry juice
  • Blueberry juice
  • Pea juice
  • Spicy pork rib ramen noodle soup

No comments:

"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"