Sunday, August 28, 2011

Summary of a Typical Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday

5:00 am:  The cell phone alarm, a bouncy and annoying Chinese pop song, goes off for the first time.  Grumbling, I smack the snooze button.  For the next half hour, the phone and I play a game of "Wake up, you lazy human!"and "No, I won't, you irritating piece of technology!"

5:30 am:  The cell phone wins.  I drag my defeated self into the shower, grunting a good morning to Beth as I do so (she grunts back in reply).

6:00 am:  Showered and dressed, I now turn my attention to my hair, which tends to react with the Chinese humidity by turning into a splendid imitation of a brown bush.

6:30 am:  I rush about like a crazy bumblebee, collecting graded homework, laptop, keys, thermos of coffee, and other such essentials.  I then hustle down to the bus stop, joined by several coworkers.

6:40 am:  The bus departs.  Anyone who misses it has to take a taxi.

7:15-ish am:  The bus arrives at school, and a mass exodus of teachers climbs off and heads up the many, many steps into the secondary building (elementary teachers luck out:  hardly any stairs!).  Usually, there is a morning meeting of some sort.

8:00 am:  Students arrive in droves.  I retreat to the teacher's lounge to work on grading, powerpoints, or lesson plans.  A Chinese class is going on in my classroom at this time, so until the renovations complete on the new history-and-English office, the teacher's lounge is my workroom.

9:30 am:  Time for homeroom.  I go up to my classroom, on the third floor, where my chatty and energetic batch of 16 ninth-graders await.  I do something with them for fifteen minutes, then release them.  A few usually linger to chat with me for a minute or two.

9:45 am:  The entire secondary school pauses for our fifteen minute "Tea Break".

10:00 am:  If it's a Monday or Wednesday, I go upstairs for my Chinese lesson with Jackie, my private tutor.  My lessons last for fifty minutes each.  At the moment, we're working on correct pronunciation of pinyin (Jackie says my pronunciation is almost perfect).  After my lesson, I usually take care of copying or printing needs.  If it's a Tuesday or Thursday, it's time for the first class of the day, my college prep class.  There are just eight kids in the class, and they are a mixture of freshmen, sophomores, and juniors.  Right now, we're busy studying for the SAT, which means lots of research and planning for me and a ton of work for them.  They're up to the challenge, though.  I am quite impressed with how willing they are to take on tremendous study loads.

11:30 am:  If it's a Monday or Wednesday, it's time for the first class of the day:  my big batch (20) of tenth grade modern world history students.  They are the noisiest class, but are still angelic by American school standards.  There are some very neat personalities in this bunch.  If it's a Tuesday or Thursday, I teach my ninth grade ancient world history class at this time.  They are my quietest class; I question whether they are actually teenagers or not.  Personally, I think that they are too respectful and studious to be teenagers!  Classes with them are enjoyable and smooth, and I am convinced that a few of them are already capable of college-level work.  I usually feel sorry to have to let these kids go to their next class!

1:00 pm:  Lunch time, at last!  I eat in the cafeteria with the kids just about every day, since I like being with them.  We have four choices of lunch menu each day: Chinese, Korean, Western, or salad bar.  Generally, the meal is quite good, especially considering it is school food!

1:40 pm:  On Mondays and Wednesdays, I teach my second batch of tenth grade modern world history students.  This class of fourteen is much quieter than the other tenth grade class.  This is probably the most fun group of kids that I teach, mostly because of the personalities amongst them.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays, my teaching day ends at lunch time, so this last period is used for getting ready for the next day or for doing grading.

3:00 pm:  The school-day is over, and the students leave for home.  A bunch of them stop to say goodbye to me.  I occasionally amuse myself by teasing them with threats of an upcoming test (aw, don't feel sorry for them -- they like it!).

3:45 pm:  The first staff bus leaves school, almost always with me on it.  The other one doesn't leave until 5:00, and I generally prefer to do my grading and such either at home on the couch, or during my prep periods.

4:15-ish pm:  We arrive at my apartment complex.  The bunch of us teachers who live here walk in together, chatting about our days.  I always pause to admire the ocean for a minute or so before going through the gate.

5:00-ish pm:  If I'm not going out to dinner with other people (which is common -- most of us love eating out), I fix myself something spicy and eat in front of a movie or with a good book on Kindle.  Lately, I've been on an Indiana Jones kick.  After dinner, there is usually plenty of work to do to prepare for the next day.

10:00-ish pm:  Sufficiently exhausted, I flop into bed with my Kindle and read until sleep overwhelms me.

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"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"