It may be a week after my landing at Toronto Pearson, but some finals thoughts on the experience are in order.
Our last week, in Kunshan, was great. I joined another teacher, Megan, in her classroom of 6-8 year-olds and boy did she have some characters. I learned their names on the first day and helped Megan do some activities such as Simon Says (“Jenny says…”), which they absolutely loved. These kids were very competitive, and unfortunately, there was some pouting going on if they didn’t make it to the end. I could really see the difference in SES background between the kids at this camp and those at the summer camps in Weifang. Apparently, Kunshan is one of the wealthiest cities in China (that nobody knows about).
Throughout the week Megan and I took turns teaching lessons, doing a morning review, and leading games and activities. We made 3D animal masks and paper airplanes (they had to write the places they’ve been and the places they want to go on their plane), had them draw themselves as whatever they wanted to be when they grew up, and had them use foam letters and shapes to create a picture of their favourite memory from summer camp.
On the Wednesday night of that week, a group of us traveled by high-speed train to Shanghai because many of us were interested in checking out the “black market” that is located in the subway station. All of us ended up in the pearl market having jewellery made and bargaining for multiple items. We then walked through the rest of the market, which was like a maze because there were so many stores selling similar/the same items. I was able to get some Chinese characters written in the traditional calligraphy for my brothers (I had her write “brother”), while others were getting their friends’/partners’ names written as gifts. This evening outing was the last highlight of the trip.
Unfortunately, there was a group of probably 6 of us who ended up with a cold in the last couple days. This didn’t make for an enjoyable plane ride, but it doubled the joy I felt when we landed (I don’t know how explorers spent months at sea— they must have kissed the sand when they finally found land).
Overall, I had a wonderful three weeks in China. I’ve been asked by many whether I would return, and I’ve been replying that it would be circumstantial. The cities we traveled to in China resembled Toronto in my eyes, and I prefer a small town to the big city. For this reason, it was very nice to come home where the pace is slower, the streets are emptier, and the birds can be heard over the car horns. My biggest smiles on the trip were a result of the kids I taught, and that is something I will take away with me from this experience. The students were just so happy to learn English and be one of my students. I will never forget walking through the halls and hearing “Hello teacher!” from all the smiling children. While I was never with one group of kids long enough to formally assess them and see any true progress, I could see that they were absorbing some of what I taught, and at least having a lot of fun doing it. If anything, there are about 50 students who I had the pleasure of naming— maybe in 10 or 20 years they will come to Canada and, when asked what their English name is, provide the name they chose in my class. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will always cherish.
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