Our classrooms have ceiling fans and wall mounted A/C out of necessity: it is still warm and humid. Every room has a water cooler, my office included, except that the Chinese do not cool their water. It is either at room temperature or the machine will heat it for you. We may enjoy that feature in the colder months.
The main entrance to our building does not have a door; instead, a metal pull-gate is closed and locked at night. There would not be a point in a door as the all the upper floors are open to an inner courtyard, California style. On one side of the hallways are the classroom and on the other, half-walls with railings. Each of the school buildings is designed the same way. If this were California, the weather wouldn’t be a concern but alas, this is Jiaxing. We have been told that the winter temperature is close to Vancouver’s, so I will need to layer up. Geoff, of course, will be quite comfortable.
Last Wednesday, we moved to another building and classroom for our first parent meeting. Unlike our rooms, which have fewer than 25 desks in them, this room had 72 desks plus bench seating along the wall! The Chinese are used to such large classes but for us, the mind reels. The school has technology, with every room equipped with internet access and LCD projectors. Students are forbidden to use their cell phones or other hand-held devices in class and the phones are confiscated if discovered. In our classes, we have said no to electronic translators as we want our students to avoid getting hung up on defining every word and seek to use context for meaning. So far they are coping well.
Some things are not modern in approach. Report cards, for instance, are filled in by hand by the hapless homeroom teacher who must collect marks from each teacher and record them in each student’s book. Teachers who have lived through this approach know how frustrating this can be. However, I suspect in China, all teachers meet deadlines.
The parents are like any others, wanting their kids to do well and setting high expectations. At our parent meeting, one of the questions was, “What percentage do students need to get into famous Canadian universities?” I answered by suggesting that the standards were high but that we were several years away from having to answer this question and it was a bit too soon to worry!
One of our students is already showing signs of stress and needed to be reassured that he is a smart young man and will do well. There are a few that we would like to get a bit more stressed! We are still looking for ways to connect and build relationships with them so we can learn how to motivate these ones. Sounds like a day in any Canadian school.