Awaking from a coma


A dear friend told me that my living so far away was sort of like (for her) my being in a coma from which I occasionally awoke (my return visits to the USA).  I can totally understand this feeling since I have given you no idea of what my daily life is like.  So, lest you all think I have fallen into that deep, long sleep, here is a summary of my daily life in China:

I  teach English once a week to the children of migrant workers.

I have a private student for English tutoring three afternoons a week.

I study Mandarin (chinese) two mornings a week.

I am in a  knitting group which knits stuff for various charities in Shanghai.

I am in a book club (which right now is reading the most god-awful boring book called The Discovery of Jeanne  Baret – I highly recommend it to all my insomniac friends)

I have joined a writing group and I have started doing some creative writing again after about 20 years away from it.

Cooking, cleaning and other various mom/wife stuff – not to mention the grocery shopping 🙂

And….trying to keep up on the blog.

So, I know for my readers that do not know me personally this may be the most boring post ever, but I hope you all will be patient with me as I work on my next big post.  One thing I have decided is that little posts are OK.  Up until recently I felt that my posts needed to be about something more weighty than a passing thought or event.  But truthfully there are lots of little daily things that I want to remember and I think you would enjoy hearing about.  So I will start blogging those too.  If you hate them or they are totally boring please let me know. But tell me in a kind way – bloggers have feelings too 🙂

Since I am here, and on a roll with the writing I will tell you a little about the migrant school. First, it is not a school that moves around, no matter how much the name implies it, lol.  In China, as a Chinese citizen, you need residency papers to live in any particular area.  These papers give you rights to health care, work (and some workers rights), housing, and an education for your children.  Without the papers you are figuratively and literally out in the cold.  For a long time the government turned a completely blind eye to these people. The migrants who chose to risk it all and come to the big cities in search of their fortunes banded together to create small “schools” for their children.

These were often in shacks, tents, wherever they could find space. The teachers were migrants too, often not trained as teachers.  The schools grew as the numbers of migrants grew.  Businesses, often shady, sprung up to provide a better education for the migrant’s kids.  But they charged exorbitant tuitions and many children couldn’t go.  Those kids often spent their days at work with their parents or playing unsupervised in the city streets.

But now the number of migrants  moving to the cities has grown exponentially and the government has decided to take over the schools.  The migrant children are still kept separate from the local children and often in less than great facilities (no heat or AC, few school supplies for teachers or students, etc.)  The kids are grouped in classes of between 40 and 60 per classroom with one teacher and sit so close together that they don’t have to stretch to poke the classmate in front of them.

A great group of people formed a volunteer organization called stepping stones to go into these schools and work on English language skills with the kids.   This is not a frivolous as it sounds.  The government actually holds English language as one of it’s core curriculum components. The kids take major exams based on which their school career and future opportunities are tracked.  They are somewhat like the European A and O levels but with more pressure and higher stakes at an even younger age.

My kids are fourth graders who are great.  They struggle with English and are very shy to speak it.  But they do try so hard.  Our time slot is right after recess so they still have a little bounce in them when we start and it is a true test of our child wrangling skills for the first ten minutes.  Luckily we team teach and one of my co-teachers is an experienced ESL teacher who is amazing and comes up with awesome lesson plan ideas.

So now I am off to do some mom things, but I promise to write again soon.  I hope you will write to me too!

6 responses »

  1. Hi! I like all of your posts! It is all interesting, even the mundane tasks. Thank you for sharing it with us, your life, the life of the migrant families. Who knew? P.S. your ‘dear friend’ is coming for a visit?! Lucky!!!

    • I am so glad you enjoy the blog. I hope life in the US is going well. I try to keep up with the newspapers but I am sure I still miss a lot. So it’s always great to hear from you! As you can tell I modified your comment a little. This is just to protect personal information. I try very hard not to change content or meaning. I hope you don’t mind. Also, I love visitors! So if you want to come to Shanghai just let me know, I have a spare bed waiting 🙂

  2. You are doing so many interesting things there! Can you take some more pictures of the school (especially the inside) so I can show my class? They are so curious about schools there.

    • I will try to take more pictures of the school and the kids’ activities. If your students have any specific questions about the school or the children let me know and I will try to find the answers.

  3. What a perfect match…. Kids who want to learn and a teacher who has the patience and motivation needed to teach them a difficult language. You certainly have found a good balance of activities to keep you busy. I enjoy hearing about all of it.

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