China Team Journal

Friday, September 14, 2012

At La La Shou

Today started as usual with the team (minus Baoli) eating breakfast at the hotel. Everyone enjoys the large breakfast buffet with its combination of Chinese and Western style breakfast foods. 


After breakfast, I was off to La La Shou and luckily got a cab right away (which doesn't usually happen).


Today was a good day with my "pre-school" class. The class is made up of 9 children ages 6-8.  There are 2 girls and 7 boys with a variety of special needs including developmental retardation and autism. All of the students are quite low functioning. The students are mostly non-verbal and all have severe behavioral issues. There are 3 teachers in the class and a variety of volunteers. In addition to me, there is a young American woman from another volunteer organization and there have been 2 Chinese university students. Today, I was the only volunteer there. 


The daily routine is made up of morning exercise, morning activity, exercise and game time, unit study, lunch and nap, hands-on project, snack and talk, music or art and several trips to the bathroom and breaks for water. On Friday afternoons the children watch cartoon movies at the end of the day.  


My role as a classroom aide is to help the kids stay on track (and in the room). This includes getting them to stay in their seats and to follow along with the activities and to participate in the hands-on activity. The kids spend long periods of time sitting in their seats listening to lessons, which is very difficult for them to do. They are not as actively involved as children in American classrooms. Some of the children can follow the lessons but several of them are not really paying attention. They get out of their seats, wander around, pick at papers taped to the floor and have been known to hit, pinch, scratch, bite, pull hair, and even go to the bathroom on the floor.


I am amazed and embarrassed that I have been in the class for 5 days now and still don't know the children's names. The sounds of their names (and the language in general) are so foreign to me that I don't even recognize them when the teachers use their names.


The teachers are young and energetic and very loving with the children. They have a long day and a very difficult job. Even with a ratio of 1 teacher to 3 students, it is impossible to keep all of the students on task most of the time. 


I was very tired after a full week and glad that it was Friday. 


Tonight we had "dinner" at a Chinese tea house.  We had coffee, tea or hot chocolate and popcorn, nuts and fruit.  (Actually, very much like the kind of dinner I would have at home.)  Cassidy and Tarik sat by themselves, did their own ordering and entertained the waitresses. Very grown up. Cormac, as always, was an invaluable help with his excellent Chinese language skills.