My first day, week, month teaching was an absolute blur of confusion, self-doubt and trial and error. I was completely overwhelmed with the task I had been given: take a bunch of three year old non-English speakers and turn them into English speakers, all while teaching them proper bathroom behavior, manners, sharing, etc. It was a task that I knew I could do, a task I had earned a four year degree to do, but one that I didn't know how to start. The first month saw me, and the children, fumbling around, learning how we were going to make our classroom function properly.
First day of school, July 2013
July was rough, but in August I finally hit my stride. Thanks to the help of the amazing staff at my school, specifically my classroom Chinese teacher, my fumbling was less and less.
By September we (the children and I) had this whole school thing down. We showed up each day and learned about classroom objects, emotions and the weather. We put pomelos on our heads and celebrated Mid-Autumn Festival.
Pomelos make the best hats.
In October we focused our studies on our families and clothing. We welcomed three new students into our classroom. We dressed up as superheroes, penguins and fairies and celebrated Halloween.
Playing games at the Rainbow Time studios
November found us studying our house, our community and our neighborhood. We tasted turkey (some of us for the first time) and welcomed another new student into our classroom.
Posing with the school's turkey, which we later got to eat.
In December we learned about toys, games and sports. We sang "White Christmas" and "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" so many times that T.Cassie never wants to hear those songs again. We performed our songs for over a hundred people at the Kindy Christmas party. We got to meet Santa Clause and he even gave us presents.
Merry Christmas from the Artist's class!
January ushered in a new Western calendar year and our instruction turned to numbers, shapes and counting. We spent many weeks learning about the culture and traditions surrounding Chinese New Year. I learned as much during this month as my students did.
Celebrating Chinese New Year
After our CNY break in early February, we learned about food. We learned how to sit nicely at a table and use our utensils. We celebrated Valentine's Day and made presents to give to our loved ones at home.
Part of our Valentine's Day presents for our families
March found us studying wild animals, pets and the zoo. We also took our first field trip to a pet store, celebrated Dr.Seuss Week and Children's Day.
Pajama day at school for Dr. Seuss Week
In April we practiced, practiced, practiced for our annual class performance (ACP). We sang "Old MacDonald" dozens of times, until T.Cassie and T.Maggie never wanted to hear that song again. We wowed our parents, visitors and other teachers with just how smart we were. We finished learning the alphabet and celebrated with a party. We also learned about farm animals and the ocean and took a field trip to the farm.
Practicing our phonics game for our ACP
May found us visiting Carrefore, learning about land formations, outer space and the sky.
Checking out the best thing at Carrefore...the ice cream.
And then it was June, even though no one knew how we had gotten there. We learned how to play different sports and games. We learned about moving up to Jungban and how T.Cassie was not going to be our teacher anymore. We celebrated the end of the school year with a Frozen themed party.
Last day of school, June 2014
I had told the kids for days that on the last day of school I was going to cry. They'd answer me with "T.Cassie, you're so silly". The morning came and went and no tears. The afternoon came and went and no tears. At 4:00, it was time to say goodbye one last time to my babies. My babies who I had spent 12 months with. My babies who came to me with limited to no English and were now speaking in full sentences. My babies who were just that, babies when they started and now they were "big kids". We had survived the year together and we had both learned and gained so much from our experiences. As we were sitting there one of my girls suddenly said, "Wait, you're not our teacher next year?" To that I said, "No, you're moving to Jungban, I'm staying in Shaban". She then said, "I don't like that" and started sobbing. Needless to say, that was my tipping point. She was crying, I was crying, T.Maggie was crying and the rest of the children were trying to console us.
T. Maggie took the children downstairs and left me to cry alone in the classroom. A few minutes later the foreign staff was called downstairs too. In our lobby we found all of the children sitting on the floor with roses, waiting for us. After watching a slide show with pictures from the year our children gave us their flowers. There were lots of tears, hugs and kisses. Everyone stayed there for some time, not wanting to actually say goodbye.
Most of my children stayed at my school for this next year, but they are not my children anymore. I still see them in the hallways and on the playground, but they are not my children. I have a new class, with fun, energetic, smart children who I already love a lot. I'm looking forward to spending the year with them, learning and growing. My first class will always be with me though. They were the ones who taught me how to teach.
The entire Kindy program. I could not have asked for better co-workers or students.
I took portraits of my kiddos during the last week of school and they were too cute not to share.