School Life and Culture

I’m officially two weeks working at Kai Xuan and I can say I enjoyed it immensely. So well in fact, that my English grammar is beginning to suffer. I know, Hannah? Hannah the proper old fashioned grammarian? Yes, tis I. Maybe my fingers are just moving too fast for my brain.

There are dozens of things that merit mention, but here are a few for starters:

-Homework culture: As streamlined as this is in the states, with agendas and signing off and such, it seems to take up a lot of time here for being not as important. I’ll explain. At least 6 minutes at the beginning and/or end of class are devoted to checking, assigning, and checking that the students have written down their homework. Students complete homework. Hand it in. I often find myself grading it (one of my favourite things, actually) but then what. I give them a grade, but am not sure on which standard to assign numbers or letters. I am not even sure there is a master grade book. Bottom line, I”m a bit confused about what happens to the homework after I’ve marked it up with a red pen.

LET Ellen and my examples of a homework for 3rd and 4th grade

-‘Teacher Hannah!’- Ever since the first assembly, I have become this iconic figure dubbed, ‘Teacher Hannah.’ Every child who sees me in the hallway either looks away bashfully, or says ‘Hel-lo Teacher Hay-Nah’ and gives me a big smile. The first graders are the most keen. They filled my doorway the other day during a planning period and jumbled together with such urgency that none of them was able to get the hug they wanted. I accidentally touched them on the head, as I am wont to do in the states, but remembered that that is a big no no here, or I thought I remembered that. Anyway, the kids seemed to really protest, running around, touching their own heads, and squealing. Oops.

There’s a song for that!– If there is something you’re supposed to hear about, you’ll know here at Kai Xuan. Changes are, there is a song for it. There is a song to signify the beginnings and ends of class, there is classical music during lunch, and there is a song to signal the younger kids to brush their teeth after lunch. I found out today that there is even a song to remind the kids to take a break from academics to do some ‘far looking’ or look at something green. If only we had these things in the states. I heard a fellow Fulbrighter that the teacher of one of their younger classes has a 45 second ‘zen’ track during which the children will fold their hands and take a moment. Just more things to add to the list of things I want to implement in the US.

-Naptime-I am fairly certain that the younger grades actually have nap time. Whilst picking up their textbooks the other day, I spied a sleeping area with bedding. Even the hour after lunch is usually reserved for napping or at least resting. Good thing too, as I often find myself lusting after a good proper lie down. Still, putting my head down on my desk is better than nothing, I suppose. Especially if everyone else is doing it and I don’t have to feel guilty.

Tuesday assembly-on tuesdays, my LET and I lead the Weekly English lesson to the students. Three sentences/dialogues/sayings for three age groups. We say them and act them out if we can. The next week we review them and invite students to come forward for a prize if they say it into the microphone and volunteer. I wish we had more time to share culture, but this ritual seems fairly set in stone.

Weekly English for grades 1/2

The lack of rules and security-I know (suspect) that this is a cultural difference, but one of the first things I noticed was that the kids just run around willy nilly without anyone telling them to stop in the first place, or even without asking them, ‘where should you be?’ a phrase heard so often in the US school system. The gates aren’t locked or guarded, and no one escorts children from class to class. They are allowed to wander the grounds during their 10 minute breaks. No sign in/outs or passes. No ‘office’ to report to. Nothing to do if you’re late. One could raw a few conclusions from this. One would be that this is entirely dangerous and should be fixed immediately. The other is oh well maybe we don’t need such strict measure in the first place. But then in the US we have school violence. Culture accounts for it, I suppose.

My textbooks for the year. I’ll do another post about the textbooks and how I feel about their…random qualities

-they seem all organised when they line up and say ‘yi! er!’ but then they run all around and don’t get anything done in class and can’t keep their books together.


Okay, that’s all for now folks. Look for a classroom tour post soon, as well as one about a day in the life!

Love, Hannah

2 thoughts on “School Life and Culture

  1. Well I will think about the whole security issue and how it is so different there. Tell us more about that and your thoughts having seen both. Our school system now has locked front doors, a closed circuit camera doorbell and a retired policeman (unarmed) to open it and ask your business. Soon parent will get a tag after they scan our licenses for id. SO this begs the question – WHY is American culture so violent that it requires security like this?

    • Gosh, really? I think it’s important in terms of how the US is in terms of how it is here. It is, in general, more safe to walk around at night alone here. I’d be interested to know why there is a higher rate of crime in the US as opposed to here (or even if that were really true). I think it has something to do with education, poverty level, and media.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s