"It's spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you've got it, you want—oh, you don't quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heartache, you want it so!"
― Mark Twain
"Do you remember the Shire, Mr. Frodo? It'll be spring soon. And the orchards will be in blossom. And the birds will be nesting in the hazel thicket. And they'll be sowing the summer barley in the lower fields... and eating the first of the strawberries with cream. Do you remember the taste of strawberries?"
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King
I love transitional seasons. Being born in April, I think I am hard-wired to love spring (with fall being a close second). Granted, it won't officially be spring for another two weeks(Spring Equinox); I can feel it coming. In the Christian/ western tradition, spring equals new beginnings, rebirth, and nature's awakening.
Personally, it is easier for me to wake up in the mornings, to get outdoors for a dose of sun, and to stay up later; I feel more productive.
I guess the Turkish Ministry of Education agrees with me. Monday, all grades will start back to in-person school. I will teach in the classroom two days a week (hybrid model). More than 50% of the students have signed up for in-person learning (it has been a year since they have been in the classroom). As I am sure many of you know there are still many unanswered questions, and there will be many issues that arise as we start.
As many reach the first anniversary of this modern Pandemic, remember to wash your hands well and often, wear your mask correctly, and watch for SCIENTIFIC updates.
Today is Saturday, and I am at school. What?! I know, but it's not really what you think. I mean don't get me wrong I do have a pile of lab reports I need to grade, but the real reason I am at school is that I need to use a reliable VPN service.
I live in China, and my school (actually the entire country) is off for the week (Yeah! National Holiday). Due to the National Holiday, China is currently cracking down on the use of VPN services. A VPN or virtual private network is a service that takes your Internet connection and makes it more secure, helps you stay anonymous and helps you get around blocks and access censored sites.* VPNs allow those of us who live in China to access sites that are behind the Great China Firewall. From time to time, the government will crackdown on the use of VPNs, which tends to make the lives of expats a little more complicated (or at least more frustrating).
But even with the issues like VPNs and visas, I have found a life abroad that I love and that I don't ever want to give up. Living in China these past four years has allowed my son to receive a world-class education, has afforded us the ability to travel around the world, and allowed me to obtain an advanced degree (see also travel). I have had the opportunity to grow as a teacher and a teacher leader. I have the freedom to teach students, not just content but life skills.
I looked into teaching abroad because I was about to give up on the educational world altogether. I was extremely frustrated with discussions of bubble students and practice test for the practice test. I didn't feel like I was educating young people, and instead, I felt like I was preparing test-takers. While no school is perfect, I landed in the school that allowed me to be the sort of teacher I wanted to be.
Over the years, I have had a few stateside teacher friends ask me about teaching abroad. Last year my roommate and I did a video series answering some of your possible questions. Check out the videos. If you are looking for a position for the 2020-21 school year, now is the time to start your search.
The school year continues to roll onwards, and great things are happening in Qingdao. Yesterday we held the annual international day festival on our campus. Every year the festivities seem to get better. An international day is an excellent opportunity for the students, teachers, and their families to get together and enjoy one another outside of the formal classroom setting. There were multiple performances and musical acts including the QISS rock band (if you would like to see this year's performance just ask me for the link). In addition to booths from businesses and restaurants from Qingdao, and family and teacher booths, this year the committee encouraged students to try their hand at marketing and have for-profit booths. It was great to see students excited about selling bubble tea, stationery from Japan, and screen-printed tee-shirts. Some students at the end of the day realized that their business was not profitable. This was a real-world application of various skills. What better way to understand business than to do business. The day was a day of learning and fun.
Next Monday, September 24th, is the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival (zhong qiu jie) which is one of the most important festivals in China. According to the Chinese lunar calendar, the 15th day of the 8th month is the exact middle of autumn; hence it is called the Mid-Autumn Festival. It is an evening celebration when families gather together to light lanterns, eat moon cakes and appreciate the round moon.
I work to remember to have celebrations with my students. To celebrate both the large and the small, the success and the failure. Often teachers (or at least me as a teacher) get caught up in the things that have to happen (the standards, paperwork, and the bulletin boards), and we lose sight of the small successes that occur in our classrooms every day.
Today in biology class we did a reading comprehension exercise. In this class, many of the students are experiencing an American style (English only) education for the first time. As we did, a whole class read out-loud many of the students were hesitant to read, because they did not know how to pronounce some of the words. After a short speech of encouragement that assured the reluctant students that the class works as a team, I was able to get two of the most hesitant students to read out loud. After each girl read her paragraph the class burst into applause. We all celebrated their success.
While my students are not biological families, I am working to ensure that we build a positive school "family" environment where everyone feels safe enough to read a difficult passage and to ensure that we also celebrate everyone's successes. Not every celebration has to include moon cake or a lantern, but it is important to cultivate a culture of celebration in the classroom.
A teacher from the United States of America, currently teaching abroad. I teach science to middle and high school students. I enjoy reading and doing nerd things.