Thursday, July 13, 2017

Visiting a public primary school

Ahh...I am sitting in my new Chinese oasis - Cafe G.  This magical little coffee shop really helps me focus on my writing and escape the sometimes overwhelming madness of this country.  I am currently enjoying a caramel macchiato and avocado chicken panini....IN CHINA.  The owner seriously knows her stuff 😁.  

Things have been enjoyably hectic the past few days here in Fuzhou.  I am one class away from the weekend and finishing my first week of teaching!  The classes have been nothing short of successful even though it is unique to hear their worries on some of the strategies I have been teaching.  I am coming to find out  that their way of preparing to be educators is by mastering the content of their class.  They, at no point, learn about educational philosophy, pedagogy, or even psychology.  Realizing this, I can truly understand why American strategies can appear overwhelming and cause worry. It is great seeing how eager they are to learn this critical information.

What I would really like to share with you in this post, though, is the exciting time I had on an adventure to a primary public school last night.  First, of course, the journey was just so spectacularly Chinese.  The plan was set to meet at 7:00pm at which time cars would be waiting to take us to the school.  Well, that almost happened.  there was actually 1 car waiting, which was impressive, our Chinese colleagues quickly learned, one car was not enough for 12 teachers and two assistants.  And so began the process of trying to arrange Uber cars to the school.  To the surprise of the people in my car, we made it to our first stop both alive and in a timely manner, both of which were a surprise due to the questionable driving techniques of our driver and every single other person on the road.  Anyway, we quickly learned that one of the other cars had become lost in the move to our destination.  After about a half hour they arrived and we were ready to go only.....we were not at a primary school.  We were at a normal university (teacher college).  One of our hosts decided it would be great to make a stop at the university to offer us a tour.  Now first of all this college campus is absolutely not what you are picturing in your mind right now.  It was more like a public space for dancing, sports, and general tom foolery with a few university buildings and copy shops throughout.  It was really quite striking to see the difference compared to a western campus.  

Student dorms
4 to a room - smaller than US dorm rooms
Newly air conditioned!

After about an hour walk around the campus and some delicious watermelon juice, we made our way to the next stop via Uber, which, by the way dropped us all at the wrong location once again.  Although it did drop us next to this fabulous street food stand...which we did NOT eat at...

After about a 15 minute walk we had finally arrived at the primary school, which was great since it was now 10:00 at night!

It was a newly built school, which was quite obvious.  I was actually surprised at how clean and modern it was.  It reminded me a lot of the school buildings at the campus I worked at in Hangzhou.  The difference, though, is that the school in Hangzhou is a private school with much more freedom and funding than the public schools.

Anyway, we were fortunate enough to meet up with a teacher from the school.  He took us up to one of the higher floors to view a classroom.  Even though it was clean and new, it was still very much designed with a Chinese philosophy of education.  The classroom was small and jam packed with desks....enough for 48 students, in fact, leaving very little room for the students to move about.  What you see in the picture below is the entire classroom, minus another row of students, which are to the left of where I was standing in the photo.

At the front of the room was a raised platform where the teacher stands and lectures.

One thing that is always neat to see in Chinese schools is cleaning supplies.  Just as in Japan, the students are responsible for keeping their school clean.  Each day students are assigned a cleaning or housekeeping task to complete.  We could see the pile of cleaning supplies at the back of the room.

This was a fifth grade classroom for 48 students.  They stay in that room all day while teachers rotate in and out teaching them different subjects.  I can't imagine trying to keep 48 11 year olds focused and working hard in a classroom setting like this.  It really gave me a good insight to the minds of the Chinese teachers I have been training.  I suddenly understood their most frequent complaint: "I can't do this with my students"  it was quite clear after this experience how truly limited they are regarding space for moving around in the classroom.

We ended our tour with a stroll along the roof of the building where there was both a cool breeze and a stunning view of the city.

All and all it was a wonderful night with a fascinating look into 'real china'.

Tonight, I am mentally preparing myself for a KTV outing with our teaching assistants.  For those unsure, KTV is karaoke, but with your own personal room.  It will take me far outside my comfort zone, but isn't that what this trip is all about?

When in China......


  1. Hey there! Wish I was there again this year but it just wasn't possible. This blog is so enlightening! I kept asking to see a classroom last year because of the concerns expressed by the Chinese teachers. Thank you for posting pictures! It really does help with understanding their concerns. Now, the struggle is to figure out how to get the students actively engaged in that classroom setup! Enjoy the rest of your time, and maybe I'll see you next summer!

    1. So glad you are following along!! We are having a great time so far. Hope you can return in the future!! It was really eye opening seeing the classroom. It definitely made me appreciate what I have in my classroom!