Christmas with the Kids
As I implied in yesterday’s post, living here in Taiwan affords me the opportunity to live a completely different existence from back home. Ok, well, it’s not completely different, I suppose – the sun still rises in the east and sets in the west, everyone wears pants (for the most part), and the Yankees are still the most popular sports team. But much of life here is a bit inconsistent with what I’ve grown up with – the temples at every turn, the hand gestures that just confuse me, the food that confuses me even more, the smells that would offend most in other developed countries… and of course, the holidays.
But it’s my job here that’s probably the biggest change from what I had back home. I’m a teacher here. An English teacher. For little kids, mostly. Little Asian kids. Now, I realize that in my 5+ months of teaching and blogging, I haven’t talked about my job too much. And that’s my bad. You deserve better, and a teaching-centric post will be forthcoming. But I’ll just tell you this now: I really like teaching. It’s exhausting and challenging and it wears quite thin on my already fragile patience. But being able to connect with these kids, to plan out how you want them to learn, then to execute that plan, and then see them learn… it’s really, really neat.
The Christmas holidays brought with them the end of my first semester as a teacher in Taiwan. Now, most English schools over here (like mine) want their students to get the complete flavor for life in the Western world. And so even though most of these kids don’t celebrate Christmas at all – they all have to go to their Chinese school on Christmas day – most of their English schools decorate for Christmas and have Christmas parties for the students. My little Schoolhouse branch was no different. They decked out our lobby to the Yuletide nines, complete with a Christmas tree, fake presents underneath, stars hanging from the ceiling, snowflakes in the windows, and a giant inflatable Santa riding some sort of gasoline-powered snow plow. I wish I’d taken pictures. Forgive my foolishness.
Now, just so you know, I’m one of the lucky ones. Remember when I got hired by Schoolhouse, and I said I realized how lucky I was? Right. Well, our cluster of five branches are five of the only English schools who close down over the holidays. We got two weeks off, and it was glorious. Most schools, though, only gave their teachers Christmas Day off, and some of my friends even had to work on that day. So yes, I’m lucky.
And so, before I bid farewell to my students for 2009, we had ourselves a little Christmas party. Now, again, most of these kids don’t celebrate Christmas. They kind of know what it is, but only from the decorations and commercials they see, and what their parents tell them.
We didn’t have like one big school-wide party. Each individual class had it’s own little shindig inside the classroom during their class time. I teach six different classes – two of them are upper level and would have no interest in celebrating anything except computer games and money; and one I teach at another branch, and they did their own Christmas thing over there. So I partied with three of my classes, all lower level (between 5 and 10 years old), and all so much fun. I brought in my ipod and computer speakers, and played Christmas carols for them. They had no idea what they were listening to, but they seemed to enjoy it enough. I thought about downloading “A Very Metal Christmas” to play for them, but ultimately decided against it.
The first thing I did with my classes was play “Pin the nose on Rudolph.” I drew (well, attempted to draw) Rudolph on the whiteboard, pulled my Santa hat over a kid’s eyes, spun them around, and let them have at it. Apparently, when you’re six, you think this is the greatest thing in the world.
After that, when they were sufficiently tired, it was crafts time. I had them color a couple Christmas pictures, then cut them out, and then paste them onto colored paper – green, red, black, gray, or blue. Then they wrote “Merry Christmas” on their paper and then drew snow or angels or robots or dinosaurs or whatever tickled their fancy. Again, simple, but surprisingly effective.
And that was the most Christmas-y thing I did all holiday season. But I loved it. It’s crazy, the bond you can develop so quickly with these kids, and vice-versa. For a couple hours anyway, I tried to give my little students a Merry Christmas. And in return, I got a little one of my own.
After the jump, check out the gallery of pictures from the Christmas parties with two of my classes!