Saturday, October 20, 2012

English Parties!

As a teacher who wants to make an impact on my students outside of just lecturing on the idiosyncrasies of written English, I feel that it's important to get to know them as more than just a name on a roll.  I want them to feel like we're accessible.  Added to this, the students are always curious about the lives of foreigners, and generally eager to take any opportunity to practice their English.  The perfect solution seems to be hosting "English parties."

One blessing this year is that Micah and I have many of the same students; he teaches them oral English while I teach them writing, so we can host the parties together instead of having separate events.  It's really nice to have someone to share the role of host with; if I need to run to the kitchen for something, I don't feel like I'm abandoning my guests, and I don't have to buy the drinks, cookies, and popcorns every weekend.  It's also a blessing that I, at least, have these students for the entire school year, intead of just one semester (I'm not sure about Micah's schedule).

In each class, there are between 21 and 24 students; since the goal is getting to know them personally, we're inviting seven or eight students at a time--three parties with each class.  Also, with a smaller number, we can play games as a group and fit comfortably in my smallish living room. So, nine parties all together.  I'm having the students sign up in class on one of three dates for their class, so that I can be sure to get an even distribution and all.

Tonight, we had the first group--seven students from 1103: Sharon, Charlie, Sheldon, Dreamcatcher (yes, he chose that name himself...even other Chinese students realize that it's weird, and they think names like Smile, Echo, and Seldom are acceptable...), Jessie, Andy (a girl), and Blare (also a girl).  We had a lot of fun spending time with them--Sharon is very intelligent and has good English; she's the class know-it-all but when I need some information from the students, I'm grateful for her because she always knows what's going on, or will find out.  Dreamcatcher does seem a bit dreamy; it often seems like I've just called his thoughts back from someplace else.  He also has some pretty interesting big hairstyles.  Charlie and Sheldon (he chose the name because he likes Big Bang Theory) are fairly quiet, but good-natured.  Charlie is always smiling.  While most of the boys seem like teenagers, Sheldon seems like a Chinese businessman, with his leather jacket and   stockier build.  Jessie is sweet; Micah accidently mixed her up with another student, Jessica, at first, and teased her throughout the evening calling her different names. Andy, despite her tom-boyish name, is thin and delicate; she usually wears pink or something lacy; Blare on the other hand does have a more tom-boyish air, usually wearing a plaid shirt.

We sat around in the living room to talk for a while; I had some chips ahoy and oreos, orange juice and coke  (different from American students, they drank the orange juice and never even touched the coke), and the students brought some fruit and candy with them.  After awhile, we moved to the dining room table, where we taught them to play Spoons.  (For those of you unfamiliar, it's a card game in which you pass cards around trying to get four of a kind; when someone does, they grab a spoon from a pile of spoons in the center of the table. When one person grabs one, everyone else should, too. Like musical chairs, there's one less spoon that there are players, so someone isn't fast enough and doesn't get one.  That person gets a letter; when they spell out "spoon", they're out. It's usually quite a violent game.)  I was afraid they would be too shy for this rather competitive and rough and tumble game, but no such problem--they caught on quick, and by the second round they were diving over the table and playing tug of war just like my high school youth group playing.  Micah started cheating by looking at Blare's cards part way through, and was caught by Andy, who was next to him; he defended himself by making a counter-accusatin that she was the one cheating; he and Andy and Blare spent the rest of the game teasingly accusing each other of cheating.

At the end, I brought out some Jello I'd made (not far enough in advance, however, which is why I waited until the end to serve it--giving it time to set); they'd never seen or heard of such a thing, so it was a fun and novel experience.  They seemed to enjoy it.  Micah was, of course, playing with his as he ate it with his feet propped up on a stool--several pulled out their camera phones and started taking pictures of him.  I teased him afterwards that he would become famous for jello-eating with all the photos of his masterful techniques...We had a really fun night with our students; I hope the rest of the parties go as well!  


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