Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Later I find out that while sitting in her previous class with her lap top open for classwork, Auntie Jenn buzzes Quinn on skype (Which she had left open) to ask for our address. Quinn quickly replies. Then friend Annie skypes Quinn and Quinn tells her "I can't talk now, I'm in class," So Annie tells Quinn to put her on mute so she can watch class. Annie thus observes Quinn in her class for the next 20 minutes, then joins her to say hi to me and off to lunch.
I don't recall doing that kind of thing in High School.
Although I thought it was pretty cool, I felt obliged to give Quinn a little talking to about inappropriate use of her computer. What would I do as teacher in that case? "Quinn, tell your friend from Colorado she's not allowed to watch this lesson on related rates!"
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
In classic American style, three generations of Matuscheks sat down for Breakfast in Shanghai with Oma on skype...Look at the computer screen and see her smiling face! It is nice to have the time to visit. In fact, morning time has become very popular skype time. The girls skyped Mike, Gina, and Hadley yesterday morning, then during the high school break, Quinn was in my office trying to print something and Auntie Jenn skyped her, so we had a nice chat! There are some perks to living in the 21st century.
So we bought new phones and with them bought Sim cards from China Mobile to activate the phone. Then found out that China Unicom has better service so we bought new China Unicom Sim Cards with new phone #'s. We set up a monthly plan and needed to get more money "on the phone" to do so. So I went back to the store yesterday and bought "phone cards" which are 50 RMB each ($7.50). Each card has a passcode on it. You call China Unicom on your phone and tell them the passcode and they add the cash to your card. Then you throw the card away. Mass consumerism! It's cheap...huge internet and phone service for $15 a month and a bunch of used cards.
By the way, the store is this crammed little shop in Zhudi town that sells cigarettes, beer, pop, phones, and phone cards. The dude there now knows me and my family by face and my chinese is getting better with him. I think he lives above the shop with his family. When I was there last night the door front (a large sliding glass door) was open and the windows on the side were wide open (corner shop.) As I was talking to him an empty water bottle or 2 came flying through the open window followed by children's laughter and I saw little 6 or 7 year olds running away. The proprietor looked to me as if to say "Are they yours?" I said no, we both shrugged our shoulders and laughed. Typical night in Zhudi Town.
I came home and took care of a bill and there isn't anything pressing. No lawn or house to fix. I played a few games of chess with Josephine before she wanted to watch the flick. It is my day off of practice, so I have the afternoon free.
We visited it at night this past weekend. It is quite a site at night so many lights. We took a cab into the city Saturday night to St. Stephen's Cathedral for a catholic Mass. Definitely NOT father Pat, and we miss him, but none the less interesting. We left the church and decided to head through the streets to the river. This was about a 2 mile meander through the streets of Shanghai, parks, cafe's, watermelon on a stick, Jing Ling Lu (home of many a guitar shop I plan to return to) and finally the river. Technology today is something else. I think nothing of wandering the streets of this Asian metropolis with my family armed with a smart phone. Link to the web and follow my nose while holding various hands in route. We got caught feeling very hungry in the middle of an international trendy restaurant area and spent a bit too much for soup and small dishes. $9 for a bottle of sparkling water. Very good!
There is a very well defined academic culture here. You can sense it the moment I make a move as a teacher to get something done. The atmosphere suggests that each kid intends on not missing a thing I do. I've been in classrooms before where no kid cared about Anything I did. High schoolers do homework like 3rd graders do - just because it's there and this is how you learn!
It is a very Asian population. Although it is international - and it it - most of these families are international families of Asian descent. And they all have very american first names. Quinn stands out with her name. Unlike Overland, there aren't any ethnic names beyond Daniel and Tiffany. The classes are very homogeneous and focused like all get out.
I'm the assistant volley ball coach. Varsity sports are allowed 4 contacts per week - 3 practices and a game on Saturdays. JV are allowed 3 contacts. This is to promote balance. Practices must be no more than 2 hours and we honor that. The head coach, John Vietch is an experienced and good coach from New Zealand. After try outs we ended up with 12 athletes on Varsity. One Sr. We are not tall. Two kids at maybe 6' 1" (although they'll tell you it is 1.85 and then you realize its metric...oh yeah) We've got one white kid - the tallest kid. I told Vietch I've got no Volley Ball experience and he laughed and is kindly helping me out as I learn. We have a tourny with local international schools this weekend and will head to Hong Kong for a tourny in late sept - perk of the job?
It is quite a treat to see Quinn at High School. She pops in each day to my classroom and either needs help with something or is just saying hi. She joined the photography club, the eggchange (community service) club and is considering yoga. She is plowing ahead and trying to fit in. Josephine, working on her strokes with Bridget, tried out for the heavily competitive swim team. I was mighty proud of her, showing up in a bikini and going for it. She has improved quite a bit as a swimmer but not enough to make the cut. She is enjoying her classes, friends, Mr. Fisher, and her chinese class. She speaks Chinese with our ayi while at home.
Jon and Mike put in some hours and finished the Cuttbow CD. 10 songs are at http://www.reverbnation.com/cuttbow
So good to listen to this and so painful to not continue AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!
For some reason the site is often blocked here in China - Must be because Cuttbow is so powerful and controversial in the state that the Chinese government isn't sure what to think! Anyhow, great music and keeps me smiling listening to it. We covered a Ted Rosenzweig song - Silent Kind of Girl - which he and his band have developed their own version of so it showed be good to hear the Last Train verison of this Ted Classic.
Bidget and I are looking at our pad and figuring how to move forward. We enjoy the minimal expanse it has become and don't want to change that just yet. She is trying to commission Quinn to do some artwork for us and we'd both like some more plants. It is clean and simple. We have some Janet McShain originals that need to be hung.
The toilet seat in the wash room broke and she called the management company. (They fix everything here.) As usual they sent about 4 people on the job. Communicated to Bridget that all they had was the wooden toilet seat and would she prefer that over the plastic one? Of course she would!! So the next day the team showed up to install the wooden toilette seat and left. Well the wooden toilette seat is shaped and lovely and completely unsanded. We're talking #4 grain wild wood. No one in their right mind would sit on this baby although Josephine and I wanted to try - We held off. The next day they brought the more desired plastic toilette seat.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
The bell rings and every kid is already in their seat pencils out laptops open and logged in. Every kid has completed every problem of the previous nights homework which will be graded and recorded but does not count at all toward their final grade. Students check their work with the solution document I posted to the web site. As soon as I speak everyone is quiet and listening. I throw a challenge problem out to the class and everyone begins working on it, discussing it with their peers with pencils moving at a hearty pace. They can check their work against the posted solution. I have a two page document (that I just received in an email) I want them to have to use as a reference. Instead of printing it and scanning it, I upload the pdf to the class website while I'm taking attendance and tell them to view it after they have handed in their homework. I then post a question on the site's forum and ask them to respond. My screen is projected for the class to see and within minutes each student can see each other's thoughts without speaking.
Running out of time, I copied answers from an old key and posted these as HW solutions before checking the work myself. The only questions from students regarding the HW assignment were in reference to errors on the old answer key. A learning moment for all of us.
I notice that one student hasn't commented. I look over and see him struggling to log on. He raises his hand and quietly asks if he can go to the "Mac Store." I say yes and he returns 5 minutes later with his lap top fixed, logs in and joins the rest of us. It is 15 minutes into class. I say "Lap tops down" and the kids close their screens and I begin a lecture and discussion on the next lesson.
I haven't heard one student throw an F-bomb anywhere yet. I've not heard, "Mister do you have a pencil?" It is the second week of school and nobody has been absent in any of my 5 classes.
Some teachers here new to the school from the states have been describing the teaching situation they left in the states. Overcrowded classrooms, inattentive students, weak administration, lack of support, low pay, etc. Of course we are not comparing apples to apples here. The parents of the students at this school pay a very hearty sum in tuition. Their is a massive application process and a waiting list. The school serves a majority Asian community (not nec. Chinese) with a cultural bias toward hard work in education.
Compare that to the typical public school in the states that serves every kid that walks in the door. Some have very supportive parents some have no parents. Many come from a culture rich with education, many don't.
Sunday, August 21, 2011
New day new view. Quinn did some thinking on her own and concluded she is not a Rugby player after all. Although try-outs were successful for her last week, she wants to explore other options for now. There is an activities fair this week and she is excited about what lies ahead. She also made the decision on her own to continue studying Spanish. It is good to see her make these on her own although painful to watch her muddle through them. What a great kid!
I listened to the raw mix of the Cuttbow studio take last night. I sure miss the band and now a month without any guitar I see the calluses slowly leaving my fingertips. I've been communicating with Jon and Mike quite a bit and Jon heads to the Master Mixer Wednesday night - very stoked to hear the final cut. Wish like crazy I had more time to spend on that project and even more..., well, enough said. Will make sure the final cut is posted on the Cuttbow facebook page and reverbnation. good Rockin.
Troy says the sprinklers on S Grant St. that I spent way too much time on in June are acting up again. It is funny to be sitting in Shanghai and thinking about the sprinklers in Englewood. I woke up the other night thinking, "Oh I'll just dig around the back yard tomorrow and figure out what is wrong." Then quickly realized that I actually wont be doing that any time soon at all. Will call in re-enforcements.
There is a powerful Habitat for Humanity group here that works locally and takes trips all over the world. It is headed by Rob Burke - Math Teacher and seems to be a pretty strong group. He has been a great help and inspiration as a teacher for me here these first few weeks. It is inspiring to see how active this community is here. In the spring there is a school wide function called China Live which seems pretty similar to the immersions at Challenge. Various groups go all over China for a week in the spring.
Bridget and I have started a pretty rigorous log for her blood sugars. We keep it on an xl spread sheet and update daily. It has been helpful for her and as time goes on we will be able to use it more and more. She has an appt with an endocrinologist this weekend and that will be the first. We still are not sure what direction the care here will head. She has plenty of pump supplies for a few months.
One nice new change is that I am able to eat breakfast with the family before going to work. It is a mere 10 minute walk to campus. The school isn't nec alive so early in the morning and much of the morning work can be accomplished at home by computer. So we wake and I eat a quick meal with the family and then head out a little ahead of the girls. Q, J and I start school at 8:10. We eat in the same cafeteria although different wings and at different times. Q and I eat together, or at least at the same time. I'm still flying by the seat of my pants for these first few days so I haven't had quite enough time to casually eat lunch.
Bridget walks the girls to school and then has some time during the day for herself. She has taken on some responsibilities for the school - choreographing wiz of oz and editing the elem. school yearbook and so she'll be on campus a bit. I must have missed her this morning but she delivered a banana to my door handle which I must have forgotten on my way out the door.
It is starting to get a bit cooler in Shanghai - not much - but a bit. It has not been in the high 90's last few days and that is alright by me.
Here is international school setting at its Asian concentrated finest. Josephine jumps right in and is making tons of friends and very excited about Mr. Fisher's class. Quinn and I are bug eyed and trying to figure it all out. Bridget is a bit of both. She's great with going with the flow yet with the family feeling the overwhelmingness of not only China but also the SAS environment. She is choreographing the musical (Wizard of Oz) and will be editing and publishing the Elementary school yearbook.
Although She'll deny it, I believe our road trip pit stop this summer in Kansas to the Oz museum will be an added help to her interpretation of the classic story.
At this school, kids show up and sit down minutes before class start and are ready to learn. Increasingly in the states, I had found my job as a math teacher to be that of enlightening kids to the importance of mathematics. Forget that here. Every kid has shown up with sharpened pencil in hand ready to go. Not only that, but when you prose a problem, the pencils move at an amazing speed.
Most of the kids, and I mean a large most, are Asian. This is a massive study in racial integration as we are the white minority. We didn't quite expect this. The students are from, for the most part, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and then America (of Asian Descent) and Australia (Of Asian Descent) and Europe.
Quinn tried out for Rugby, but I don't think she was too impressed. We'll see as next week she scans the clubs and makes a choice.
John Vietch, the Head Boys Volley Ball Coach and new teacher from New Zealand, whom I've befriended, approached me about assisting him this year and I accepted. We had try outs this weekend and picked 12 from a list of 40 to be our Varsity Team. We (coaches after practice) did this over beers at the local pub. The sense of balance is well preached and well practiced here among the staff. We will travel to Hong Kong and Korea for tournaments this year. I haven't quite figured this one out - but once or twice a season the Varsity teams head to the airport and fly to various Asian countries for competition. More later as I learn. Right now my learning curve is steep in everything and now including Volleyball.
Today, Sunday, we headed out as a family to a local shopping mall. There is this massive battle with language and taxi's and where the hell am I, are we, going. Somehow made it to the mall after way too much time on research and practicing what to say. However, we shopped till we dropped - Well I dropped by losing my cool - but ended up at a great Tapas joint for a wonderful lunch. Quinn splurged on the virgin Pina colada.
Quinn is being tested the most of us right now as she strives to fit in with friends and activities. She is such a strong and wonderful girl, and it is hard to see her struggle with this knowing that anyone would struggle in such a situation. She knows it is good for her in the long run, really doesn't complain, but isn't thrilled about being the new kid at the school with surprising very little new freshman.
She is becoming a beautiful little girls - her hobo tooth is all but in place and well, not really a hobo tooth anymore. She is willing to do anything but trying to make good decisions the whole time. There is so much to learn: the social scene, the classes, technology, her computer, where people hang out, Rugby (or not Rugby) and what not. What a great little girl she it.
We've been spending a good amount of time at our pool and that has been wonderful. There is a gang of kids from the States, Holland, India, and what not that hang out there on a regular basis. It is really a lovely setting surrounded by a pond and willows. The kids play quite a bit. It is funny there are these dudes who show up with there goggles for a lap workout but there are no lanes. So they try to swim there laps but have to navigate the kids lost in game. Sometimes they'll just swim right into the kids. Sometimes the kids yield, and sometimes they don't. I like it when they don't. Then there are the kids of "Tiger Moms" who are only allowed in the pool if they are swimming laps.
Thursday, August 18, 2011
We had a big rocking pep assembly in the HS gym this morning. It was a treat to be at one of these and stare through the sea of student faces to find that of my daughter Quinn and her first day of High School. What a treat it is to have her pop into my room in between classes. I've seen all of my kids and this school has some classes full of kids ready to go.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Josephine finds out she is in Mr. Fisher's 4th grade class. He is a new teacher and Josephine already knows all of the new teachers so she is psyched! Quinn has to spend a good bit of the day taking a math placement test and a foreign language placement test. She is faced with the difficult decision of whether to continue studying Spanish or to take Chinese at the school or on her own. Not such a bad dilemma to have. I'm getting my classroom in order and Bridget has just signed on to do the Choreography for the Wizard of Oz. Thank god we stopped at the Oz museum 10 miles off of I-70 in nowhere Kansas this summer!!
The food at home is unreal. Zhang made a chicken rice dish that was so fresh and tasty. Zhang speaks no English but she and bridget and the google translator have been doing a great job of communicating. It's good to have Zhang on your side too when the grocery dude is trying to dump an expired jug of milk on you cause she can tell him "Heck NO" in Mandarin. Zhang's other delights have been a peanut chicken, Pork dumplings, and plenty of stir-fry. It's a treat.
It's actually Tuesday right now, kind of late. I just discovered that I can call the states for free using the google chat through gmail. Nice! bridget finally got us cell phones today. We've been relying on the land line and no voicemail for almost three weeks.
Bridget took the girls to get their nails done at some salon in Zhudi. The came home by the motorized bicycle cab. There are these guys all over who ride these three wheel semi-motorized bikes and its like a cab. Our first experience we gave the dude 50 yuan (about $7.50) and we should have given him 5 ($0.75) So bridget gave him 5 this evening and he tried to explain that it was hard peddling with 3 xtra people. J & Q don't weigh a thing and the darn thing is motorized....Bridget won that one!!
BTW: I spent a good bit of time on the road this summer perfecting a few Chinese phrases. They include, "Excuse, may I please ask, do you speak English" and "I speak a little Chinese." and "I don't speak Chinese very well." I love saying the last phrase because it is always followed with whoever I'm speaking Chinese to telling me in Chinese that "on no, you speak very well." Then they go on to speak more Chinese, none of which I understand.
We made it about a half mile to a coffee and pastry shop - somewhat westernized because they see baquettes and croisants. Still everything is written in Chinese and we still can't quite get a d-cof coffee for Bridget. Wanting to save time we hop in a cab and the driver looks at me as if to say, "where to." I look to him as if to say, "I have no idea how to tell you this." I forgot my notes and struggle to point to the metro stop on the map. He finally nods his head in understanding and immediately takes off in the opposite direction.
Bridget is letting me know from the back seat that we're going the wrong way and I need to stop him. I don't know if he misunderstood me or if he's taking us for a ride. I repeat Xu Jing Xu Jing Xu Jing to him and he finally looks at me and says, "ah...Xu Jing!!" and turns the car around and heads back toward Xu Jing.
We buy our tickets after 10 minutes of staring at the machine. If you've ever gone to Denver's light rail and bought tickets after not riding it in a while you know that it takes time to figure out how that machine works. It takes more time if it is written in Chinese symbols and everyone around you is pushing.
That is one thing about this big city. People push. It's not rude. It's more so like there are 23.5 million of us and if you don't push you'll get left behind.
For example, we now have our subway tickets and we head toward the train. Feels pretty normal as we wait for its arrival. A bunch of people waiting for a train, kinda like at DIA. Then the train comes and people prepare to board. Now Pu Xing is the end of the line so this is an empty train we're getting on. The train stops, the doors open and it's like the Who at Folsum Field...it is a mad rush for a seat. People are sprinting into the train to grab a seat. Why, I wonder there is plenty of room. I soon get my answer. By the very next stop the train is PACKED. Standing room only. I barely see Quinn and I can't see Bridget or Josephine. It continues like this for 9 more stops. When we finally get to the Peoples square stop it is a forceful push by all four of us to get out of the train by squeezing ourselves through the mass and out the doors before they slam shut and the train leaves. Josephine claims she saw some dude get stuck while his family got off. Guess he had to ride one more stop.
This is pretty normal I find out. These people are calm cool and collect the whole time...calm cool and collect but pretty darned determined to get where they want to go whether you're in the way or not.
Fall for the old Tea scam.
Once off the train we are in People's square. Bridget thrives on the pulse of this clean and incredibly visually pleasing city. I'm in shock. The girls are giddy. We walk to the square and a woman starts polishing my shoes. I soon realize that I will owe her a fee so I walk away. She kinda crab craw-walks and continues to polish my shoes as I'm trying to get away. I say politely, "no Thanks" and she polishes harder and whips off a few Mandarin paragraphs. I finally start walking circles around a tree until she finally gets the point.
Twenty seconds after she leaves Three college age kids approach us and start speaking enthusiastically in English. They are friendly enough (Really how just about everyone is here) so I try my Mandarin on them. The seven of us enthusiastically converse for about 20 minutes - I'm skeptical of what their up to but don't really care. Another twenty minutes later and we are in some ornately decorated small room sitting around a traditional chinese tea table somewhere in the neighborhood enjoying a tea ceremony with them. Six different types of tea, all different types of protocols, plenty of laughs and entertainment. They buy a bunch of extra tea and I agree (begrudgingly) to split the tab. We finally get out of there with bellies full of tea and a bit less cash in my wallet than one would expect and in desperate need of a bathroom.
Saturday, August 13, 2011
We've met a large number of families who have made international teaching their career. Kenya, Chile, Thailand, Viet Nam, Bulgaria, China, the list is endless. Their is a large community out there.
We had a speaker today, Yong Zhao, author of a book I'm reading, "Catching up or leading way." Dr. Zhao is a dynamic speaker whose got a great message about what's working in chinese and American Education.
Friday, August 12, 2011
Josephine is jumping right in with both feet. She met a buddy, Mia, right away and has a play date and sleep over already. She makes quick friends with the adults. Quinn is a bit more reserved. Had a rough night thinking about all she is missing back home. She hasn't been in colorado for a few weeks and there isn't much for her here, yet. Very few of the other families in our neighborhood have returned from summer break at this point. Quinn is reflective but is in much better spirits this morning. We've struggled to get a VPN for our internet hook up which means, not facebook for her. She's been relying on email to connect with friends back home.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Crazy Story: I woke up Monday morning and looked at the time on the lap top - 6:40 AM. Left to go for a jog. The glass door out of the kitchen to the laundry room was left unlocked overnight which was a bit of a mistake because the back door out to the stair well has had a broken lock for three days now. Oh well I think and leave for a nice 20 minute jaunt around Westwood Green (our apartment complex) and then out to the neighborhood. I ran down the road a bit and entered the "Rancho Sante Fe" the posh adjacent neighborhood for those who really like to live well - single family NICE adobes with beautifully landscaped surroundings make for a great jog.
So I return at 7:00 up the stairs and back in the kitchen. I go to check the time on the computer and....its gone! OH no!! Somehow it is gone. Josephine doesn't have it, she's watching a moving in her room. Quinn doesn't have it - she is asleep - Bridget is asleep - where the HELL is the computer!? Quinn wakes up and looks with me for a half hour - no computer. I wake Bridget and break the news that somehow, someway, someone in this incredibly safe city and incredibly secure apartment complex has entered our house and nabbed the laptop off of the Kitchen table.
I make the uncomfortable call to the AP at the high school while Bridget reports the incident to the management office. Soon there is a translator and a dozen security guards and policemen. It is CSI Shanghai. The lead detective and Bridget are inspecting the floor and lifting footprints. EVERYONE in the SAS community is stunned - this kind of thing NEVER has happened before. I am flabbergasted. We don't really feel that sense of violation that we should feel, but what the heck? The AP, Michael, the principal, ED, and the Head of School, Alan, are all very supportive and helpful. They replace my laptop within hours. Bridget spends a long morning dealing with the police, translator and security guards, and gets back home in time for lunch with the kids and to meet our new ayi, Zhang, and meet the locksmith. What a day.
Getting into the thick of it at school:
Had my first department meeting today. The math department at SAS is 9 teaching (counting me). There are 650+ students in the high school. 3 of them are in Algebra I. The rest are in Geometry or higher. At OHS, there were 650+ kids in Algebra I. Different scene. I'm confident in my new role as Head of the Department and it is a wonderful challenge to step right in as a leader for this very respectable group of professional math teachers. So thankful for the experience of working with the OHS Math crew for so many years.
Bridget has hers tomorrow. She was fortunate enough to have missed the first one. A group of about 30 of us new teachers piled onto a bus in the rain and headed somewhere into Shanghai. We piled into the medical center and I ended up first in line. "Go to room 108" I'm told. Once there I quickly fill out a somewhat typical medical form. My number comes up on the screen to head to room 113. "Take off shirt and shoes, put on robe, put clothes in locker" I'm told as a female 3rd grade teacher piles in after me and is told the same thing. At least there is a changing room which resembles the dressing room at TJ Maxx.
"Go Room 111" and I get weighed, & measured. "Room 114" I get my blood pressure checked. "Room 116" I lie down and am hooked to a bunch of wires aka Frankenstein, but a thorough EKG...I'm healthy! "Room 112" chest x-ray. "Room 113" eye exam... and a question from the physician, "Surgery? where?" "right knee"..."hmmm" as the eye doctor examines my right knee, the only one of the whole bunch to read and respond to what I had filled out. "Room 106" where I get my first untra-sound and they are not gentle here! poke prod poke prod, "Roll Over" and then I'm tossed a kleenix with some typ of directive to wipe the untra sound cream off of myself.
This place is no B.S. They got 30 of us full examinations in about 1.5 hours...pretty impressive!
We'll have to see how Bridget does tomorrow. She's been warned that on top of all of that, she will get her boobs squeezed.
Our first week was very cush. I started work on Tuesday the 2nd. We had a bus trip to the restaurant district the next night