Saturday, June 06, 2015

            This past week, we did a combination of English teaching and professional in-service in several Chinese Kindergartens, elite places with one to ten teacher-pupil ratios, and state of the art equipment.  In addition to government subsidy, parents pay steep tuition.

              The program is highly structured, and while there are interest centers as in American preschools, they are used very little.  The day begins with teacher -led calisthenics on the school yard.  There is no free play or experimentation with materials.  Children learn Chinese writing, English, math, art, and rudimentary science. Their performance is precise and impressive.

Early writing
              What the Chinese call Kindergarten lasts for three years.  The children begin to attend when they’re three years old and move on to grade one at age 6.  In China, three years of Kindergarten is common and desirable, but not universal.  The Chinese writing system is so complicated that it takes two additional years of study for literacy to develop.  The character in the center of this paper plate was made by a teacher.  The surrounding copy attempts were done by a very young child.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Children’s Day
               Monday was Children’s Day, a time when children receive presents and get to put on talent shows, rather like junior beauty pageants. I’m made uneasy by such exhibitions of juvenile talent and worry that the adults may push the kids too hard.   Some of the kids sang and danced really well, and most appeared to be enjoying themselves.
Cherry picking
              The markets are full of cherries this time of year.  Yesterday, they took us to an orchard where we picked box after box of cherries.  Not sure what we’ll do with all of them.
Martial Arts
              Jinan has a martial arts team, and yesterday we were treated to a lesson/demonstration. The opening moves promote flexibility, similar to Tai Chi, but I was afraid I’d hit myself in the face with the nunchucks—weighted metal sticks, held together with chains, and I retreated to the role of photographer.

The feminine ideal
                    In the children’s bookstore at the Jinan Art Museum, I saw a book obviously intended for little Chinese girls. Even in China, one cannot escape from Barbie,  with her infinitesmal waist and gargantuan chest.  No Western woman I know is actually shaped this way, and Chinese women have way smaller breasts than we.  Besides, the Chinese have very dark hair.  Shouldn’t a doll look more like the child who plays with it?

What does tomorrow mean? It is 5:30 pm here, but at home it’s 5:00 in the morning. I leave Weihai tomorrow and make a stop in Beijing. ...