It’s Chinese New Year again. A very different one from the last few I have experienced. The government and most companies are doing their best to discourage travel. That means most people I know are staying here for the holiday. Usually, around this time Shenzhen is like a ghost town. It isn’t this year, so it seems a lot of people have chosen not to travel. A few around me are chafing at the restrictions and feel that the reaction here swings towards the extreme. I am not sure they are wrong but I can enjoy another CNY in Shenzhen. I am okay with that.
This new school year has been a busy one. When I decided not to move last year I took a position as a 1st-grade teacher. It has been interesting teaching all the subjects again. I had been focusing on teaching English for so long I have gotten rusty at teaching the other subjects. I have found myself too busy to stop and write about the experiences. It seems like a good time to do so now.
The school year started strangely. Our school was working with the government to bring back teachers that were stuck outside the country. In the meantime, they hired a lot of teachers that were in-country already to replace teachers who decided to pursue employment elsewhere. I was the only teacher at my grade level that was in-country though because the other 2 were out of the country. This meant I started the year teaching reading and writing to all 1st graders and the other classes were taught by one of the teachers that were online. At first, we only had 2 classes and the third teacher was working with students stuck online and waiting for visas to process that would allow them and their families to come back.
I had a homeroom but saw them as much as I saw the other teacher’s class. It was hard to build ties when I only saw them for literacy but that did not last too long. The teacher that came back first, took over her class and I started teaching my homeroom in all subjects. That meant I suddenly had to learn a new math curriculum and get up to speed on the science curriculum. I taught this grade my first year in Shenzhen but both of these subjects had changed since I taught them. Luckily, the freshly returned teacher was a pro and did a lot to help keep me on track.
When the third teacher came back, it was decided to split the 2 classes into 3. New students were enrolling in January, which meant she got a couple of students from each of the existing classes and the new students to build her class. This was nice because there have been enough students come in that we would have been relatively large classes (relative to the ideal class size for our organization). This change has allowed me to get to know the students that stayed as part of my classroom.
We have been giving mostly face-to-face instruction all year so far, except for the online teacher time in the beginning. We are all hopeful that this continues through the entire year. Which is another reason I am glad that they have made travel a daunting process. I want to stay open. As the year has gone along we have had to adapt and change safety policies several times as the new cases went from nearly non-existent until more recently when certain pockets of china have seen quite a few new cases.
The hardest thing has been to not go to the US for the last 2 long breaks. We miss seeing friends and family but enjoy staying employed. We have started figuring out the visa paperwork for Michelle for if and when we decide to move there. Which has been a challenging idea for me because I have grown to love living in Shenzhen. Since we don’t have the paperwork ready yet we will be sticking it out with this school for at least one more year. The downside is it looks very unlikely that the travel restrictions will ease up this summer and that might mean a little longer before I can visit. Which makes it that much more important to stay in touch with friends and family. So I make WeChat video calls with my parents and I keep in touch via Facebook messenger with others. Recently I have been using Signal to keep in contact with some friends. I like Signal, you should look into it.
Until next I see you, stay safe, healthy, and happy!