“Mr. Mr. Curse me out in Chinese and I’ll curse you out in Portuguese!”
That should give you a glimpse into my new world: Teaching Chinese to middle schoolers in an urban Magnet School in Western Massachusetts. Twelve years ago when I embarked on my 5 year stint in China, I never thought that I needed to take notes on the culture, the people and the language because I would be teaching this stuff in the future. I took notes, doodles, journals and diaries along with scrapbooks etc but little did I know that I would do the opposite of what I was doing in China (teaching English) in my hometown in the coming future. I would have the chance to teach Chinese in America.
The student who asked me to curse him out is a kind of odd duck in my classes where his parents’ native language is Portuguese in a city where it seems like the mother tongue is Spanish not English. The student body is 80% poverty and the school is awash in money from the Federal Government. I haven’t asked for much of anything in terms of new purchases for books or equipment, but I do chop down a tree or two on a daily basis getting their Chinese character worksheets copied.
But teaching Chinese has been an interesting time so far as it has strengthened my foundational knowledge in tones, characters and pronunciation. I’ve had to reevaluate my feelings for the Chinese language and I’ve come to the conclusion that I do love speaking the language, learning the language and now teaching the language.
And sooner or later I might teach that Portuguese-American student a few bad words in Mandarin!
Keep reading MandMx.com for more blog updates on my teaching experiences and maybe a comic or two thrown in.