Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Cow of Knowledge and The Messy Teacher

First day of school! First day of school!

At least it was on September 1. I've been waiting until I had photos before I put up this post.

Shu-ting and I arrived at 7:30 am on Monday morning for our first day of school. By the time we got there, there were children everywhere sweeping the sidewalks and wiping down desks in the classrooms. It felt kind of weird sitting around in a classroom watching kids clean but not chipping in, but it's part of the culture. The students help the teachers do everything--kids move all the textbooks into the classrooms, they even decorate the classrooms according to the teacher's instructions. When one of my fellow ETAs mentioned to a teacher that we worked really hard to make posters for the English Village, the teacher replied, "Why didn't you just get the kids to make them?" I've always heard that in Asian society, students really respect their teachers, but it's the little things that drive the point home.

The first graders had their orientation ceremony that morning, which of course entailed lots of balloons:

Disclaimer: The reason I'm prominently featured in the following photos is not just because I'm a total narcissist. I forgot my camera that day and had to get the photos from the Dean of Academic Affairs. He, of course, thought that I only wanted photos that included myself, and I didn't feel like explaining that I wanted all of the photos to pick and choose from since he's really busy.

If you look carefully, you'll see stalks of green onions sticking out of the balloon arches or "the Gates of Wisdom." The Chinese word for green onion is cong1 which sounds like the Chinese word for smart, cong1ming2. Now, you may be asking, "Who is what man in the middle with the big balloon hat?" That's definitely the principal. The people on either side of the photo wearing balloon hats are also head administrators at the school. Pretty cool, huh?

After the kids walked through the gate, the principal gave a long speech about working hard and gaining knowledge. I zoned out for most of it, but at one point he definitely said, "You must grow bigger and stronger so that animals won't eat you!" After he finished his speech, one of the teachers rolled something large covered in a red blanket. She gave an emphatic speech and then dramatically threw off the blanket to reveal....


They then had each child stand up and take a pack of Oreo cookies which were taped to the cow's back. I haven't gotten the full scoop on the cow of knowledge, but a friend told me that you're supposed to put a hair from the cow under your pillow on September 28, which I believe is Confucius day. If anyone wants to provide a thorough explanation of this practice, I'd be glad to post it.

Stealing the secrets of Chinese knowledge. Apparently it has something to do with high fructose corn syrup

They also asked me to introduce myself in front of the student body. I gave a short introduction in English and asked my co-teacher to translate for me since my Chinese isn't great. I tried to keep it short: "Hi, my name is Vicky. I am here from America and I will be teaching English for 1 year with Teacher Shuting. I'm really excited to be here!" Shuting decided that I needed a more thorough introduction, so in addition to translating my words, she noted that I'm trying to learn the words to Jay Chou's Cowboy on the Run so I can sing it at karaoke. She also told the kids: "Just like you are trying to learn English, Teacher Vicky is trying to learn Taiwanese. Right now she only knows one Taiwanese word: Musasa (translation: messy), so you should try to practice with her if you can!"

Now when I walk down the hallway, I hear kids yelling musasa! at me. I think it's going to be a great year!

1 comment:

Michael said...

Haha, I would love to hear how Confucius has anything to do with cow's hair.. Confucius Day is coming up after all. I also find it hilarious that your Dean took a photo of you puckering up to the cow.