The school liaison asked a favour of me, would I host a Halloween event at a local English language school. This is essentially a Chinese ‘hagwon‘, which is where I spend my first year in South Korea teaching wee ones the fundamentals of English in a fun way. I actually really miss teaching that age group, sullen, unmotivated teens don’t do a lot to ignite my passion for educating. My liaison also happens to be a genuinely sweet man so if he wants a couple hours of my time on a Friday or Saturday night then I’m happy to provide it. Suining doesn’t offer up a lot of social options.
My co-host (and co-owner of the school) gave me the run down of what she hoped I would bring to the party.
Having hosted Sportsdays at RockCrest and generally never meeting a microphone that scared me I fell back into the roll of edutainer (educator and entertainer) with relative ease. It’s less about teaching and more about entertaining them and exciting them about the power of English.
My lovely co-host also happened to be at least six or seven months and had more energy than anyone that pregnant I’ve ever met in all my travels.
I hit the room and the kids gasp. I’ve visited once before but there aren’t many foreigners in this part of Jiangsu, they realized what a treat had been arranged for them. The children ranged from 6 to 11 and the room filled to capacity with over 50 students and teachers.
It started off with me being introduced and then talking a bit about myself, the standard ramble – name, age, country, job. I could have done it in Chinese as I get those questions all the time. And while my Mandarin remains less than rudimentary it tops many of the locals here. This night was all in English. The first game had them saying something and telling me about Halloween. I received a bag of lollipops and I liberally hand them out for good pronunciation or saying ‘Trick or Treat‘ or ‘pumpkin.‘
All the students in their classes took turns to stand up and make a statement they had all clearly rehearsed. Then in a twist, one kid stepped forward to shake my hand, so I returned the shake… and just kept shaking it… and shaking it… and shaking it until the rest of the students just started laughing at the absurdity of it all. Now each student insisted on shaking my hand.
Then we played musical chairs… only with tiny stools that barely stand six inches off the floor and all the competitors are seriously shorter than I and younger and faster. Winner gets… candy most likely but the loser has to do a performance before everybody else. At RockCrest I don’t go in the events any more but when I did near the end of my competitive days I raced under two prerogatives 1) cheat and 2) get caught. I was there to entertain before I finally grabbed the mic and became the host. This night proved no different. My first attempt had me bring my own stool. The second attempt had me kicking the stool in front of me. The third saw me sit down before the music began.
Originally it was me against 5 students and I think the teachers thought I’d be the first one out but I wanted to make the students work for it, but I knew I couldn’t win, if I win it sort of spoils the fun for them and the two girls who ‘beat’ me got candy and to grin and gossip with their friends. The first boy performed cartwheels up and down the hall. The second girl said she would sing but wouldn’t sing so I co-opted her into my performance. The third girl actually did sing a song.
What to do? Why the hokey pokey of course. I drag five students up and after some translation, we did indeed do the hokey-pokey. It started out with an arm, then a leg, by the time I had ‘there whole head in and you… shake it all about’, all the crowd was laughing along while we made fools of ourselves.
As the show ended, the students wanted to pose for pictures with me. No problem. I get bored doing the standard pose with the kimchi fingers in a vee, but I always let them start with one standard, expected pic… but then I have some fun. The class with three females teachers saw me with my arms around all three, in another class pic I ducked down and attempted to blend in with the class, and then finally one kid with a hood stands right in front of me?
Hood over head.
What I love most about the pic is the teacher’s gormless pose while the class cracks up.
I may or may not get paid, I have no idea. I don’t really care.
Afterwards I was treated to a delicious communal meal, similar to what I enjoyed in Binhai with Mr. Sun’s Family Lunch.
I honestly didn’t even need to be fed, I enjoy teaching kids who want to learn, making them laugh and dance and sing. My current job is much more refining abilities and teaching technical details. Important to be sure for students going abroad but not nearly as rewarding as tricking kids into the joys of linguistics.
Happy Halloween from Suining.