ILP has home visits as part of their mantra, but not many schools included in the program use it. However, Bond Institute loved this idea, so we needed to do it. I really enjoyed it, so here are stories about the kids I visited.
Sophia was actually Korean and she didn’t know Chinese. Her and her friends Scott and Alice were learning English as well as Chinese. Sophia had an infectious, effervescent personality and played with a lot of the children. When we went to her family’s apartment, she was very eager to show us her little sister who was about a year old. She put her on her toy teeter totter and dragged her around the room. Her parents were friendly and gave us a lot of tea and fruit. Everyone was talking in Chinese, but the parents knew some English. I’m supposed to tell them about Sophia in class, and she was a good student. They were friendly when we left.
Visiting Jackson was the strangest thing I had ever seen in China, much less America. His family was loaded. His parents lived and worked in America to send money home to him. He lived with his grandparents and great-grandparents, which was saying something. Chinese people usually don’t start dating until 19, so to have his great-grandparents alive was interesting. They had people who worked for them. Everything in their apartment was made of glass. Jackson was about 3 years old and high-wired. He would never sit still in class. I was amazed (after the people working for his family immediately gave us brand-new slippers to wear in their apartment) that they had very fancy china to serve us coffee in. That wasn’t even the amazing part. They gave Jackson coffee in his sippy-cup! Trust me, he was the last kid who should be drinking it. His grandparents offered me coffee, but because it would rip up the delicate lining in my esophagus and tummy, I declined it. So then they gave me at least three “juice” boxes of herbal tea! I had already eaten and drank a lot at Sophia’s. Then they gave me a ton of fruit. When everyone started yapping away in Chinese, I decided to watch Jackson. Now, none of us were sure on what his English name was (out of the ILP group). We couldn’t tell if it was Jason or Jackson. We had done a test to see what he answered to, so we thought it was Jason. After visiting him, I knew why it was Jackson: he’s a HUGE MJ fan. They popped in a DVD of MJ in concert and Jackson was brought a red, sparkly top hat that he promptly put on and then began doing the same dance moves (including the infamous crotch-grabbing [for lack of a better euphemism]). He kept spinning around and finally fell, breaking one of his two jade bracelets. The people who work for them went running and brought out another jade bracelet and forced it on his wrist. I asked one of the Chinese teachers about it and she said that he breaks his jade bracelets all the time and they were worried about it, but that his family had a lot of them. The grandparents told me that he went through 7 bracelets like everyone can just buy real jade bracelets all the time. As we left, they gave me two giant melons to take home.
Phillip was a quiet kid and he tended to cry a lot. He was the last student we visited this night. The Chinese teachers told me that his parents were divorced, so I shouldn’t bring it up. Like I would. He loves to help people out, so he helped his mom bring in the fruit for us to eat and helped pour the water. While the Chinese teachers were talking to his mother, I sat with him on the floor and played with him with his trucks. He really likes trucks. His mom liked seeing me and him playing together. I told her that Philip was a good student and that he was learning English. The Chinese teachers told her about how he tends to get emotional during lessons. It was a nice visit.
Even though Sophia, Jackson, and Philip all lived in the same apartment complex next to the school, they all lived vastly different lives. Jackson’s apartment was definitely high-style, while Sophia and Jackson lived in apartments that, from what I figured, most people lived in China.
Angel (or Angle, as the Chinese teachers spelled it)~
Angel’s mom met with us after school and we went to a fancy Japanese restaurant for dinner. Her mom told the Chinese teachers to tell me that I could order anything I wanted, but I made sure that I chose things that were reasonably priced. For example, some fish and sushi. The Chinese teachers were excited when I got the fish because 1) they told me that fish is brain-food, so it would make me very smart, and 2) because it was served with parsley, which they didn’t know about. They asked me about it and I finally got to explain something to the Chinese teachers. I told them that in America we put it with food to look nice, but it is also edible. They all nodded and said, “Ohhh” when I explained it.
Morris (Or “The Morris” according to Aden) ~
Morris was an interesting kid. He never sat down in his seat; instead, he would crouch on top of his seat. Try as we might, he never would sit on his pockets. So we gave up by the middle of November. Morris also liked to lay on everyone. Aden often complained about him, saying “The . . . They Morris is . . . is . . . touching me!” because he often rested his head on Aden’s shoulder. He lived in a modest apartment and was really excited to have us visit him. He came out to take us into his apartment and up to his family’s apartment room. When the Chinese teachers began talking to his parents about his progress, he kept bringing out toys to show us. Since I was the only one who didn’t know what was going on (even though I pretended I did and smiled and nodded a lot when they looked at me), he would bring them to me. I started to play with him with his toys and everyone thought that was wonderful. Even though he, too, was into the trucks and cars. Morris was a funny kid. I often had to repeat things to him twice, but he understood what I wanted. Even if he pretended like he didn’t. I knew he knew, and he knew I knew he knew.
As a teacher, you’re not supposed to have a favorite, but William was mine. The other girls had a hard time with him because he required so much attention, but he made me laugh all the time. He also knew I liked him, so when he had troubles, he came to me. None of the kids could pronounce my name, so they all called me “Teacher Minda”. I would always ask William what my name was because he would always shout it to me like a soldier. He lives with his father and grandmother. There were pictures in his house of his mother, but she wasn’t there. I did ask about it later, but no one gave me an answer on where she was. William’s grandmother was a funny old Chinese lady and she kept making us eat snacks, especially me. She kept giving me apple slices, orange slices, and other Chinese snacks. William also kept coming over to me to show me things, like how he could climb up the back of the comfy chairs. I miss William the most.