Friday, February 28, 2014

Mary Dockery Publishes Chapbook


Mary Dockery, alumna and current instructor of English, announces that her chapbook The Dopamine
Letters is now published by Hyacinth Girl Press.

Mary is the author of two collections of poetry: One Last Cigarette from
Honest Publishing and The Mythology of Touch by Woodley Press.

Her first chapbook, Aching Buttons, was published by Dancing Girl Press.

Congratulations, Mary! 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Celebrating the life of Dr. Norma Hayes Bagnall

Dr. Norma Hayes Bagnall, Professor of English at Missouri Western from 1980-1996, passed away on Wednesday, February, 26. She was eighty-four.

Norma went to college at the age of thirty-nine after raising her children and putting her husband through school. She began her work as a college professor at the age of fifty. She was to make the most of a relatively short career. She is the author of On Shaky Ground: The New Madrid Earthquakes of 1811-1812, published by the University of Missouri Press in 1996. She was a two-term president of the international Children’s Literature Association (ChLA) from 1989-91. She was also president of the MWSC faculty senate. Norma was a Fulbright Scholar, taking a year to study and teach in the UK.

Norma remained active in the Literacy Coalition, the Friends of the St. Joseph Public Library, and the Women’s Press Club in her retirement.

Services will be held at Meierhoffer Chapel (5005 Frederick Ave, St Joseph, MO 64506) at 1 PM on Monday, March 3.

Episode Fourteen: Lanterns in the Night

Lanterns in the Night

The ending of the Chinese New Year’s celebration culminates 15 days after the New Year’s Day in the Lantern Day Festival. Z and I were traveling in ZhongZhou, watching monks do Kung Fu, so we missed the Lantern Day festivities. However, Juan waited until we returned and had a Lantern Festival party at her house, inviting five of Simon’s friends. She didn’t want Zephaniah to miss experiencing the traditions of the festival.
I can’t say enough how much I appreciate the lengths to which our friends here go to making sure our year here is not only happy but rich and interesting. From Tiantian to Juan to Changan to Wenning: our stay here would not be near as easy or trouble free without them. They have gone out of their ways in so many times, day and night, to make sure our needs are met and that our stay is enjoyable. We were very touched to know that Juan put together the party for Zephaniah to experience the magic of the traditional lantern evening.

We arrived at Juan’s apartment  at 7:30, just as dark was settling. The children who had already arrived were busily hanging balloons and handmade paper lanterns from strings strung across the room. Each child was also supposed to write a riddle and tape it to one of the paper lanterns. Then, once all the riddles were hung, we were supposed to try and solve the riddles. Juan urged the other children to write their riddles in English so Zephaniah could understand them. Some of the riddles were those quirky kid-riddles, akin to baby knock-knock jokes: they only make vague sense if you are the wee one who came up with it. “What is big and goes in the sea?” A sea monster. Zephaniah’s was the classic, “If a boy walks into the woods three meters, when will he walk out of the woods?” The next step because then he will be heading out of the woods.

After the head-scratching riddles, a furious game of pop-the-balloons ensued, but we soon herded the children together for another game. Juan had printed pictures of traditional New Year’s scenes/traditions on paper. One at a time, the children came up, chose a photo randomly, and had to describe the scene/tradition without using key words. The other children had to guess. Again, Juan wanted the children to attempt English. Most of them did a great job, even with limited English skills. Or they used simple enough Chinese words that Zephaniah knew what they were saying. Z, ever the over-eager participant and hyper-competitive child, shouted out answers before the child at the front of the room had a chance to say or do much. This drove Simon, typically calm and serene, more than a bit crazy and after a few of Zephaniah’s rude blurting out of guesses, turned to him and said, “You must wait! Wait until they finish!” This admonishment slowed Zephaniah only a bit. Years of blurting out the answer in an attempt to be “first” cannot be broken in one party game. Poor Simon.

Traditional lantern day treats were served: some sticky rice dumplings with a sweet, dark paste in the center. After the party game, more balloon antics ensued until everyone was given a lantern and shuttled outside for the lighting. Juan had bought a monkey lantern for Z (as he was born in the year of the monkey) and a horse lantern for Simon. She also had some very elegant satin-like lanterns that she re-uses every year. The other children had brought their own lanterns from home. Some made of paper, some made of material, all prominently red in color (good luck in the New Year).
The lanterns are lit by small candles at the base and then attached to sticks for carrying. Zephaniah, of course, wanted to RUN with his. The other children warned him his lantern candle would blow out if he ran. Since when has Zephaniah ever listened to what any one tells him? He ran. The candle flickered but did not die. The other children raced after him, bobbling glows of golden red in the night.
We walked as a group, mothers trailing behind, and children running and chattering ahead, to the soccer field on campus.  We had to do one mass “lantern re-light” on the way there as the candles had all burned down and needed to be replaced. People passing by were bemused by the lantern-wielding sprites: we were a week late in the celebrations. They couldn’t quite figure that out and I saw people pause and inquire as to whether we had confused the date . . . or what?

The children ran and danced and cheered each other on until the lanterns’ second candles burned out. Then Juan brought out a large paper lantern, a sky lantern, and the children gathered around, each taking a corner of the three-foot high paper dome. Juan lit the candle under the paper lantern, and as the warm air filled the pink paper dome, it began to lift off the ground. She told the children “Make a wish! Make a new year’s wish!” The children wished, shrieked, and let go as the lantern wobbled and floated into the air. We tipped our noses to the sky, watching the pink lantern become an orange dot and then a white speck and then nothing at all as it sailed into the February night.
Juan said it was customary to burn the paper lanterns, but we kept Z’s monkey lantern. It is hanging off the top of the television, smiling in a crinkled and lopsided way after its night of sweeping, dancing, and twirling wildly at the end of Z’s stick. A different kind of New Year’s hangover.
Here is to Juan and her party planning. May the New Year bring her as much bright happiness as she brought to Z on the belated lantern celebration.

Making Tofu
Juan, who unlike me loves to cook, invited me over to make tofu. She makes the best tofu Z and I have ever tasted (and in China there are all sorts of wonderful and interesting varieties of tofu that make our vegetarians selves extremely happy). I had no idea that one could “make” tofu. I knew someone did make it. I buy tofu from women with thick slabs and blocks of very interesting types of tofu laid out on tables inside the vegetable market and clearly they are the ones who are making it. But I assumed that, like good beer, it was something that was beyond my limited kitchen skills.
What I discovered is that tofu is a lot like making bread: the ingredients are quite simple and if you
are patient and have some time, it is no big deal to make tofu. It is actually quite easy. Easier than pie (by far). And we know what everyone says about pie.
In order to make tofu, you have to have soybeans. I am not sure how easy it is to find dried soybeans in a U.S. grocery store, but here they are everywhere. Get a bunch of beans and soak them like you do any beans before making soup. Once they have absorbed their fair share of water, put them in a blender with two parts water to one part beans. Whip those babies up.
Pour the soupy mixture through some cheese cloth (into a bowl or pan), then squeeze and wring the cloth with the pulpy stuff in it (save the liquid; it is the important part). Once you have wrung out all the liquid you can, put the pureed bean junk back in the blender with 2 parts water. Blend again. Pour through the cheese cloth again, and wring. Then discard the curd in the cloth. The goods you want are what you poured off (that is to say: soy milk).

Put the soy milk (you just made soy milk!) into a big pot and start heating it. When it starts steaming, add a mixture of white vinegar and a bit of salt (1/4 cup vinegar and 1 t. salt for a medium pan). Stir, stir, stir. The vinegar/salt mixture should curdle the milk. If it doesn’t, add more vinegar/salt mixture until it does.

Once the soy milk is curdled, pour it one last time through a clean cheese cloth. This time, the stuff in the cloth is tofu. All you need to do is put it in a strainer (keep it in the cloth, just put it in a strainer so you can shape it) and squeeze out all the excess water. Juan used a little square plastic basket as her tofu mold and another on top to squeeze out the excess liquid.
That’s it. No big deal. A little soaking, a little blending, a little heating, and a few iterations of straining and twisting to get the liquid out. Easier than pie. And better for you. Fresh tofu, like fresh goat cheese, has a buttery, nutty, rich taste that makes that slimy, grey crud packaged and marketed as tofu in the states look like a different food product altogether.

Z’s New Bike

Deborah gave me her old bike when she left the country. I took it to the “bike man” who has a little shop on the back street and had him install a seat on the back for Z to ride on. Everyone who has a child under the age of 12 has a seat on the back of their bike. The seats can also hold grown-ups and it is not uncommon to see a young woman riding side-saddle on the back of her sweetheart’s bike.
The little seat works slick when we have to go a mile or so and I don’t want to wait for the bus. However, it is a workout when Z is back there commenting on the scenery and giving a traffic report while I am sucking wind trying to keep us moving forward. It doesn’t help that he occasionally (frequently?) yells, “Yah! Yah!” to encourage me, patting my hips as if I were a sluggish, sway-backed nag.
Maybe I am a sluggish nag, but it makes me want to swing around and bite him when he is tra-la-la-ing into my back as I am working up a major cardiovascular sweat, on my way to a cardiac infarction.
To solve this problem of vanity and ego, we went to the bike market (across from the fabric market – a bus and then a subway ride away from our apartment) to buy a bike for Z. My child, always eager to spend my money, started out test driving the bikes with gears and wild decals, shock-absorbers and mean-looking lines. I asked the price of one such model and reeled back from the asking price.

I got eyeball to eyeball with Z and said, “Look. We are not buying this bike. We are not buying any bike like this. Scale back your expectations. Way back. You need a bike to get you around for the next five months. We want the basics: two wheels, matching pedals, a seat, and handle-bars you can reach. Anything beyond that is considered out of your price range. Your budget is 200 yuan (about $30).”

Z quickly began negotiating with one of the bike shop owners and chose a sensible, stripped down, blue model. He got a lock and a snappy little compass/bell combo thrown in for free. He’s a shopper. The boy can haggle.
Off he zipped before I could even get the change back in my purse. A boy on a bike in a city of 6 million? Four miles from home and a bazillion streets in between? Crap! I ran like OJ Simpson through the airport as Z expertly wove around people on the sidewalk, ringing his bell in warning as passers-by hopped out of his way.
I did catch up before any major intersection. We agreed he could bike ahead as long as he waited for me when he had to cross a street that was more than one lane.
He biked the entire way home (about 6 kilometers), whistling happily all the way. Yesterday he took a tour around campus on his bike and came back declaring his crotch hurt. I assume it is not so much an ill-fitting seat, but overzealous bike riding. Not a bad problem to have.
Last night he tried to give a girl a ride on the back of his bike. At first she wanted to ride side saddle. I encouraged her to ride astride as Z’s balance is not so great. After a few failed attempts, Z huffed, “That is too much work.”
Ah. Touché. “And now you know exactly why I wanted you to get a bike. At least she wasn’t yelling, ‘Yah! Yah!’ and smacking your rump.”
“Aww. Come on! That’s the most fun part about riding on the back of your bike! You have the perfect horse bottom.”
Post Script: R.I.P.  Little Blue Bike.  Stolen from the above campus bike parking lot (locked) less than 48- hours after it was purchased. Between the hours of 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Right in front of the security check point at the gate.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Episode Thirteen: Chinese Education

The Chinese Educational System

I am most definitely not going to be happy to leave in 6 months (life here is too fascinating), but Z misses American school a lot. Now that he is on school vacation (until Feb 24), he is OK and happy, but school is BRUTAL (draconian education style; teachers hit the kids on the head and face for not doing the work up to standards and children are publicly shamed regularly). When asked, Z describes school as “torture.”

His teacher is nice to him because he is the only non-Chinese student in the school, but he has to witness all the other stuff in the classroom and it bothers him a great deal. Not only that, but having to sit for hours on end without moving is impossible for him. All the other foreign parents I know send their children to private international schools. The companies they work for pay the fees. The fees for those schools are out of my reach financially. Home schooling? Both Z and I would lose our minds. He needs lots of interaction with other people on any given day. Because he is attending public school where no one speaks English (outside of simple sentences in English class) Z is learning Mandarin in leaps and bounds; children who attend international schools do not speak more than a very little bit of Chinese. Mostly, the experience of attending public school in China is giving him a wild ride on the Chinese Public Education Train. All aboard!

While relaxing on the beach in Sanya, Z and I were talking about the differences between the American Educational System and the Chinese Educational System and making a list. The contrast is sharp and shocking. I was always skeptical when I heard people like Arne Duncan (Secretary of Education under Obama) chastise Americans by saying, "Chinese children are out-scoring American children in math by 80 percent." Now I have even more reason to feel indignant about that unfair comparison. These children memorize math equations and facts until they can do them at lightning speed, but that is all they can do. They memorize, memorize, memorize. But ask them to think critically or solve an analytic problem and they are like turtles on their backs. Do we want a population of children and then adults like that? Sure, they "outscore" American children on bubble exams of math problems because our educational system doesn't depend on "drilling, drilling, drilling." I told an American friend who is an educator that third graders in China can do triple digit multiplication in their heads. She said, “They must have an algorithm, a mnemonic, some sort of math “game” that helps them." Nope. Just lightning-fast memorization of their times tables.

Because of Z's experience, I am even more certain that what they are doing is not only wrong, but bad for children. We can't hold up Chinese children's math skills as a model of success. It is only a model of bad educational practices and horrible treatment of children. The children here do nothing but study/memorize.

As John Henry Newman believed when designing the Liberal Arts system that is now part and parcel of the U.S.A.’s university system, you can’t have a strong Republic unless you have a widely educated populous. The people not only need to be educated in a broad range of topics, but they need to be able to think critically and analyze. The Chinese Educational System educates in the other direction. Rote memorization of facts. Recitation. Don’t think, just memorize. Don’t ask “why?” It isn’t for you to know “why?” Homework each night is dominated by hours of math problems (the same math problems over and over again) and memorizing Chinese myths, parables, fables, and Confucian texts. These all must be recited word-for-word the next day in class. If you can't recite perfectly, well, the day will not go well for you.

At the university level, education is seen as job training, focused exclusively on skills needed for employment. Each university in China focuses on a field. Only classes related directly to that field are taught at that university. Xidian is a “telecommunications university” (in Xi’an there are 52 universities ranging from the Welding University to the Railroad University to the Petrochemical University to the Medical University). At Xidian, there are only classes offered that relate to telecommunications. Don’t expect to see an art, music, psychology, literature, sociology, or even a chemistry class at the university. What we in the United States take for granted as part of a university education (all those “general education requirements” that make us well-rounded and open up our minds to different ideas and perspectives) are simply not part of universities here. There are art classes at the “Fine Arts University,” but at none of the other 51 universities in Xi’an. I haven’t heard of a “Sociology University” or a “Psychology University,” so classes for those subjects may not be taught in this city of 6 million people at all.

You get the idea.

I see the results of this narrowly focused educational approach that hinges on rote learning and job-training skills in my college students. Very, very few of them can think critically or analyze. They can memorize and summarize with amazing speed. But ask their opinion on something? Nope. Most can't do it. And they really can't imagine that there is more than one answer to a question. I have had students say to me, in exasperation, “Just tell us the answer!” I patiently respond, “There is not one answer, but many. What do you think?” A few weeks ago one of my frustrated students said, “It doesn’t matter what I think. I need to know the answer. It is your job to tell us the answers.” It is so very, very sad. They are college students, but their critical thinking and analytical skills are about those of a 3rd grader in the states.

Yes, a third grader in China can do triple digit multiplication in their head (quick! What’s 314 x 233? Too late. A Chinese child has already provided the answer). Yes, they can blow through pages of problems in minutes, leaving Z in the dust, barely finishing the first ten problems on his four-page exam. The Chinese children can do that because they memorize for hours at a time during the day and again when they get home at night. They do equations over and over and over again. You would not believe the redundancy of the homework. It has been the same homework for months, just different numbers. The monotony should kill them, but it doesn’t. That memorization part of their brain is the size of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1980s era biceps. 

Even over the New Year’s holiday, Chinese school children do not get a break. Z’s teacher sent home two workbooks with each student that were to be completed by the end of the break. I thought, “Oh, finally! Maybe now they are moving on to something new.” Nope. The same stuff. The same stuff they have been studying for the past four months. Just more of it. Keep doing it. Faster. Faster. Faster. Do it until you don’t even have to think. It is not accelerated math. It is not different math. This math is not anything different from what third graders in the U.S. are studying. What is different is that third graders in the U.S. are also learning other things, too. In the U.S. teachers teach a concept, they make sure the students know it, and then they move on. To other things. Like problem solving, as in “Here is a situation. How would you resolve it? What are some possible/probable solutions?” Critical thinking sorts of things. Analytical tasks. Open-ended questioning.

For a communist government, the “don’t think, just memorize” approach to education is essential. The last thing you want to create is a billion or so people who are practiced at asking “why? Or “how?” and expecting some answers – or worse yet – a population of people who are capable of arriving at various answers, all equally plausible.

Recently the government had an "expert" on t.v. during the 7-8 p.m. hour of “news” (every channel in China plays the same “news” at 7 p.m. – your remote is not broken; it is the same news on every channel, issued by the government). This “expert” said that the biggest contributor to China’s air pollution problem was cooking oil. That's right! Not cars, not factories, but cooking. And people believed it. I had a college professor say to me, "It's true. I heard the expert say it." Why does the government tell them the pollution problem is cooking oil? Because then the people are responsible for the pollution, not the government. Why do people believe that ridiculous answer? Because even highly-educated folks have not been taught to think critically and analytically. There is one answer. Someone will tell you what it is.

It has been good for Z to experience the major differences between these educational systems, but we are both glad it is just for a year. The mind-numbing redundancy and rigidity of the school work makes him hate school. He now waxes nostalgic about his school days in St. Joseph, Missouri. In China there is no such thing as positive reinforcement (that is seen as coddling). Negative reinforcement to correct errant behavior is the only model these teachers know, it seems. But I’ll let Z tell you about what he has noted as the differences between his primary school experience here in China v. the United States.

Z’s blog 1

Hello. This is not a blog written by Kay. This is Z’s first blogpost on the educational system of China, and boy, do I have a lot to say. There is going to be two solid pages of freakin’ rant about Chinese school coming up right after these previews of the new movie: “The sound of Zhongwen*”.

I speak legend Chinese in America. But in CHINA? I’m not so good. Okay, I admit, I am a little more fluent than mom (she would say a LOT more fluent), but that doesn’t matter when I’m speaking to a Chinese person (99% of my days out). Here is an example conversation between me and some guy named Yu Bingshan.

YU: Ni jiao shen-me ming-zi?

ME: Wo jiao Zeph.

YU: Ni de xiao-xue zai nail-ah?

ME: Wo zai xi-dian xiao-xue.

YU: Ni shi na-li guo jia de?

ME: Wo shi mei-guo ren.

YU: Blah blah blah de blah?

ME: Duibuqi, wo bu dong-le.

Einglish translation: I told him my name, school, and country, but past that it could be anything. Mei-yo le.

Coming soon to a Wordpress near you.

*Zhongwen = Chinese language

 The main event

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, let’s get ready to… Ramble! On and on about the differences between education in China and America. *Funky techno blare “Du du du rere rere du du…”*

Concrete, bare walls
Walls decorated with all sorts of cool posters, paintings, and educational information
Rows of Desks
Desks arranged as the teacher or class wants; rarely in rows
Nothing but blandness in general
Color, texture, and lots to look at
Uniforms and scarves to honor Chairman Mao (who is over-honored, in my opinion)
Dress code = no belly shirts, no caps, no flip-flops or shoes with wheels (other than that, you are good to go)
Weekly hand/nail hygiene checks at the school gate (if you are dirty, your name is written on the blackboard inside the gate to shame you)
Be as dirty as you wanna be, as long as you don’t have head lice
Organized Tai Chi every morning and every afternoon in the courtyard (twice a day for 20 minutes each)
No group activities or exercise outside of P.E. class
National Anthem (if you move, you are punished by having to stand for 30 minutes outside your classroom without moving at the end of the school day)
Pledge of Allegiance, but no big deal if you don’t  want to say it
Rote memorization and recitation for four hours in the morning and three hours in the afternoon (if you slip up in your recitation – no books allowed – the class chants the correct words and you have to begin again from the beginning of the passage)
Critical thinking and analysis is emphasized. No memorization or recitation, but lots of reading and reading aloud
Ten minute potty/classroom cleaning/recess breaks every 50 minutes
Recess once a day for 30 minutes; bathroom breaks as needed, you just get up and go (as long as the teacher approves)
The teacher has the right to hit students with her book, their books, or her hand if they do not do their homework, are late, or mess up in class, or if the teacher is just in a bad mood
No hitting students. Ever. Teachers are really nice to students and use positive reinforcement 99.99% of the time
The teacher will rip up a student’s homework if the work is not satisfactory
Teacher will put red ink on the homework if it is not satisfactory
Students often cry in class
Students are often smiling and talking in class
Teachers will shame a student by shaming his/her parents
Teacher will talk privately with a student at the teacher’s desk
Everyone must leave the school for lunch; students whose parents work must go home with women who will fix them lunch (called “lunch tables”); after lunch, everyone must take a nap
Everyone has lunch at school and sometimes parents and grandparents come to have lunch, too; no sleeping at school
Eye and head self-massage twice a day (morning  and afternoon); double when you have art class
Bullies make you want to slam your head on the slide during recess (other than that, no head pain)
Chinese students are taught to obey and never ask “why?”; it is like “why?” is the teacher’s fire-breathing cue
Teachers are constantly asking students “why?”  and students have full permission to ask the teacher “why?”
Students clean the classrooms and they do this during the ten-minute breaks; they have mops, brooms, and little watering cans to sprinkle water on the floor
We have janitors
No books in the classroom (other than the students’ text books)
Comfortable reading areas with shelves of books in every classroom, waiting to be cracked open and  . . . (sorry! I am a book enthusiast)
No school library
Lots of great books in the school library/media center
No school gymnasium
Of course there is a gym. It is used for P.E., school programs (none in China!), and band and chorus practice
No parents are allowed (ever!); even when there was a school-wide Tai Chi competition, no parents were allowed to watch. Parents had to stand outside the gate and crane to see even a bit of the competition
Parents are encouraged to come to lunch and to volunteer at the school; parent participation is a big part of school life (I love it when my mom comes and brings Jimmy John’s for lunch)
The only time parents are invited to school is if a student is in BIG trouble; it is never, ever good (no such thing as “parent/teacher conference”) – my mom had to go talk to the teacher once. Don’t ask.
Parents are invited to various programs and events at the school throughout the year; I am happy to see my mom at my school
There are 50-55 students per classroom; 7-8 classes per grade; 2,500 students in the school
Classes have about 20 students in them and if there are more students, a teacher must have a “para-educator” to help
Chinese is taught for at least two hours every day; Ditto for math (and only rote memorization)
There is never two-hours of one subject
Science is boring; it is lecture (no fun experiments or group activities)
Science is fun as fun can be; we do lots and lots and lots of experiments. If not, we are watching an educational video
Students must sit in their seat at all times
Students do sit, but they also move around a lot
No school band or sports teams
No theater or plays
Reader’s theater is one of the fun things about school
No field trips
Field trips every fall and spring to really interesting or exciting places; all heck breaks loose on field trip days
Hour of “mandatory” study time after school; everyone gets out of school at 5:30 p.m.
School ends at 3:10
No decorations on classroom walls (sometimes the teacher draws a picture with colored chalk on the board)
Student art and work is put on the walls
No encouragement for reading independently; only a chart to indicate “good behavior”
Charts and competitions to encourage reading, e.g. Reading Counts Quizzes
No “free time” or “D.E.A.R.” time (Drop Everything And Read)
Daily D.E.A.R. time and other times that we can read what we want
No fundraisers or philanthropies
Too many fundraisers and philanthropies; at least once a month or more
Weekly exams in math and Chinese that determine class rank (and students sit according to class rank) – applies to grades 4-6 only
Quarterly exams, not including the M.A.P. exam at the end of the year
No films in class
Educational films in class and we get to watch fun movies when it is too cold or wet to go outside for recess
Sometimes students have to stay inside during the 10-minute breaks because the pollution is too dangerous outside
Students sometimes have to stay inside because it is too cold/wet to go outside for recess
Students stand up to answer a question when the teacher calls on him/her
Students raise their hands, but sometimes just blurt out the answer to questions (because the questions are so easy and the students can’t control themselves)
Every day the students greet the teacher by standing when she enters the room and saying, in unison, “Laoshi, nin hao?” (Teacher, how are you?) The teacher responds by saying, “Hen hao. Qing zou.” (Very good. Please sit.) The students respond: “Xie Xie, Laoshi.” (Thank you, Teacher.)
The students don’t greet the teacher or the teacher is in class when the students arrive
When leaving school at lunch and the end of the day, students line up in rows and march outside. Before they are “dismissed” they must chant a short military chant with corresponding actions: “Rest! Back to Attention! Put your arms in front of you, crossed! Put them back to your side! Check your line! You are dismissed.”
Students line up in rows to leave the classroom every day, but then immediately run down the stairs, trip and fall, and create a bowling school of doom
Absolutely never, never, never interrupt the teacher; if you need to go to the bathroom, tough
You can raise your hand and ask the teacher a question and most times she won’t be mad, she will actually call on you and answer your question
No such thing as a “school bus”
The school buses pick us up near our house and take us to school if we live too far to walk
3-4 hours of homework every night and it is always the same: doing problems in the textbooks and memorizing passages to recite the next day
Homework is typically different each day and sometimes there isn’t any work that needs to be done after school
No “group projects” or creative lessons or assignments
Why do you think I like school in the United States so much? It’s FUN!
The same teacher for six freakin’ years (and the same students in each grade; nothing changes)
New teacher each year and new students every year
Students buy their textbooks and keep them at home, lugging them to school every day
Textbooks are kept at school and belong to the school
No “special education” help or “language learning” help
There are programs that help out kids who need it so they can stay in school and get the same education as everyone else
English is a main subject in school
Chinese is not a subject in school



Z has 60 days left of school between now and summer vacation. What he does enjoy are the friends he has made in school. He misses them now that he hasn’t seen them for a couple months. Other than that, “I can’t think of anything I like about school.” He only has one year of this experience. 60 more days. The saddest part: the Chinese children have a lifetime of it.