Today officially marks the end of my first week of classes at VMA and I can now say, with relative confidence, that the decision to come work here was a wise one.
My schedule alone is enough to make any US public school teacher jealous: I teach 4 classes and spend my 5th “teaching hour” working in the school’s writing center. Since we operate on a block schedule, I only see 2 classes for 70 minutes each day, with the exception of Wednesday when I see all of my classes for 40 minutes. My classes are small and range from 8 to 17 students who are all preparing to attend college in the US. One of my classes, Literature and Film, is an elective course that is only available to students who have previously taken AP Literature.
My classes are scheduled for periods 3, 4, 6 and 9, which means that my earliest class begins at 10:10 am and my latest class ends at 4:40 pm. Unlike other schools I’ve worked at, I have to clock in and out each day and my working hours are from 7:50 am to 4:40 pm. Although this is a longer official work day, it also means that for the first time in my professional life, I may actually be able to do my work during my working hours.
Another perk of the schedule is that I am able to spend a lot of time with the kids. Their class, along with Brad’s school, will begin on September 3rd. Since they are not in class yet, they have been tagging along with Brad, who is planning for his classes and attending trainings with the rest of the Meisha Bilingual School Faculty. I’ve been able to meet him and the kids for lunch each day and occasionally do some of my work in the same room as them. Once their class gets up and running, I will be able to stop in to visit them when I am not teaching and we will continue to have lunch together daily.
Not only do I have the dream teaching schedule, I also get to spend my day in an incredible environment. The campus is huge and school is housed in a building that is literally an architectural marvel. It has its own Wikipedia page and if you Google ‘horizontal skyscraper,’ you’ll find a bunch of articles about it. It is easy to get lost as you wander through the school’s labyrinthine hallways and every day I discover something new. My classroom is located on the 5th floor and one side of my room is covered in windows that look out to a small lake. The tables and chairs all have wheels which makes it easy to reconfigure my room based on the lesson or activity for the day. As a perpetual room rearranger, I am in heaven!
Since I share a classroom with another teacher, I have spent a lot of time working in different places on campus. It’s hard to choose between the couches that can be found throughout the hallways, the open work spaces, the cafe, or the teacher’s lounge, which also doubles as a napping room (yes, you read that correctly-there is room dedicated to napping!)
When someone first told me that there was a napping room on campus, I thought they were joking. On Tuesday, I discovered that this wonderful place does in fact exist and people do, seriously, nap. After lunch, the room is quiet and darkened and staff members grab a pillow and blanket, remove their shoes and curl up on one of the couches or lounges for a midday snooze. I guess it’s typical in China for workers to take a nap after lunch and I’m told that if I go by the business office at this time I will find everyone with their heads on their desks sound asleep.
On the other side of the activity spectrum are all the options available for physical activity. There are 2 swimming pools, a track, a soccer field, basketball courts, a climbing wall, ping pong tables, and a variety of exercise equipment. With all the walking we’ve been doing, the napping room is calling to me louder than anything else on campus, but I’m hoping that will eventually change.
I feel a bit like I hit the jackpot with this school. The schedule and class sizes are a dream come true and the facilities are amazing. My colleagues are all intelligent, kind and helpful and the students, so far, are friendly, respectful and ambitious. On top of all that, I get to have my family close by and accessible throughout the day. What more could a girl ask for?