In previous years, I would participate in Children's Day celebrations at the primary school (The usually happened on May 31st so the kids could be off on June 1st). Hyde always cancelled classes on that school holiday. In 2013, after 5 years of enjoying a little time off each year on the 1st of June, it had been decided that Children's Day would be a day for hosting an activity at Hyde. I would be the one to lead the activity. I was not thrilled about this but it was a challenge and I liked challenges.
For this first year, we would go the the Mac Donald's where the children could get a tour of the kitchen and have a chance to make their own hamburger. I am not interested in supporting Mac Donald's. It does more than most restaurants to damage the environment, contribute to obesity, and give people the wrong impression of how food should taste. Sadly, the very things that make the world a sicker place are also the very things that bring instant joy to the lives of children. It may be unfortunate, but it is profitable, and so fortunes are built.
I wouldn't call these parents "Helicopter Parents." They are working professionals who don't get to spend as much time as they would like with their kids. Children's Day is a holiday for kids as much as it is a day for parents to bond with their kids. The brilliance of the activity was in its simplicity.
That is why I made sure to design an activity that gave the family time to bond. The day is about the children. I wanted to highlight that but not give them license to be self-centered.
The second floor of the restaurant would be reserved for our large party. In fact, we had to have multiple parties (two before lunch and in the afternoon) because we couldn't accommodate all of our students at the same time. We used that whole weekend. This worked perfectly as June 1st and 2nd landed on a Saturday and Sunday.
The only challenge was to come up with something that we could do in a restaurant that engaged 60 students with their parents that used English. The part-time teachers played balloon games in the corner. I helped them a bit but I knew that this was not a suitable activity for an English school at a restaurant.
On the day of the event, I prepared some poster-sized butcher paper and drew a big hamburger in the middle. I traced some bubble words. I would have the kids who arrived early help me color in the drawing. The activity was simple. When the party started they signed the poster in English and Chinese. Their parents were encouraged to do it too. This was similar to something that I saw celebrities on Chinese TV do at award shows. Wedding guests sometimes do this before entering the banquet hall. This is a simple activity that I was sure would be popular.
In fact, the resulting posters hung on the wall at the wall at Hyde for a long time after that day.
There are all sorts of reasons why students cannot do work, talk, or make simple responses. I am not expert in the myriad issues that students try to hide from the teacher. I do remember the time a boy was brought into class just to try the lesson. I was not informed that he was completely deaf. I was quickly able to figured it out. Stuff like this was common in China. The reasoning goes that if I don't notice then maybe the student can manage. China is about survival. There is no place for the deficient. The competition is too high. They believe that hard work is the remedy for most problems.
With all of the exposure to industrial pollutants in China, I am left to wonder how many of the learning problems I saw in the students were the common assortment and how many of the problems were a result of exposure to the horrific air pollution. It is so bad and everyone acts like it is normal. For example, after enough time in China, one might conclude that cigarettes were part of the latest health craze. The country is in denial about the long lasting damage of the air and water pollution.
So I was happy to see this boy with his mother engaged in this activity. It was the first time I saw him complete anything in one of my lessons.
Other students needed another type of encouragement. With the habit of dealing with other business while their child is in class, some parents could not tear tear themselves way from what they normally do in the afternoon.
From time to time, there are students who just don't want to participate. Maybe they had a bad day. Just maybe, they are are one of those students who are always reluctant to try new things. They want nothing more than to just be left alone.
I'm glad the activity was calm enough and allowed for personal attention. Teachers and parents could work together and encourage students. There is no cookie cutter approach in these situations. All it takes is a gentle push.
Some families have a much younger second child, who is too young to participate in activities that we would normally have at an English Training Center. So I was happy to see that this toddler could enjoy the day as her brother played and socialized with his friends.
I was happiest to see the parents enjoy themselves. At some point in life, you strive to be more mature and adult-like. You take responsibilities and cease to find time for your child-like joys. Such pleasures return once you have children and you have a chance to teach your own children through your former interests. Then your child starts school and homework takes over that time once used for family play time ends. This Children's Day activity was a return to that shared child-like joy between parent and child.
2013 would be the first and the only year we would do this activity, which was a pity.