Saturday, January 26, 2013

Hubei for the Holidays - Thanksgiving Part 1

2011 Thanksgiving - JUST ENGLISH SCHOOL:
Reflecting back on last year I realize I have mixed emotions.   I loved the school where we taught and the people with whom we worked, but we were in a small city and were the only two Americans. (There were two Ghanaians that Brad met, of course, when I was home to have Leila.  CRAZY!) We were the 'test run'  as to how this foreign teacher thing worked.   Sometimes our Western culture and ideas weren't totally embraced.  It was a great year, but it was hard as well. 

For example, we had been told that we were completely in charge of the Halloween party, but then ended up being handed the itinerary for the party by Amy, the school's head manager.  We were kindly allowed to give our input, but not much was modified.  Brad had an MC type of role, though I was not given a job because being pregnant, I obviously was very tired. 

Right after Halloween things got rolling for the Thanksgiving party. Again we were told that we would have complete control.  About 90 kids came to the Halloween party so I wanted to try to break that large group up into smaller sections.  I designed a party plan that would have groups of students doing things in different classrooms.  After 15 minutes they would change rooms so that all students would do all activities.   

In the initial meeting with the teachers my plan was met with some hesitation.  It felt like a lot of hesitation.  I was confident that it would work so I positively pushed forward.  After a few more meetings and  some negotiations, Brad and I got our way.    There would be three classrooms of games and then a (whole group) feast in the dining hall.  Everything in the plan, including all transitional procedures were typed, printed, and given to the teachers. 

The day of the party Amy made modifications to the plan.   Those changes weren't mentioned to me ahead of time.   I didn't understand why our ideas weren't being trusted.  I wanted JUST to see that western ideas could work in a Chinese school, but was worried that would never be possible since our original plan kept being adjusted.

All in all it was a fun party and the students really had a great time. In one room Emma and I taught Thanksgiving vocabulary and then had students try to race their competitors to put together a turkey while being blindfolded.  It was hilarious and fun.  The winner received candy.  In another room students made Native American headbands and then reached into a box turned stuffed turkey (created by Brad) and tried to feel around for a directed item (ping pong ball, apple, etc.).  In a third class the traditional turkey hand was drawn and colored after which students participated in a quick round of Pin the Feather on the Turkey

Blindfolded Turkey Assembly

Competitors sat down one side of the table
while the others cheered from behind.
Making Native American Headbands
Proud Artist
My sample turkey hand and
Stick the Feather on the Turkey
Post-Activity, Pre-Feast Wrap-Up in Dining Hall

Sweet Lucy.  Mentioned aloud to others
 that she was "Thankful for Dana." :)

Included: pumpkin pastries - supposed to be pumpkin pie,
corn on the cob, fried chicken legs, fruit, popcorn, chips, candy.
They GOBBLED it up!! (comment made by Brad)

Best part of the night. 
Brad and I bought a couple apple pies
from an American restaurant in Wuhan.
We cut each teacher a piece after the party.
 I was so excited!
Lisa was the ONLY teacher who liked it!
BOOOOOO to the other teachers!
More pie for ME!
2012 Just English Thanksgiving:
So this year the deal is that every Saturday I go back to teach at JUST School.  It was actually something that helped me feel better about returning to China this year, the chance to continue those relationships.  Amy is currently on pregnancy leave (her beautiful baby girl was born in December) and Lisa has taken on her leadership role.  

On the Saturday before the 2012 JUST Thanksgiving celebration, our school's headmaster and my boss whom I love, Mei, sat me down to explain the details of the party.  She wanted to make sure that I understood the teacher's plan step-by-step.  She said that they had worked very hard and had done a very good job planning.  She explained that the students would be divided up into groups and that each group would be in different rooms completing different games.  (My initial emotional reaction was to stop her and let her know I already knew all about it because I designed it!  Instead I kept my mouth shut and let her finish.) 

After explaining all the details she wanted to know if I had any questions.  

"I got it," I said with a smile and a softened heart. 

I guess our ideas had been embraced after all.   

Hoping everyone's Thanksgiving was equally as meaningful. 


  1. Dana, this is beautiful! Reminds me so much of our first years working in Ghana. Thank you for being you and allowing things to work themselves out in their own way.

    One of my favorite quotes is from Lao Tze:
    "With the best leaders when the work is done, his aims accomplished, the people will all say, "We did this ourselves."

    Love you.

  2. Wait, you work with a Lisa and Amy?