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Sick Today

I’m home sick today (I hope you’re being kind and respectful in my absence, ladies and gentlemen!), so I’m using that time to catch up on reading and do more research for my trip to China.

We in the Puget Sound are fortunate to have two fabulous library systems, the Seattle Public Library and the King County Library System. I especially love the fact that since we moved, our local branch is fewer than ten blocks away and I can have all my book holds delivered there.

I amused by the “similar books” function on the SPL site. I know that Google and other search engines can sometimes misinterpret your search’s intent with humorous results, but I’ve never had it happen on the library’s site before:

One result of my "China guide" search
One result of my "China guide" search

Truck by Donald Crews? Really, this book is the key to being a sensitive tourist in China?

Truck, by Donald Crews
Truck, by Donald Crews

Well, at least the search engine has good taste — Truck received Caldecott honors in 1981.

Speaking of children’s media, I checked out a few DVDs to help me get my brain wrapped around the basics of Chinese.

Early Start Mandarin Chinese with Bao Bei the Panda
Early Start Mandarin Chinese with Bao Bei the Panda. Volume 1: Colors & Animals
Dance & Learn Chinese with Mei Mei
Dance & Learn Chinese with Mei Mei
Chinese For Kids, Beginner Level 1
Chinese For Kids, Beginner Level 1

I’ve gotten off to a very slow start. Very slow. Learning languages is extremely difficult for me, but I’m up for the challenge…

Now off to make more tea and nap.

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This Just In: New Nines Song!

About ten minutes ago, with the help of my talented class, we wrote a new multiplication song. My students told me they were still struggling with their nines times tables, although we learned a few other strategies earlier in the year. This is what we came up with:

When the Cats Go Meowing In
(To the Tune of “When the Saints Go Marching In”)

Oh when the cats
Go meowing in
Oh when the cats go meowing in
Well, nine lives is their luuuucky number
When the cats go meowing in

Oh 9, 18
27
Oh, 36 and 45
54, 63, 72
And 81 go meowing in
**There’s 90 now**

Soon to come: our first music video!

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Thank You!

We asked some of Ms. Houghton’s friends to send us postcards from their cities so we could see what communities are like in the world. We talk about the post cards at our class meeting, and we’ve been learning a lot. We wanted to thank the people who have sent us cards so far:

Carrie Hoover, who sent us a postcard from Portland, Oregon:
We learned that Portland has a lot of good breakfast places and she doesn’t have to use a car.

Scott Cendrowski, who sent us a postcard from New York City, New York:
We learned that Scott works at a magazine that is close to Times Square in Manhattan. We were wondering, what do you like about your community, Scott?

Stephanie Simpson, who sent us a postcard from Cincinnati, Ohio:
We learned that Stephanie likes living on the Ohio River.

Ms.  Sukovaty, who sent us a postcard from Maui, Hawaii:
We learned that Ms. Sukovaty likes going to the Maui Aquarlium.

Franny Howes, who sent us a postcard from Lansing, Michigan:
We learned that Franny likes Lansing because the people there are friendly and they are like neighbors. We also learned that Howes is Franny’s last name, and that Franny House is not a place in Lansing.

Emily Bingham and Lindsay VanHulle both sent us postcards from Traverse City, Michigan.
Emily likes that she can do many things outdoors, like riding bikes. Her postcard was a picture of her favorite spot to hike.  Lindsay likes all the cherries in Michigan, and she likes the summer cherry festival.

Jamie Gumbrecht sent us a postcard from Atlanta, Georgia.
We found out that Georgia is close to Florida, and that Atlanta is where Martin Luther King, Jr. was born.  Jamie likes living in a big city and the weather there.

Jessica VanDerKolk

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Learning and Unlearning China’s History

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I’ve been filling in my basic knowledge of Chinese history using some questionable methods.

I was serious when I said in an earlier post that I had absolutely NO background on Chinese history. I never covered anything regarding China in my World Studies class in 10th grade, which was my only class that covered anything outside of the US (It should also be noted that I never formally studied any history later than WWII, which is another discussion for another day). So, I’m rather ashamed to admit, while irreverent, this video gave me a pretty good starting overview of what I needed to research further, such as the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution.

I’ve been searching for as many voices as possible in my quest to understand more about China. The challenging part is that I don’t know the stereotypical Western version of China’s history, so when I find the alternate, non-mainstream books, they assume I already know the basic stories. Which I don’t. So I’m extremely lost.

For example, I found an interesting book on women’s perspectives of the Cultural Revolution that claimed to basically blow the lid off the victim/victimizer perspective that most Westerners hold… but I didn’t know anything about the Cultural Revolution, so I didn’t know what perspective the authors thought I held.

I got a better idea of what the mainstream history was from Wikipedia, which I’m sure has all sorts of people rolling around in agony — using Wikipedia as my primary source of Chinese history!? Horrors! But where else can I find a brief, broad overview of China outside of a high school history book?

Recently, my friend and fellow teacher Garrett blogged about issues regarding Asian American men and masculinity. Again, I didn’t know what I was “supposed” to have as a stereotypical view of Asian masculinity. I am starting with zero views or opinions on most of China’s history and culture. The only stereotype I was aware existed was that of the Asian as a model minority / strong student. I did not know a single person of Chinese American descent until I moved to Seattle, and at that point in my life, I obviously did not expect them to represent an entire population.

This feels markedly different from the unlearning I’ve had to go through in my perspectives on people of other ethnicities or socioeconomic groups who I already had preconceived notions about.

I’m in no way complaining — if anything, I’m embarrassed of my lack of knowledge and only wish I could learn faster. I hope sharing this process offers some insight into how I’ve started to try to better understand a nation and a people from basically a blank slate. Please push back if I’ve inadvertently done or said something offensive or insensitive. My ignorance is never an excuse for unsavory behavior or comments.

In order to have a broader understanding of China’s history and people, I’ve been surprised to find I actually have to teach myself the one-sided stereotypical view of Chinese history first so I can understand enough about the basic situation. Then I immediately have to unlearn the standard story by ferreting out traditionally silenced viewpoints. If you have an alternative strategy for me, I’d love to hear it. This has proven to be exhausting, but definitely well-worth it… I’ll keep you posted as I progress…

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Learning and Unlearning China's History

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I’ve been filling in my basic knowledge of Chinese history using some questionable methods.

I was serious when I said in an earlier post that I had absolutely NO background on Chinese history. I never covered anything regarding China in my World Studies class in 10th grade, which was my only class that covered anything outside of the US (It should also be noted that I never formally studied any history later than WWII, which is another discussion for another day). So, I’m rather ashamed to admit, while irreverent, this video gave me a pretty good starting overview of what I needed to research further, such as the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution.

I’ve been searching for as many voices as possible in my quest to understand more about China. The challenging part is that I don’t know the stereotypical Western version of China’s history, so when I find the alternate, non-mainstream books, they assume I already know the basic stories. Which I don’t. So I’m extremely lost.

For example, I found an interesting book on women’s perspectives of the Cultural Revolution that claimed to basically blow the lid off the victim/victimizer perspective that most Westerners hold… but I didn’t know anything about the Cultural Revolution, so I didn’t know what perspective the authors thought I held.

I got a better idea of what the mainstream history was from Wikipedia, which I’m sure has all sorts of people rolling around in agony — using Wikipedia as my primary source of Chinese history!? Horrors! But where else can I find a brief, broad overview of China outside of a high school history book?

Recently, my friend and fellow teacher Garrett blogged about issues regarding Asian American men and masculinity. Again, I didn’t know what I was “supposed” to have as a stereotypical view of Asian masculinity. I am starting with zero views or opinions on most of China’s history and culture. The only stereotype I was aware existed was that of the Asian as a model minority / strong student. I did not know a single person of Chinese American descent until I moved to Seattle, and at that point in my life, I obviously did not expect them to represent an entire population.

This feels markedly different from the unlearning I’ve had to go through in my perspectives on people of other ethnicities or socioeconomic groups who I already had preconceived notions about.

I’m in no way complaining — if anything, I’m embarrassed of my lack of knowledge and only wish I could learn faster. I hope sharing this process offers some insight into how I’ve started to try to better understand a nation and a people from basically a blank slate. Please push back if I’ve inadvertently done or said something offensive or insensitive. My ignorance is never an excuse for unsavory behavior or comments.

In order to have a broader understanding of China’s history and people, I’ve been surprised to find I actually have to teach myself the one-sided stereotypical view of Chinese history first so I can understand enough about the basic situation. Then I immediately have to unlearn the standard story by ferreting out traditionally silenced viewpoints. If you have an alternative strategy for me, I’d love to hear it. This has proven to be exhausting, but definitely well-worth it… I’ll keep you posted as I progress…

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