To get to the International School of Beijing from the Lido (pronounced lee-doo) Hotel, where Sara and I are staying during our visit to the city, we take a bus that picks us up at 7:10am. We wait across the street from our hotel with a dozen or so other teachers including our librarian hostess Nadine, Starbucks coffees in hand.
Okay, I want to take a little aside here, crossing the street is an accomplishment in itself here in Beijing. In retail one may have heard the adage the customer is always right – in Beijing traffic, the motorist is always top dog – no matter what. Zebra crossings, walk signs, crutches, sudden appearances of deities hold no sway with the Beijingalings behind the wheels of their automobiles. A pedestrian might as well be made from a wisp of smoke as far as they are concerned – make eye contact with one of these drivers and you might as well paint a bull's-eye on your chest. just sayin’…
Anyway, we successfully crossed the street three mornings in a row in order to work with the middle-schoolers. We ran workshops on memoir, metaphor and imagery with the 6, 7 and 8th graders in some very well equipped mini auditoriums with embarrassingly large banners announcing our presence in the school outside the doorways. Even though most of the groups consisted of double classes and the students were writing in their laps we couldn’t have asked for a more successful visit.
The best part was in the evening when I was checking my e-mail after our first day at ISB and I began receiving messages from some of the 8th graders I had worked with during the day. Attached were copies of their writings from the workshops and it was obvious that they had been working on the pieces after the workshop was over. Believe it or not this is the first time I have received so many samples from kids I have worked with so quickly – I don’t care if they probably were getting extra credit for sending hem – it really made my day. (I even forgive the one girl who attached her work as a pdf that ate up half my cell data allowance.)
It’s always a leap of faith by the folks who put their neck on the line to bring a couple crackpot poets from thousands of miles away to infiltrate their classrooms and Sara and I so appreciate their willingness to take the risk. Hopefully, we made them look as good as their students made us look.