July 5, 2008

My Kiddy Cooking Weekends

Filed under: baby,China,food,teaching — Kim @ 5:08 pm

“I love babies, but I couldn’t eat a whole one”, said someone once. Some grumpy old man I guess, but I couldn’t find out who, even on Godgle. In any case, it used to be my attitude more or less, and until very very recently I found it very hard to imagine myself as a Daddy or much less as a (shock horror!) kindergarten teacher.

Having been an English teacher for donkey’s years, I used to get asked from time to time to teach children and my answer always used to be, “I don’t do kids”. But about 5 months ago when I went with my wife and 1 year-old baby to a nearby swanky kindergarten to inquire about prices and lessons etc, I was again offered a job and on very good terms. I only had to teach weekend mornings for a couple of hours and my baby daughter could go to the kindergarten for free anytime she wanted, and on top of this they’d pay me a hundred an hour. I told them I had never taught kids before (and only just resisted saying that I never want to) but they shrugged this off and said I should just try it out…so I did. This kindergarten is a franchise of a well known Australian brand, “Kindyroo!”, and they teach all their “lessons” in English, with a Chinese translator. All the foreign instructors apart from me are Filipinos, and the Chinese management was keen to have “a white face” at their school, to appeal to the daft and rather racist idea that a proper “外教 waijiao/ foreign teacher” shouldn’t be asian looking. Ho hum, good for me I guess.

The lessons turned out to be surprisingly easy and enjoyable. I have only ever had to teach the “cooking class” and so on weekend mornings I help the little darlings to make tacos or cookies or cupcakes or burgers or whatever. It’s a “language and culture” cooking class, so we introduce them to western food and teach them some polite phrases “Yes please, thank you very much, it’s yummy etc” and run through the list of ingredients in English and get them to repeat. And I usually get to sample the fares, so what a great job! And the kids are lucky because I don’t actually do any of the cooking, we have a proper chef who does it. Lessons would be deserted and the school would be forced to close were I the chef.

The age range is 2-6, and they pay 190RMB ($26) each for this particular class, which makes it rather pricey. As I said before, the school is very nicely designed and decorated, and the staff are well trained and good at their job. Apart from me that is, I’m just some big-nosed joker who turns up and tries not to scare anyone… and as I have to do a bit of singing and dancing every lesson, that’s not an easy task.

And I have found that teaching kids in short spells is not too bad, but it’s tiring and I wouldn’t want to do much more of it than I do now. It takes a sunnier temperament than mine to “keep up with the kids” and although they are mostly deeply cute and well behaved I just couldn’t hack it as a full time job. Most of the staff at Kindyroo are there because they love kids and while most of them are also well-adjusted adults, there are a few who have “the look”. This “look” is a kind of glaze to their features that radiates the unfazeable radiant cheerfulness of the terminally baby-besotted. (And, sorry, but it is an exclusively female trait.) Maybe these types start to revert to normal if you take them far away enough from kids but as I’ve never met them outside of work, I wouldn’t really know.”The look” is not so obviously a bad thing of course, but it reminds me of the “Stepford Wives” or “Brave New World” a little too much for my comfort.

Maybe the most positive thing to come out of all this is that I am able to be unabashedly warm and fuzzy in my feelings and reports about Chinese kiddies. We have all read in some papers, I think, that because of the one-child policy China is bringing up a nation of rottenly spoilt “little Emperors”…but my findings are quite to the contrary. This is an expensive school we are talking about and the well-heeled mummies are clad in designer clothes and accompanied by nannies and so there is a fair bit of potential for pampered little brats. But they are not; they are charming and well behaved and lovable and…ayah, I am becoming a big soppy baby softy.

Oh yes, and the best way is to boil gently for half a day or so, depending on weight. I found that roasting and frying leaves the meat a bit too tough. Add salt according to taste. Yummy!


  1. Are the filipina teachers there hot?

    Comment by Swollen Tanuki — July 9, 2008 @ 9:04 pm

  2. “Baby, the other white meat” – Fat Bastard, in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me

    Comment by Rivers of — July 15, 2008 @ 3:15 pm

  3. HA HA, I like the idea of you teaching a cooking lesson. I seem to remember you being utterly unable to cook and asking how to make a toasted sandwihc…or was that just made up to taunt you? Anyway if you run out of english words you could always delve into the Italian you learnt. Remember Sapporito….

    Well, hope all is okay with you and family.


    Comment by Adam — July 18, 2008 @ 11:11 am

  4. Yes, I don’t mind high end Kindys. Management were utterly shocked when I asked if I re-up for another year gig, and fell over themselves to set it up.

    I did 18 months before seeking a nice quiet spot in Tassie for about 10 weeks to get the vision of screaming, noisy kids out of my mind.

    They are cute below say, 8 years. Then they get the idea of a pecking order – and that the loudest one wins.

    Pubescent males are the worst. I like a good old-fashioned struggle to determine the ‘alpha male’ in the classroom 🙂

    Lucky it’s only 2 x 2 hour gigs a day for summer camp, or there’d be a few bloated bodies in the Venice of Sewers (a.k.a. Suzhou).

    I’d go back to teaching Kindy at the drop of a hat, seriously !



    Comment by Jamieson — July 24, 2008 @ 2:02 pm

  5. Ha ha, J, yes I know what you mean by “the look”…it’s on the faces of some Early Childhood Educators and primary school teachers…it’s the “We live in a Special World” look. I can’t pin down exactly what is underneath it, but it drives a pragmatic rational person like me wild.
    Good to hear about the non-spoiled non-brats…those parents must be doing a good job.

    Comment by Aussieocean — July 28, 2008 @ 4:50 am

  6. Hello Jude! Thanks for stopping by. We could talk more about some of the issues you raised if you drop me a mail at kimwillcocks@hotmail.com
    cheers for now K

    Comment by Kim — July 30, 2008 @ 4:29 am

  7. […] It should also be said that some “English teaching” does verge on the pointless, particularly when teachers are stuck in, and then stuck with, a class of students who don’t want to be there and indeed often have no good reason to be there other than that the lessons are a parental or governmental requirement. I am lucky enough to be able to avoid teaching classes like these. I teach motivated university students, businesspeople, and adorable little kids. […]

    Pingback by East-West Station » Who “exactly” are we English teachers? — September 29, 2008 @ 2:44 pm

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