If I were to lead off this blog post telling you that Art Clokey had passed away, you might be wondering, "Yeah, ... um ... Art Who?!" That name is not well known to most of us. If I said that the creator of Gumby, Pokey, Davey and Goliath had passed away, most of you, recognizing those names, would still be hard pressed to pull the name Art Clokey out of thin air.
Well, anyway, Art Clokey, creator of Gumby, Pokey, Davey and Goliath, passed away on January 8, 2010. He and his wife Ruth were pioneers in making stop motion clay animation popular. Clay animated films, now better known as claymation, were produced in the United States as early as 1908, but the work of the Clokeys beginning in about 1955 helped popularize the medium.
I'm by no means an expert on Clokey or claymation, but I do like Gumby and have more recently enjoyed Wallace and Gromit , by Nick Park of Aardman Animations, not by Clokey. You can check out the articles on Wikipedia about Art Clokey  and claymation  if you'd like to learn more.
So why Semper Gumby!?
Becka and I have taught two summers in China. After the first summer there we learned and adopted the motto Semper Gumby! (= Always flexible!) If you've had a Gumby, you know about Gumby's flexibility. Americans teaching in China must learn to be flexible because anything and everything can change drastically, and at the drop of a hat. Here's our experience with that.
Our first summer there we were hired to teach courses in French Culture (me) and Interior Decorating (Becka). We carried on lively e-mail exchanges with the people at the university there who were responsible for the summer program. They asked us for a list of the topics we planned to cover in our classes and urged us to be sure to bring lots of pictures and videos so that our classes would be interesting. And we did. We took lots of pictures, realia, and videos.
Ten minutes before our first classes began that Monday morning in July 2005, the teacher in charge of us asked, "Now you know that most of your students have signed up for American culture and English conversation, don't you?" You could have knocked us over with a feather! All I could think was, "Wow! Anything we could have brought along to help us is literally on the other side of the planet!"
I asked my class of 35 college students how many of them had signed up for French Culture. Four hands went up.... Then I knew that I needed to adjust my lesson plans for the summer session. I taught the French cultural information each day along with the American counterpart, and then got my students to talk by asking them if and how things were different in China. It ended up being a far better course than I had originally planned. Things go so much more nicely when we let God be God.
We never asked the university officials, but we figured that when registrations for French Culture and Interior Decorating were lagging, the university simply advertised the classes as American Culture and English Conversation instead. Same thing, right? 🙂
We had a wonderful summer, connected well with our students, and went back the next summer to teach again. That summer we simply planned on teaching American Culture and English Conversation. We joked that they would probably tell us at the last minute that we would end up teaching Diesel Engine Maintenance or something else we could never have planned or prepared for. There were no big switches the second summer, but we were ready to be as flexible as Gumby himself.
If you're new to my blog, you can read about our summers in China by looking at the July and August posts in 2005 and 2006 in the archives  or by clicking on China  in the tag cloud in the sidebar and looking at the earlier posts.
As I read up for this post, I found a fun pie chart about Gumby:
I'll end with a picture of our Gumby onour laptop, with this post open for editing in WordPress.
Are you a Gumby fan? Do you have experiences to share from teaching in China?
"Big can stay big only if we force the little things to stay little." - J. D. Crowley
Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.