As mentioned previously, for 3 months our school has been preparing for the visit of eight Fulbright ETA (English Teaching Assistant) scholars and their Hong Kong supervisor, Peggy Tang, who would be arriving at our college for a week to be put to work. And put to work they were!
The schedule was packed full: visits to my classroom, two evening lectures, English corner time (clustered group free talk with over 200 students outside near our flagpole), a PE class with non-English majors, dorm visits and teaching at a city elementary/junior high school and then a nearby gradeschool for migrant workers’ children. In between these, we managed small outings into the city, church on Sunday morning for those who wished to come, a comfy coffee bar “down” time and many hanging out sessions in my decorated Christmas wonderland home to watch DVDs, do emailing and eat holiday goodies.
I was very impressed by everyone’s professionalism and commitment to their visit, even though a majority did not graduate in the field of education. Their 4-month time in Hong Kong teaching as assistants at the Hong Kong Institute of Education certainly showed as they were able to easily adapt to the level of both mainland China college kids, much more unsophisticated than their HK brothers and sisters, and also to the little kids (darling little things, of course.) And I was especially grateful that every one came with a purpose of learning from, not just imparting knowledge to, both students and faculty. It was so refreshing to be surrounded by eager young people who portrayed our country as one of tolerance and understanding, not arrogance and “better-than-thou.”
I know that sounds a bit strange but, believe me, I’ve dealt with many Americans who have come to China who have not been good role models for teaching or for our nation. It’s embarrassing and saddening at the same time. You can therefore imagine my joy, and relief, to have this particular group of Fulbright ETAs on the scene.
Everyone loved them, everyone supported them and everyone wanted them to stay. (That includes me and Little Flower as well!)
Info About The Fulbright ETA Program
Just briefly, the Fulbright ETA program is one which sends graduates (often young graduates but not always) from various fields to a variety of countries to teach as teaching assistants. Those applying for the scholarship have numerous countries to choose from. Mainland China is not an option as it is not yet on the teaching list but Hong Kong is.
This year’s ETAs are 16 who teach at the Hong Kong Institute of Education for one year. To experience the mainland educational system, however, Amity was contacted as a possible partnership organization to hook up with a college within China. My school and I were asked to host eight ETAs while another college with Amity teachers in Gansu Province was likewise asked to host the other eight.
Opportunities like this come once in a lifetime for small schools. No foreigner wants to teach at an out-of-the-way college so having 8 on the campus for a week is truly special.
Our Luzhou Vocational and Technical College gleefully jumped at this chance and the outcome was tremendously successful.
Preparations Before Arrival
Over the past 2 months, Amity, the Hong Kong Institute of Education, myself and our college have been in continuous contact about the ETAs arrival. The English language department heads, our school’s foreign affairs office, and myself discussed the schedule contents, safety concerns, eating arrangements, housing needs and so forth. It was a great deal of work but because everyone did their part in good time, and we had enough time to get everything done, when our visitors arrived, the entire week went smoothly.
A Few Glitches
We only had a couple of glitches, such as when the school learned the guesthouse dorms had no duel air-con/heating units. The ones currently in the rooms they’d be staying in were only for air conditioning. Our temperatures were dipping into the 40s at night so the school quickly bought little rotating electric heating floor fans that certainly made a big difference in the rooms comfort.
Another problem came when the last 2 days, one room experienced backed-up sewage. Those staying in the room moved in with others until the plumbers could come and deal with the situation. Not exactly a disaster but a nasty inconvenience which is not at all unusual in China. (Sewage problems are always a constant pain here, as you know from previous entries concerning my own toilet.)
The third snaffu had to do with the powerpoint used during the evening lectures. The overhead bulb kept turning off due to a poor cooling fan, thus leaving the group to do without. It was somewhat annoying but being good at last-minute changes, the 8 carried through magnificently with little interruption to their topics, Regions of the US on Tuesday night and Vocabulary Building Techniques on Thursday night.
At 6:30 a.m. this morning, our group piled onto the school’s tiny mini-bus to hea off to the long-distance bus station. Most were returning to Hong Kong via the Chongqing airport (5 hours from here) while two were heading off to visit friends in Chengdu (3 ½ hours away).
Little Flower and I were there to send them off, wishing them safe travels and happy holidays.
Rather than continue talking about the visit, I’ll let the photos tell the rest. Listed below find the names of our ETA visitors, their schools and their fields of study.
Laurie Knies, University of Richmond, BA History
Shari Meggs, Northern Illinois University, BA Communication
Leah Prestamo, Adelphi University, BA English and Philosophy
Winnie Tang, University of Pennsylvania, MS Ed TESOL
Stephanie Tow, Johns Hopkins University, BA Neuroscience
Gabriella Van Schoyk, Covenant College, BA Community Development
Bryan Winzer, University of Arkansas, MEd Higher Education Leadership
Daniel Yao , Yale University , BA Literature
Supervisor: Peggy Tang, HK Institute of Education
Ping An (Peace), everyone, and don’t forget to check out the ETA photo albums below!