For the past month, Monday evening has had me teaching basic English to 15 of our faculty members from different departments.
In recent years, the Chinese government has been putting together numerous overseas’ visits for smaller educational institutions. Selected teachers and administrators visit schools in different countries. They learn about their systems, and participate in workshops, lectures and training sessions on numerous aspects of the educational fields in those countries. For most small colleges, these opportunities seem to be on-going, taking place at different times of the year. I remember in my previous school in Guangxi, such trips sent my dean and others to Thailand, Vietnam and Dubai (United Arab Emirates).
For my current school, 2013 will have groups going to America, Australia, Germany and Singapore.
English Classes Offered
After some discussion several months ago, Vice-dean Lisa (Zhang Li) felt that the English department should offer courses to those in these educational exchange programs. Both the Peace Corp and I have been taking turns with these evening classes. I have taught on Monday nights for 1 ½ hours and they teach on Thursday nights.
I have always enjoyed teaching adults and I must say it’s very refreshing to have 15 excited language learners of all levels and ages to spend time with. I have administrators and teachers with various titles, which I get a kick out of. Chinese are big on titles. Some of my favorites are Vice-chairman of the Work Union, Director of Supervision and Inspection, Teaching Management Officer and Vice-director to the Librarian. Also included in the list are Vice-president Peng and Vice-party Secretary Zhang.
Not only do I have the adults but 3 of their children as well. “Amy”, “James” and “Tina”, around age 10, add a little bit of spunk to our activities. While polite, they can be a handful if not kept busy.
In other words, in all my lessons, I keep them busy!
About 5 adults in the group speak no English at all and others have bits and pieces. Working together, they always manage to pull together complete sentences of introduction or explanations of their country which is just what I was aiming for.
At present, they have chosen English names for fun, know their job titles, can introduce themselves, show 3 personal pictures (family, work, lifestyle) and explain what they are, order food and can talk a little about their country, China.
They especially have enjoyed practicing their English names.
The list I circulated included English names and meanings, which allowed everyone to choose something suited to their personalities or that interested them. I have a Dante, Lulu, Sam, Owen, Rob, and even a queen, Hera. (Hera being queen of the Roman gods.)
Next week, we are closing off our time together with a short evaluation given by me, John and Ashley. The Singapore group is leaving on May 4 or we’d probably have gone until the end of May with these lessons.
Having a Grateful Audience
The appreciation that is given, before, during and after class, is my greatest reward. I get the greatest joy from my “boys,” as I call them.
When I walk into the room, usually 15 minutes early, I begin to arrange the desks and chairs for group work. It never fails the guys come immediately to my aid, hustling to shove desks together and choose the best chairs (those not broken or wobbly) for their female classmates. They then plop themselves down and have a jolly time reviewing the lesson from the week before. Usually they’ll be laughing at one another’s unique pronunciation or shouting amicably that so-and-so has said something wrong.
Watching grown men revert back to their adolescent junior high school days gives me the giggles every time and puts me in a great mood to begin the evening.
I admit, evening classes have never been my favorites. I dread going to them and would much rather hang out at home, gearing up for the next teaching day, but I can definitely say I’ll be sad to see ours end. It’s nice to finally get to know those I’ve only briefly seen from a distance on campus. Now when we pass one another, our smiles are genuine, filled with a welcoming burst of recognition and admiration for our hard work at the college.
Starting Up Again Next Semester
The success of our adult language class seems to be quite apparent. I’ve been told that I’ll be doing this again next semester with the new Peace Corp volunteer. Our college leader, President He, and his group will be going to America in October. His English is very limited so he hopes to attend our language classes as well.
President He is a rather serious individual and a work-a-holic, according to rumors. I wonder if his stoic mannerisms will change, much like my current male administrators, once he enters the classroom. Be fun to find out!
Until next time, here’s wishing you Ping Ahn (Peace) from along the Yangtze.