It’s been quite some time since updating my website.
Computer problems and then just being extremely busy during the Spring school semester delayed my blog reports. The computer has now been replaced as of 3 days ago (Best Buy to the rescue!) and I have a lull day here in America so I will give a few items of current interest.
Still Traveling! Talking about My Experiences as an Amity Foundation Teacher
Those of you who are in the United Methodist Church communities know that every 3 years, I return to the States for 3 months to talk about the Amity Foundation (a United Methodist Advance). I share my experiences as a teacher in China and also a church-goer at the Luzhou Protestant Church where I openly attend worship on Sundays with other Chinese Christians.
I began this itineration journey on June 22 and will complete my visits on August 20, at my brother’s home church in Charleston, IL. August 24 I leave for China to continue my teaching position at Luzhou Vocational and Technical College. The school year begins Sept. 4, giving me a full week to recover from jet lag.
The New School Year: Freshmen Arriving Soon!
Already, I know my teaching schedule which will be taking care of two courses: Teaching Methodology and Classroom Activities (3rd year students, 152 of them) and the integrated conversation course for incoming freshmen (another 150).
Teaching the first years is always so much fun and I can hardly wait to meet them! Most come from farming families and are the first to be college-educated. A majority of their parents are illiterate and never studied beyond junior high school. For many of these young people, this is the first time for them to be away from home. They suffer from homesickness those first few weeks and those in my English education classes struggle to keep up with me, their first foreign teacher.
It can be frustrating and frightening, having a foreign teacher whose English is fluently spoken more quickly than their Chinese English teachers, but by the end of the semester, all is well.
“Your Eyes! They are so blue!”
I still remember last year’s freshmen, one student in particular who (during our first classroom spoken exercise) stared and stared and stared at me for the entire first period. As I moved around the room, joining groups for their discussions, her eyes followed me in astonishment. So absorbed was she in my appearance that I began to feel paranoid.
It got to the point where I was wondering, “Is my lipstick on straight? Did I accidentally mark my face with my pen? Is my blouse on right?”
When I finally got to her group, I sat myself down in a chair next to hers and she suddenly blurted out what she’d been marveling about for 45 minutes.
“Your eyes,” she finally announced. “They are so blue, so beautiful!”
Actually, my eyes are not that blue but the blue top and blue earrings made them pop a bit more than usual.
“Well, thank you,” I replied. “I’m glad you appreciate my eyes. Yours are pretty, too.”
At that, her group-mates laughed and I continued on my discussion rounds.
I expect I’ll have more such encounters that first week of class as my freshmen fill the room, eager to get started in beginning their college experience with a native-English speaker.
New Peace Corp Volunteer Soon to Arrive
The college has always had a strong relationship with our US Peace Corp Volunteer program. Since 2002, PC volunteers have come to the school as teachers. There was a 10-year break from that due to the SARS epidemic in 2003. The US government pulled out all volunteers during that time period and closed all Peace Corp placements, some for several years, as in the case of Luzhou Vocational and Technical College. In 2013, Peace Corp brought back their volunteers to the college and have continued ever since.
Jackie completed her PC assignment this past June and now a new individual will come to take her place. I have already met the new volunteer, Zuri, via WeChat (the Chinese Facebook). She is a recently-graduated anthropology/sociology major and is currently finishing up the PC orientation program in Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan, which is 3 1/2 hours away from Luzhou.
The Peace Corp have about 160 volunteers in China with about 68 being newcomers for the 2017-2019 class. They have an 8-week orientation which includes Chinese language study, workshops on the PC rules and regulations (there are a lot of them), culture sensitivity lectures and teaching methodology courses which include teaching practice.
Because many are not trained teachers, the teaching practice is one which demands a lot of prep work, team-teaching co-operation and lesson planning to be approved of and assessed. Their training also includes observations and feedback of their teaching during scheduled lessons with guinea-pig Chinese students. The sessions are critiqued by professional EFL (English as a Foreign Language) instructors on the PC staff.
By the time they enter the college classroom on their own, they at least know how to prepare and execute a decent lesson plan but many are still unprepared for the reality of teaching in China. It can be a very stressful, frustrating time period that first semester, so I sometimes step into the role of mentor or guide if needed.
The English Language Resource Center Yet to be Established
Mostly, I figure Zuri and I will be joining together as partners for leading our weekly English Corners and then (finally, hopefully, I fervently pray) that we’ll be establishing the English Language Resource Center that was promised me several years ago by the English department. That is still something that has as yet to materialize.
I have been allotted a room for the the foreign teachers’ office space, but just not the things which the school has said will be provided. Grant money from the provincial government is holding us up (not yet released) but I was told this next semester, getting the funding would be a top priority.
Cross your fingers!
Continuing Onward with my Illinois Travels
I will close off now from my current stopping point, Galesburg, IL. In a few hours, I am off to Bushnell, just south of this city, for an evening presentation and then will be heading onward in these northern Illinois visits before taking a deep dive down south, next to Carbondale, on Thursday.
Until next entry, here’s wishing you Ping An (Peace) for your day.