Back again! Reporting from America

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

My first presentation this year: Clemson UMC at Clemson, SC

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!

My freshmen students (these from 2015) are always excited to have classes with their first foreign teacher.  Selfies and pictures are a must!

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

Jackie Zubin, the former Peace Corp Volunteer, here visits my home for the first time in 2015. Farewell, Jackie! Best of luck in your future.

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

My office/resource center being cleaned by volunteer students.

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!

The floor was scrubbed with anticipation of furniture arriving.

My volunteer cleaners pose for a picture but the Center still remains fairly empty as grant money is still being processed.

Continuing Onward with my Illinois Travels

After speaking at my hometown’s  retired teachers’ luncheon, I met my former junior high principal, Doris Shawler (standing) and my 6th grade teacher, Mary Irwin (seated, 95 years old!)

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About connieinchina

I have been in the Asia region for 18 years as an English language teacher. 13 of those have been spent with the Amity Foundation, a Chinese NGO that works in all areas of development for the Chinese people. Amity teachers are placed at small colleges throughout China as instructors of English language majors in the education field. In other words, my students will one day be English teachers themselves in their small villages or towns once they graduate. Currently, this is my second year in Guangxi Province at the 3-year college, Guangxi Normal University for Nationalities. The college is located in smalltown longzhou, 1 hour from the Vietnam border.
This entry was posted in 2017 Summer Itineration, A Visit Home to America. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Back again! Reporting from America

  1. Kate says:

    Enjoyed your note as always. Do enjoy these final days stateside. Attended a vigil last nite for Charolletville and am off shortly to oppose TX SB 4 “bathroom” bill before the local City Council. We have added 2 4-legged friends to our family – Gracie is a Border Collie/ Lab and 5 mos old; Emmie is a deal liver spotted 4 yr old Dalmatian – life is good. Conversation is underway to visit Australia with VIC/family in late Dec thru mid-Jan……Don says if we’re that close China should be on our agenda, too. Hope the rhetoric from PT quietness regarding NK…..scary business. Will look forward to upcoming post as classes get underway. Take care, Connie! Always, Kate

  2. Sharon White says:

    I love that you spoke for a retired teachers group! I always enjoy reading your posts.

    Sent from my iPad

    >

  3. Teresa says:

    Glad to see an update! It was so good to see you in Charleston SC..Teresa

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