little by little, a difference is being made

Thought for the day: If you add a little to a little, and then do it again, soon that little shall be much. – Hesiod

It’s the second week with our students from Pu’er City, and little by little they are sharing stories using the English that they know. As they recounted their activities of the past weekend in class this morning, we Volunteers introduced them to such words as “budget,” (for the shoppers), and “hangover” and “white lightning” (for the drinkers).

John and Betty had their students make up a story inspired from pictures in magazine ads. After a few minutes of preparation and a practice telling the story in front of a classmate, each student told his/her story to the class, without reading from notes.

Michael and Janet had given an example of telling a story (“Little Red Riding Hood”), in Friday’s class and assigned each student to prepare a Chinese Folk Tale to tell today, which they performed with flair, apparently.

Leon and Jim heard from two of their students, Tommy and David, that the two young fellows went for a walk in Green Lake Park on the weekend, speaking English to each other. Two beautiful Chinese girls heard Tommy and David speaking English, and were so impressed that they gave the fellows a puppy. Was this a tall tale?

Esther and Nancy are working with their class on discerning sounds of English using word pairs such as “light and right,” “connect and collect,” “glass and grass,” and “cloud and crowd.” Nancy’s ukulele accompaniment to songs such as “The Bear Went Over the Mountain” is a delight to the students.

As my class of 15 is made up entirely of women, we spent some time on the theme of shopping, talking about articles of clothing and patterns, such as checks, polka-dots, stripes and floral prints, and what items they bought for family members and themselves.

My class played a spelling game today, called “Alphabet Scramble.” Three teams competed in the spelling of five-letter words, with each member of a team holding up a card with a letter on it, in the correct order (usually) so that I could check the accuracy of their team’s spelling. That went well.

We got a start on the chants and singing games, joined by Leon’s and Jim’s class, the last half hour of the morning. There were lots of smiles as they learned a clapping pattern to go with “Miss Mary Mack” and traditional Western folk dance figures to go with “Old Brass Wagon.”

Baoli rewarded us for our morning’s work by taking us to the Golden Flower Hot Pot Restaurant, a short walk from school. It was a kind of pyrotechnical pleasure, with each of us sitting behind a blazing heat source and bubbling broth of tomato, chicken or coconut. The choices of raw items to cook included tofu skin, mint, watercress, mushrooms, quail eggs, sweet potato noodles, and thinly sliced lamb and beef. Fondue was never like this!

The afternoon lecture for the students, as reported by Michael and Janet, was given by a Chinese Professor, Yang Tau, who had observed educational institutions in the United States and Canada. He made laudatory remarks about the practices of teachers in the North American system of Education, and challenged our students to ask more questions, and to focus on every pupil, not just the brightest young scholars.

So, little by little, a difference is being made, for our students, and for us, Team #184 in the Kunming program.

A toast to small steps that lead towards big new destinations of the mind and heart!


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