Monday August 2, 2010

Thought for the Day: Learning is like rowing upstream; not to advance is to drop back.

We arrived at Kunming University at 8:30 and proceeded to our welcoming ceremony for both the teachers and Global Volunteers. We listened to five different people for 75 minutes, all of whom said the essentially the same thing in different ways:
1) The teachers have a great opportunity to be here and work with Global Volunteers and they should use the time wisely;
2) Thank you to Global Volunteers, who actually paid money to come so far just to help Chinese teachers improve their conversational English.

After a group photo, we proceeded to our classrooms. Lee and I are teaching 17 teachers. Bill and Marissa also have 17 teachers; Grace, because she is teaching alone, has 11 teachers.

Some are from the same city, but none from the same school. All of our teachers had English names and only one was unusual “Luxxan.” We had the teachers introduce themselves in pairs to each other, and we used the opportunity to tell them about the American need to have a firm handshake and to look the other person in the eyes. Then, we had them introduce themselves to the class, since they had also just met. They each told their Chinese name and their English name, where they were from, where they taught and something about their home city. We learned that all of them came from “beautiful” cities, and that they all loved their students (unlike in America schools where teachers definitely not love all their students). For homework, they were told to find other adjectives for “beautiful”.

Their English skills are so much better than the students we have taught in the past. We should have expected this since they are English teachers. Our challenge will be to have them speak freely in class.

Our class day was shorter because of the welcoming ceremony. We left at 11:30 to return to the hotel and have lunch. During lunch, Baoli gave the team ideas on how to try to get the teachers to participate more in class. For example, call on individuals rather than wait for a volunteer.

After lunch I was just about to leave my room to explore the side streets, when it suddenly started raining cats and dogs (another idiom for class). The highlight of the day was the celebration of Grace’s 18th birthday at dinner, fireworks and all. Baoli brought a traditional Chinese cake, complete with grape tomatoes on top. Will wonders never cease! A group of hotel staff came in and sang “Happy Birthday” to Grace in both Chinese and English. We laughed when the staff started speaking to Grace in rapid Chinese. To her credit Grace was able to understand some of what they said. She should have no trouble passing her Chinese exams. They also sang a traditional ethnic Yi welcoming song, including their toasting each of us, as they circled the table. Grace will never forget the unusual celebration of her 18th birthday, and neither will we!

– Helene

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