Sunday, August 1, 2010

Teaching English in China

I've got a few more photos from Beijing that I want to post, but after Beijing Isaac went home to the US and I joined up with a team from the US that I was leading for work. We were headed to a university to run a summer camp in Conversational English and American Culture.

I am somehow qualified for this because:
a) I work in my office and am thus reasonably connected.
b) I grew up in Asia.... and Indonesia is sorta like China so I should be fully prepared  to lead a whole team of Americans to a country I've never been to in which I can't speak the language, right?
c) I am an adult. Technically. Never mind that in my head I am still 18 and I can't believe I'm pregnant, and all but three members of my team were older than me.
d) I speak English. Never mind that my degree is in counseling, I've never actually taught anything in an official setting, let alone taught English, and I suck at grammar.

In any case, They needed me to lead the team and I was leading the team. I was sort of sceptical about what we could offer these Chinese students, but I was resolved to lead them well and see what happened. It turned out being totally amazing. The students were required to take English so most had a reasonably good grasp on the basics of the language, the problem is that they never got a chance to actually talk to English speakers, and they desperately needed practice. By bringing four teachers and whole team of volunteers, we gave them ample opportunity to practice English for two weeks.

From china

In the meantime, we ALL had fun. We talked about American culture in daytime classes and at night had activities related to American culture - movies, games, an American birthday party,

From china

a few lectures about the culture in America... etc. Because we were broken into small groups, over the course of two weeks us leaders got to know our 10 students really well. I really loved my girls.

From china

The other fascinating thing was to see their perceptions of their own culture and their perceptions of the US. China has a massive internet firewall that blocks most Western media and sites that see see as potentially uncontrollable like facebook and sometimes gmail and hotmail. As a result, a lot of the things the West says about China (particularly on the controversial issues)... these girls have never seen or heard ANYTHING about. We had to be super careful on those topics but boy, it was fascinating. They get most American movies, but you can have all kinds of wrong ideas about American culture if all you watch is American movies, so it was really interesting to hear and correct some of their misconceptions about our culture.

So. I have lots of stories to tell along those lines. I walked away feeling like it was an incredibly valuable time. We were actually providing a service to them, it was really helpful cultural interaction, we all had a ton of fun doing it, and it was SO rewarding to actually be working with people instead of at a desk. Plus, when you love people, even if it's for a short time, they are affected by that. Our students responded when they were loved and encouraged, and that may have been the best result of all.


Bethany said...

Gosh that sounds like an amazing trip! I'll have to read your other posts about your travels :-)

Alice said...

It sounds like such a blast. I'm glad you got the experience. My dad used to go to Romania during the summers to teach English--it too was a lot less about grammar and a lot more about fun. He used to use puppets (even with the adults! Who LOVED them!) It was much less embarrassing and more funny if your puppet made a mistake in English than if you yourself did. :-)