I first met "Daizzy" when she was a trainee on a teacher-training course I ran in her County, some 17 years ago [ringed in above photo]. We've kept in touch since then and finally met up again yesterday when she visited Kunming on school business. Since that week way back in 2006 we have both got married (different spouses!) and had a total of three children! But we are both still teaching, and it was great to meet her over a cup of coffee and share all our news.
Bella teaches 95% of her lesson in Chinese. When I suggest afterwards that she should really aim for at least 50% English she replies (in Chinese), “I can’t, I can’t !”, and she’s probably right. She skips through today’s lesson from the standard, modern textbook in 10 minutes flat, studiously avoiding any games, pairwork or communicative exercises. The remaining ¾ of her lesson is spent tackling some of the hundreds of multiple choice grammar questions in another textbook she has found somewhere (I’ve never seen it before. I hope I never see it again). The questions are painfully dull and many of the answers are dubious, at best. The students are slowly lulled into a stupor of inactivity.
Same school, same grade, same lesson, different teacher – the lottery of which students get a decent chance to learn English and which students don’t …
Half an hour later, just along the corridor, Lily starts her lesson with a quick song. She is all smiles as her students belt out “Do-Re-Mi”. Excitement mounts as she pulls out a bag with something clinking in it. Empty bottles are produced and the new words, “tall, thin, short, wide, heavy and long” are taught. Large pictures of oddly shaped people are stuck to the blackboard and students are called up to write descriptions beneath each one. Lily then uses a “flip flashcard” to present a dialogue followed by a flawless pairwork session, full of encouragement and laughter. Everything is done in English – simple, clear English, repeated often and aided by body language. Activities from the colourful textbook are quickly completed and there’s time left for an “Anagram Game”. It’s a masterclass of Middle School teaching.
…same school, same grade, same lesson, different teacher – the lottery of which students get a decent chance to learn English and which students don’t...
Last Friday I took the 6 hour bus journey to Pu'Er (home of the famous tea) where I'd been invited by my friends LuoHao and his wife "Seven" [see above] to attend a workshop he had organised for 60 Middle school English teachers. On Saturday morning they took me on a 10km walk around a large reservoir. And then, after lunch, the workshop began.
We first watched two demo classes, complete with a class of 50 students. Both of these were surprisingly good, despite being focused on Grammar and Reading respectively. Afterwards I led the feedback session, eliciting the teachers' ideas and thoughts. [see above].
On Sunday morning 5 teachers gave short lectures on various aspects of teaching (in Chinese) before I gave my 1½ hour talk (truncated from the 2 hours requested due to the previous teachers overrunning!). Then, after lunch together, I took the 6 hour bus trip home. It was fun to be in the countryside once again, training young rural English teachers - something which used to be my sole job. But I think I'm getting too old for all this travelling!
KuiXiang (literally, "Strong Taste") is the second school on my training tour of remote Middle Schools. It's quite a large one - 2000 students and 100 teachers. Half of the English teachers are new graduates, fresh from Teaching Colleges. Their spoken English is better than the more established teachers, and they have a real enthusiasm for teaching and improving themselves (which sadly fades with time).
This visit will stay with me for the surreal moment at lunch, when I was asked by one of the teachers, “Are you Jesus?”. I assumed I had misheard, but she spelled it out for me “Yes, Jesus, J-E-S-U-S”. I replied that no, I was "Paul". “Oh. Well I am Jesus!” she continued. Fortunately, another teacher spotted my bewildered expression and explained that she meant she was a Christian!
It turned out that three of the new teachers profess to be Christians - converts of their foreign “teacher” at College! I wonder how long their new faith will last, amidst the overwhelming religious apathy of China? Having said that, I was told that most of the Miao ethnic group in town are also Christian, having been converted by missionaries in the late 1800s! So, who knows? As you can see from the photo, I was persuaded to don traditional Miao clothes myself for a photo - a taste of things to come, with ethnic groups comprising 85% of JiangCheng’s population, the place where I will be based from this time next week.
Another in my occasional series of "Flashbacks" looking back at blog entries made before this Weebly version started.
One of the teachers I train was telling me last week how bad her students' listening skills were. So this week, whilst observing her lesson, I decided to have a go at her weekly dictation test. Admittedly, I had not done the homework so I had no idea what words to expect, but I feel like my "listening" skills were quite good. So I was very embarrassed to score only 3/10!!
However, I suggest that it might be her pronunciation that's at fault, rather than her students' listening! See how you get on with a few examples (as I heard them):
"of late" eg "your horse may be of late".
[Actual answer: "a flat" - eg "your house may be a flat"]
"bitten" eg, "bee has bitten a sea".
[Actual answer: "between" - eg "B is between A and C"]
"glum" - eg, "these students are inner glum".
[Actual answer: "column" - eg "these students are in a column"]
"bulgy" eg, "Mrs Wang is a bulgy teacher"!
[Actual answer: "biology" - eg "Mrs Wang is a biology teacher"]
….so, how well would you have done??
It gets busy at my University in the last 2-3 weeks of the term, but a friend begged me to try and find some time before the Summer holidays to train some new Chinese teachers of English at "Sophia Training School" - a small language school in the south of Kunming. So I've managed to squeeze in six hours of teacher-training this week amongst my usual 14 University lessons. It's a small but very friendly bunch of teachers who have quickly got over any shyness, and seem to be following the training well and picking things up very quickly.
Past blog entries