My three weeks in Xingtang are almost at an end. Surprisingly to myself, what I personally will take back from this experience isn’t particularly related to the teaching. Instead, I’ve learned a lot about many Chinese customs and cultural norms from our Chinese host, Carrie, as well as our interactions with the local government officials. I’m surprised to admit that these interactions have been much more challenging than I expected them to be. Honestly, having never been in China before, I didn’t know what to expect, but will little previous experience I didn’t really expect some of their customs to stand out so much to me. In particular, they stood out when they influenced my own freedoms that I was used to. I won’t go into it now, but it was particularly difficult for me not to get upset and argue about things when I knew my host had no control over it, and was listening to orders from the officials (who were in turn treating us as a honored guests according to Chinese custom). Again, I just didn’t expect it to become such an issue. But, of course, this has been an extremely worthwhile experience and the discomforts (i.e. no hot water, no air conditioning, water and electricity going out for hours, strange looking bugs) do not even begin to overshadow the rest of the wonderful experiences I’ve had.
Archive for July, 2010
As the title suggests, today is what I would call a hard day. After being in Xingtang for a week and a half, we finally had to deal with a small issue that had been growing increasingly troublesome. It may sound simple, but basically our generous hosts served for us at every meal more than we could ever eat. Now, we understood that our hosts are being generous, and serving a sufficient amount of food is one very important aspect of their ‘duty’ as host. But the problem was that, at the end of the meal, usually only half of the food (or less) was eaten! Our hosts would also implore us to eat more (as is Chinese custom, I have been told), but even when we obliged their requests a little we still couldn’t eat much more. Today was hard, because it became obvious over the course of the meal that our Chinese hosts were a little hurt by our inability to eat all of the food served to us. I call it a hard day because it was an extremely uncomfortable situation, knowing that our host was being generous, and we were trying our best to be kind, but the difference still arose. We finally talked to one of the hosts about it, who seemed quite surprised because she had thought that we didn’t like the food because we weren’t eating all of it. So, hopefully, after talking a little bit, we’ll be able to come to a better understanding.
Sorry I haven’t posted for a while – we’ve arrived at our final location for the internship, in Xingtang County, but there’s no regular internet access! Anyways… so much to say but not much time to say it! We arrived here on Friday night, after having a very delayed plane flight. It was pouring when we got there, and we literally had to drive through a flood just to get to our hotel! At one point, after we got to the hotel, the wind and rain were so bad that windows and doors were banging and the electricity went out. A bit of a whirwind start for an experience that I was already quite nervous about! Even though I had already had (only a bit!) of experience teaching the migrant workers children, I still had no idea really what to expect with my upcoming class. I would be teaching 4 classes a day, each with 25 English teachers from around Xingtang County. This would be the first time I had to teach on my own, and although the topic of the class was given to me (I’m teaching about Daily Life), I had to come up with the lesson plans. I’m now on day 3 of teaching, and every day has been filled with ups and downs. The first ay I did mostly discussion activities, and I know that the teachers were just as nervous as me! I felt a bit strange, standing up there with little teaching experience and teaching students that are not only older than me, but also have much more experience teaching than I do! Although there’s a lot to say that I know I won’t cover, there are a few things that stand out the most. First, I’m learning howto approach the teaching in a way that will encourage the teachers that most. I’ve found out, even in just these three days, that these teachers are capable of a lot, but if I don’t put in effort into lesson plans and thinking up activities that will support them properly, the experience won’t be the same. I can understand their intimidation in speaking, being a language student myself. I will say that being a language student has been a great advtange in connecting with the teachers. Not only can I help them be less intimidating by throwing some of my bad Chinese (and showing them that I can’t speak well at all!), but I also can recall moments of language intimidation in my own life. I will be honest that there are some moments when I get a little frustrated and think “I know they can do it! Why won’t they just speak!” But, then I have to remind myself that not only have I had the same intimidation as them, but that they also have not had the same opportunity to talk to native English speaker, and that even their English teachers are generally not native English speakers. I have had the opposite experience, where my Chinese teachers have come from China, as well as my Chinese tutor. But, I have to run now, my internet time is up!
We’ve been doing orientation for the past three days, since we leave tomorrow! to head out for the last part of our internship. The orientation has been an interesting experience in and of itself, since there are many volunteers here who have taught in this program for many consecutive years and have lots of stories to tell about their experience! It makes me realize how much of an art teaching can be – and I’ll admit I’m still a little intimidated by the thought of being up in front of a class of 25 teachers by myself! But, from what I hear, the teachers will be just as intimidated as I am, so I won’t be alone in that! But, I also wanted to include some pictures here, since I’ve been pretty bad at that.
Today, the Chinese teachers at the Autistic school invited us over to one of their houses for lunch, which was a wonderful experience. The experience, however, reminded me of just how difficult it can be to be polite sometimes! I find that smiling and trying to be considerate as possible is the best way to go, but still it’s hard to understand all of the customs and other expectations that surround an event such as a meal. As one could easily imagine, I’ve also found that the language barrier has made expressing my gratitude very difficult, but again also makes asking for clarification on customs quite difficult. Sometimes, I just feel so ‘American’ because I am aware that I am probably doing something odd, yet don’t know how to correct it. However, despite these difficulties, I’ve found that it doesn’t detract from communication and mutual learning from each other.