Sharing with the Teachers in Quangxi
Rebecca Tam (Retired Toronto school principal)
Vision Trip Member (2009)
In April of 2009, my husband and I had the opportunity of joining the CRRS Vision Trip Group to visit the students and schools in Quangxi, China.
We travelled to five counties and visited many schools and met with the officials from the various education ministries. We also met with many students from elementary schools to university and heard firsthand about their struggles and studies in China.
Over the course of our travel, the most memorable time for us was the two days we spent in Rong Shui sharing teaching ideas with the teachers who teach English from that county. While teachers in Canada have a number of school days each year designated as professional development days when they can attend workshops, conferences and meetings to continuously upgrade and improve their teaching methods, teachers in China rarely have these opportunities. Chinese Teachers may upgrade themselves only after school or during summer holiday. After visiting the schools in China, we have a lot of respect for these teachers. They are like the students’ surrogate parents spending a lot of time with them outside the classroom. Some of the teachers even live in the school dormitory supervising students after school, during meal times and in the evening.
From our observation, Chinese teachers work very long hours and they are dedicated to their students. Learning English is not an easy task for students and teachers alike in China as they have few opportunities to practise what they learn. The only public library in the County was demolished and the small library in the Rong Shui Second High was closed recently, therefore further reducing the students’ exposure to English books.
Many students from the villages have to travel long distance to attend school; therefore many of them live in the school dormitories and can only go home a few times during the school year. While they are at school, there is no television or radio, consequently, students/ teachers cannot practise their English listening skills by watching or listening to English programs.
Our team of three from Canada provided the English teachers from the Rong Shui County some opportunities to improve their oral English and to share new teaching ideas. Thanks to the cooperation and careful planning of the school administration and the Education Commission, about twenty-five teachers who teach English from a number of high schools were released for two days to attend the workshops.
These teachers were from different background with a variety of teaching experiences. One thing they did have in common was their enthusiasm about improving their English and learning new things. We discussed learning styles, building students’ self esteem, using games and other teaching methods, building English vocabulary, enunciating words correctly and making learning fun for students. Most important of all, these workshops gave the teachers opportunities to practise their English oral skills in front of their peers, providing them with motivation and encouragement. As an educator, I know personally the stress and hard work of teaching each day: teachers do give to their students every day. Our team was really glad that we were able to give the English teachers a break and a chance to sit back, relax and concentrate on learning and to help them with some English skills.
We do hope that the teachers in China, especially the English teachers would have more opportunities (such as the two days they had in April) to help build their confidence and skills in their English.