Friday, August 1, 2014

Part A. Teaching in China. Arrival: Off to teach summer school in Jiangsu Province.

I've just returned from teaching teachers during July summer vacation in China with JESIE - the Jiangsu Teachers' Training Summer Program.

The Jiangsu Teacher's Training Project started in 2003 and is sponsored by the Jiangsu Provincial Department of Education and supported by the Municipal Education Bureaus of Jiangsu Province. The goal is to provide opportunities for Chinese teachers in primary and secondary education to improve both their listening and spoken English language teaching skills and strategies. So far, over 171,000 local teachers have been involved! Many of them have been taught English by Chinese teachers and may have never had the opportunity to interact verbally with a native English speaker. Some won’t have had conversations in English for 5 or more years since they graduated, and know that their pronunciation is likely to be poor. Even though they are teaching English, most of it is written, and their skills in that area are good. Understandably however, many lack confidence in speaking with us because they've had so little exposure to natural conversations. 

Teaching in China is something I'd thought of doing many years ago, but the timing was always wrong and so I hadn't researched any further. However this year everything lined up and I applied, was interviewed and accepted! 

I promptly went into a flurry of activity to prepare teaching materials, visa, insurance, prescription medications that I might need, and assorted official paperwork. I also wanted to arrive in Shanghai a few days ahead and explore the French Concession area and arrange to enjoy a short holiday afterwards in CambodiaEven though I'm one of those people who allows generous amounts of time to complete tasks, the time demon seemed to be at work removing hours from the day! Hotel and flight bookings are stressful at the best of times, then there are bills to be put on an auto payment cycle, mail to be held and working out appropriate work-style clothing and shoes to squeeze into a small travel bag. Check and double check that flights line up, and hotels coincide with flights - it's a massive relief when it works out!

We met up with the Canadian and US teachers at a hotel near the Bund on a humid Shanghai morning. It was hectic! There seemed to be hundreds of foreign teachers, with those from the US sporting bright red caps and tee shirts. Watching the massive mounds of luggage being wedged, tetris-like in the bowels of the bus was entertaining, but try as they might, the staff couldn’t work magic, and eventually many large, heavy and awkward suitcases, backpacks, general paraphernalia and teaching materials  were balanced on the back seats of the bus for the long drive to Nanjing.

From that moment, all essential on-ground expenses were covered. Anyone who regularly cooks, knows that to have a break from planning, shopping and preparing meals is welcome! No cooking for 2 weeks! None at all! Along with accommodation, breakfast, lunch and dinner are all supplied. 

In Nanjing we were welcomed with a kit of teaching ideas and a gift of beautiful brocade; there were formal greetings, a tour and general orientation. It was here that the size of the group was evident. One hundred and twenty three teachers came from NZ, the UK, the US, Canada and Australia. There are more teachers involved from the northern hemisphere because it's their summer vacation. In Australia, it's mid winter, mid term. 

I was perplexed to be constantly asked if I was "with" the Americans or Canadians. Some teachers really struggled to comprehend that to be involved in the programme, you don't need to be from the US or Canada. Lots of other countries have native English speakers too! 

On Saturday in the heat and torrential rain (more suited for paddling than touristing) we sloshed and slipped through a small selection of interesting historic sites in Nanjing. Note that the Chinese do great cheerful umbrellas - there's no anxiety about colour or frills for either men or women. Not only does it make wet weather photos look better, but is so much more lively looking than dreary, boring corporate black.  Take note Melbournites - we need to lift our game! Bring on some brolly colour!!

I would love to have had more time to explore Nanjing at leisure ...

Then on Sunday, four teachers allocated to our school met with our host school interpreter and official representatives, said goodbye to our colleagues, and almost squeezed the luggage into the car ready for the five hour drive to our hotel in Xuzhou.

Almost? Some of the luggage wouldn’t fit so was relegated into a minivan also heading to the city of Xuzhou where we’d be located for the next two weeks. Travelling light isn’t necessarily high on the agenda for some well prepared teachers!

Life is never boring!

The next post related to teaching in China is about Banquets, followed by Culture and Comfort foods, then DrivingExerciseFabulous FoodHistoryIllnessFrom Jerilderie to JiangsuKenny (which is about toilets!) Lists, Misunderstandings and Non-verbal communication


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sue - interesting introduction to teaching in China - fascinating thoughts you've given us ...

Cheers Hilary

Sue Travers said...

Thanks for dropping by Hilary. It's good to be back!