Published: July 31st 2012July 31st 2012
We have been teaching our wonderful students for seven days, and the word that continues to come to mind is impact. This experience is having a tremendous impact on all those involved; students and the teachers of both Jenison and Feng Tai.
I would not have guessed a week ago how much our students would improve in their written and oral English in this short time. We've been teaching them for only a week, but the progress is significant. Students that would barely speak a week ago are now engaging in complete exchanges and small conversations. Students that had a greater command of English prior are eagerly soaking in every new word and taking pride in demonstrating what they've learned. We believe this growth is due to two key factors. The first is obvious, the sheer volume of English they're hearing is more than anything else they have experienced. Seven days with five English speakers in a full immersion experience. The second reason is a cultural shift. In Chinese culture- as our Feng Tai counterparts have explained to us- people do not try to speak at all unless they are absolutely sure their English is perfect. In fact, even the
head teacher at Feng Tai (who is fluent in English) did not speak to us at all until our 2nd day with her! Now we have had many extensive conversations as we've worked to build a relationship and her comfort level has increased. Needless to say, our teaching approach is much different. We are continually encouraging our students to try their English as well as teach strategies to help when they are unsure. This, paired with a great deal of encouragement and positive reinforcement (also not part of Chinese school culture) has been almost like magic in the way it has brought out their ability and confidence. We are so excited to see this continue during our second week!
The impact has also been felt by the Feng Tai teachers. We have worked with many teachers over the past week and have had such a positive response. They have commented repeatedly on the way we engage with students; whether we are teaching, on a field trip, or have a few minutes of free time we are talking and interacting with students. Another comment that has stood out to us is that 'team' is a priority. Focus on our teacher
team and encouraging team work among students are both deviations from the typical Chinese mindset, but one that has been received with positivity and a goal to implement in the future.
Finally, there has been an incredible impact on our team. I cannot count the moments that have moved us. The growth we've seen in our students, the relationships that have developed with students and teachers, and the opportunity to collaborate on teaching strategy have been incredibly rewarding and something that we'll carry with us. Today the head teacher shared with us that before the camp started she didn't believe the students were 'capable' because they are not Feng Tai's best. But now, because of what she's seen she believes in them. This is why we are here, and we are so grateful for the opportunity.
There are more photos below