Changsha Foreign Languages School
Originally published at www.changshachambers.blogspot.com on August 30th, 2015.
These past three weeks have absolutely flown by. Orientation is officially over, and I have moved into my on-campus apartment, where I will be living until June 2016! It hasn’t quite hit me yet, probably because the students are still on vacation and the campus is pretty dead. Classes don’t start until next Monday, August 31st. We have about a week to settle into our new places and prepare for classes to begin (think class rules, procedures, reward, tracking system, etc.) So, what have I been up to since I last posted, you might ask?
First off, I would highly recommend WorldTeach as a program because they have a fantastic orientation program. Although the days were long and tiring, I could not feel more prepared to begin teaching Oral English classes. Other programs that send teachers overseas may pay a better salary, but oftentimes, they will drop you off at your site with little to no orientation or local staff/support. We have a locally placed Field Director who is available for help 24/7, year round, which is phenomenal. Now, I can say with confidence that all 31 of us are experts at writing 5-step lesson plans (Opening, Introduction to New Material, Guided Practice, Independent Practice, and Closing). We know how to incorporate reading, writing, listening, and speaking exercises into our classes, and also how to manage class sizes of 50–70 students (typical classroom size in China). Orientation also included daily Chinese classes, split into beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels, which were immensely helpful.
Anyway, week three of orientation was practicum. I think this is also a key aspect of WorldTeach that not many other programs can offer. We spent five days putting into practice what we learned in the prior two weeks at an “English summer camp” of sorts for the Senior 1 students at Yizhong. The lessons I taught were 1) Asking for and giving directions, 2) Weather vs. climate, 3) Similes and metaphors — using Katy Perry’s “Firework” as an activity, and 4) Making your own dance moves (and using oral English to teach their classmates). Side note: I later learned that at one point, Mao Zedong attended Yizhong, hence the statue of him on campus, which I posted a picture of a few weeks ago. The kids were so awesome and smart, it was really quite sad to have to leave them after a week.
Around the end of the second week of orientation, we had an optional field trip to climb Yuelu Montain, a popular sight-seeing spot on the west side of Changsha across the Xiang River. I’ve been told that it’s harder to find true “hikes” in China, as most mountains or peaks are often just paved over for cars, motorcycles, and shuttle buses to take visitors up to the top. So as about 20 of us were climbing Yuelu, we all had to constantly make way for speeding motorcycles as they honked noisily at us (more about China’s transportation at another time..), which is a foreign concept when hiking many other places in the world. In addition, it was funny to see Chinese women trying to walk up in short heels or wedges- they try to be fashionable at all times of the day, regardless of the activity. As we made it to the top, we noticed something unfortunate: we could barely see anything because of the smog that covered the city. It was a great trip nonetheless, and there are many points along Yuelu that have historical significance (which we completely missed, oops), which people may find interesting. It is something that some of the other volunteers and I look forward to doing again in the future.
At the end of orientation, we were taken to Orange Island (Juzizhou 橘子洲). There are many things to do and see on Orange Island, but our group’s only destination was the enormous statue of Mao Zedong on the south side. Some of the volunteers were shocked as they witnessed Chinese citizens praying and bowing toward the statue. I’d seen pictures of the statue online before, but to see it in real life was quite a sight. On Sunday, we had our final dinner together at the “Mao Restaurant” — seriously, this place was decked out in all things Mao. There were Socialist tissue packages, portraits of Mao lining the walls, and in the middle of them all was this large mural of Changsha (that’s Orange Island in the middle!) and a very welcoming Mao on the side. It’s crazy how 31 people can grow so close in three weeks- probably because many of us are trying to bond over being confused, fascinated, and excited about such a foreign culture.
On Monday, I arrived at Changsha Foreign Languages School (长沙外国语学校Changsha Waiguoyu Xuexiao) with three other volunteers after saying some sad goodbyes at our hotel. The campus is in the southern part of the city, about half an hour from downtown. The volunteers and I all live in teacher’s apartments on campus, which is very convenient. The first few days were entirely spent on cleaning up our apartments, as the previous residents left them absolutely trashed. I’m talking dirty dishes on my bed side table, half-drunk mouldy juice bottles under my bed, rotting food in the rice cooker, and countless articles of clothing that were left behind. The apartments were so musty and dusty that a few of us suffered from severe allergies for a little while, but a daily routine of mopping, bleaching, and squeegee-ing, have seemed to work quite well. Aside from settling in to our apartments, there isn’t too much we can do to prepare before classes start. Chinese school systems are notorious for being very up in the air about class schedules and logistics. Even though we start teaching on Monday, we won’t know what grade levels we teach or our schedules until Sunday at the earliest. We don’t know if the school wants us to teach curriculum from a textbook, or create our own original content. The only thing we’ve really been able to prepare for classes are our rules posters (Protip: this will be much more bearable with a few Qingdao beers on the side). Our liaison, Rollie, has been great with taking us to run some errands like grocery shopping, opening bank accounts, registering with the police, and getting cell phones.
This week of moving in has actually not been very eventful. Once I actually start teaching, I’m sure I’ll have more updates and stories. Until then, 再见！
The ideas and thoughts expressed in this blog are not the views or opinions of World Teach, the United States of America, or the People’s Republic of China, but rather my own personal views and opinion.