For some ESL teachers, part of their job responsibilities may be to go on summer or winter camps with their students. That was the case for me with my last company five years ago.
It was a winter camp, where we spent two days in the Qing Yuan and Ying De regions respectively. We picked fruit, visited a tea farm, had barbeques and went for boat rides. But the most rewarding event by far was teaching at a small, rural school in Ying De County. .
It was on the second day of our trip. We arrived at their school in the early afternoon and the first thing we saw on arrival was the students and teachers lined up on their basketball court to welcome us and our students. The school seemed very big but also quite old and some big, red Chinese characters were painted on the main building in the middle.
The court itself was to the side of the school and was in reasonable condition but the backboard for the hoops consisted of old planks of wood nailed together. The court was surrounded by a white wall with beautiful hand painted pictures and beyond that was some stunning mountain scenery which I could have admired all afternoon if I didn’t have other pressing engagements there.
The students had looks of curiosity mixed with fear as we approached. For a short time, everyone was kind of standing apart from each other like awkward pre-teens at a middle-school disco, afraid to make the first move. The teachers then started arranging themselves in rows on the steps leading from the basketball court to the school building.
Since it seemed we wouldn’t start any time soon, I decided to kill time by walking up and down the lines, saying hello to the students and shaking hands. One of the managers eventually shouted at me to join the other teachers, just as a small boy with unnatural strength was crushing my hand. I winced and scurried back to join the others while they roared with laughter. I think the pain was worth it though, as it really helped to break the ice.
The welcoming ceremony finally started with some quick speeches, followed by our teachers and students singing some English songs. After all that was finished, we were led to our classrooms to begin our lessons. The classroom my group was in looked very old, with basic wooden desks arranged in neat rows, peeling paint, bars on the windows and a concrete floor. It seemed quite dark and there was no air conditioner there. Because there were a total of 15 teachers for about 60 students, we had three teachers to a classroom, teaching just under 15 minutes each for the 40 minute lesson.
From a teaching point of view, it wasn’t difficult but it may have been confusing for the students, who, for this lesson, were taught by an Australian, and American and an Englishman - speaking the same language but with different accents and sounds. The subject for the lesson was sports and despite the unusual teaching arrangement and location, I tried to approach it as a normal lesson.
The time went quickly and it seemed like my turn had barely started before my time was up and I had to make way for the next teacher. The students all tried hard, were very well behaved, and seemed to enjoy the games.
After class, we gave them small presents (mostly stationary items) and met with everyone else back at the basketball court. The students seemed very excited as they admired each others’ gifts and played with the new footballs and basketballs donated by our managers.
We then finished with some running races and a tug of war competition before reluctantly waving goodbye. It was a great end to a day that I’ll never, ever forget.
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Thank you for sharing your experience with us. It sounds awesome ! I would love to do something like that but it should be better organised. Three teachers from different countries in one class? At least you gave them something - a smile.
Jul 25, 2014 13:29 Report Abuse
yingde *county* (县) is, as the name implies, NOT *the countryside* (农村地区 cq. 乡下) - just a little FYI
May 10, 2014 18:02 Report Abuse
teaching in the actual countryside would have been difficult for the following: the true countryside is ruled by village committees rather than public security bureaus (in other words "the police station") - the lack of a police station means that i) a foreigner cannot register himself within the 48 hours stipulated by law and thus has no way to be there legally (not even touching ground on visas/work permits) ii) the nearest police station is always located in the county connected to villages (in your case, yingde) - which is why you were able to teach "in the countryside" of yingde county iii) the countryside may lack commercial ways to wash, sleep or drink water. there may not be motorable passes until several kilometers close to the connecting county. not being able to rely on commercial transport could see you stranded for days iv) schools in the actual countryside resemble syrian refugee camps. flattened stones rising from the same rock the school is built function as student's seats
May 11, 2014 12:38 Report Abuse