School Life

Guangzhou Xuexiao

When I came to Guangshan, I expected to be planning workshops, doing some urban gardening and having occasional events for underprivileged children. Well, for this kind of projects, things don’t always go as planned. (Look at me talking like I’m not doing this for the first time ever.) As it turns out, instead of doing all the above mentioned activities, I have been teaching. English. To kids. Who are really quite bad at English. And I don’t speak Chinese. You can imagine I wasn’t overly excited when I realized what they expected me to do.

The school I’m teaching in (with my co-volunteer Sabina, French volunteers (Fabio and Alex – until last week) and Italian volunteers (Donatella and Fabrizia – since last week)) is called Guangzhou Xuexiao. Don’t mistake Guangzhou with Guangshan, it is not the same thing. It houses primary and middle school students (grade 1 to 9). We also teach at the kindergarten, which is about 30 metres away from the school. The kids in the kindergarten are divided into 4 levels. All in all that makes for quite an age range. Which means you have to change your teaching style from class to class. We have topics we need to go through with the children, but since we are nearing the end of the school year now, we have managed to cover most of them, and are now free to teach them whatever we want.

Before my first days of teaching I was nervous as hell. I was reassured by Alex and Fabio more than once, but I still had a nagging feeling that I will completely embarrass myself in class. I got inside, said “Hello, how are you?” and was a little bit astounded by how they replied “I’m fine, thanks. And you?” all at the same time, like they have trained for this moment for at least a year (okay maybe 10 minutes). They have never replied anything else to my question. Sometimes they drop the “And you?”, but that’s the extent of the variation. Then I said “Okay, today we will talk about …”. And well, they listened. After the first day, I wasn’t completely secure in my abilities but I did feel like disaster can probably be avoided. Maybe. It will be a couple of months. Anything can happen. (Not really though, it’s been going fine so far.) I haven’t gotten much more self-confident since then, but at least I have slightly better grasp on what I’m good at and what are my shortcomings (lack of sufficient preparation is a big one).

I am still annoyed because I am incapable of explaining more complex concepts to them due to the language barrier, but that is just the nature of teaching in this kind of situation, I suppose. It does bother me enough that I wouldn’t want to do this for my whole life though, at least I find it hard to imagine it at the moment. I love talking and discussing about English language, but it is a little more gratifying if your conversation partner can understand and respond. Still, it can be really fun though. The teenagers are moody and not all that interested in talking, but they can be hilarious once they’re paying a bit more attention. And the younger ones, well, they’re just so cute, you can’t help but be amused.

In June we will finish with classes and focusing more on the aim of our Planting Cities project, which I am glad about, but I am not sorry it had been a bit derailed in favour of having a teaching experience like this. Also, I will miss the little buggers.

The picture in this post is from a Parents Day a few weeks ago. I think it is not officially called that, but basically the parents (of all grades) come to the school and the students show off a little bit for them and display their achievements. It’s nice.

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