"Before you can search for truth, you must be interested in finding it." -Miroslav Volf

Friday, September 4, 2009

Milk and candles are hard to find

Some notes from the past few days…

Class has begun…one class at least. 2/3 of my classes are Freshman Oral English, which does not begin until the freshmen begin school on the 22nd. So for now, I am teaching four hours of English keyboarding/computers.

Despite the challenge (and opportunity) of essentially creating my own curriculum, as this the first year they've had a foreigner teach computers, it has gone well. It is a smaller class (pic below…my freshman classes will likely have 30-50 students) which makes it easier to give personal attention to every student. And my students are wonderful, both intent on learning but also very lighthearted; honestly, I think my demeanor helps keep things light and fun.

It’s a learning process; they know English, but like any subject, there is a range in levels of competence. Sometimes I have to repeat myself a few times, trying different ways of phrasing what I’m saying. But I am having fun with it.

I’ve even gotten some encouraging feedback; Emily, one of my students and one of the better English speakers as the school, told me her classmates were talking about me outside of class, and commented that their early impressions of me were that I was very “understanding” and “gentle” as teacher. So…I guess I’m doing something right. :)

Oh, the thrill of language barriers. I went shopping by myself a couple days ago, and had a delightful time attempting to communicate what I was looking for. I’m finding that “charades” is not so effective here. Trying to act out milk and then candles, as well as explaining that the sheets I was returning from just an hour before were too small and I needed larger ones…all challenges. Good thing I’m a fairly patient person. And good thing I have a few Chinese friends who I can call and ask for translating help when I’m out and about.

Other than that, just spending time getting to know as many people as is feasible, through a number of means. There is so much opportunity here to make connections…so much potential for learning, and for influencing others’ lives in some small way.

Some other brief memorable moments from this past week:

-Getting an Americano from Starbucks on our visit to Wuhan a couple hours north. A nice break from Nescafe instant coffee.

-One of my students asking me in our in-class Q&A time, “How are you so white?” and “How do I make myself whiter?” One of the funniest comments I’ve heard since living here, for sure…but also a teachable moment for the class about self-acceptance and cultural conceptions of beauty.

-Playing soccer with some students & faculty. Yes…for those of you who’ve known me long enough to know this reference, it was indeed the return of “Sneaky Matthew” (not "Stinky Matthew"). I was, however, sidelined for about half of the game, after taking a ball right to the…yep. I’m better today.

-The numerous gradually developing friendships and opportunities to validate these new friends. This seems to be (and will continue to be) a recurring theme in my relationships here…affirming the worth of my students, encouraging self-confidence, offering compassion and support. Such opportunities continue to arise.

Off to freshman orientation…helping out at the Foreign Language Department’s booth. Going to take my guitar and sing some English songs…and schmooze, shake hands, kiss babies.


Marie said...

I had just left a comment on your last post, came back to see the picture of your class, and found this newly finished post. It was a very good post -- fun to read of your experiences. I look forward to hearing how it goes with teaching English to classes of 30 to 50 students. That seems like it could be very challenging.

Dan said...

Hope your balls are feeling better.

Elizabeth said...

Kiss my baby please.

Barb said...


You and Beltre!

Kim Haughee said...

I can just picture the charades you must have done to try and get some milk, too funny! As far as being "whiter," it is an interesting phenomenon there that most of the advertisements and packaging in stores will have very pale-skinned asians. Makes it tough on the dark-skinned minorities, I would think. Please don't try the charades bit in order to obtain an athletic supporter at the store... that could get a little embarrassing! LOL.

Sheila said...

keeping up on you Matt. Sounds like you are doing well.