On Friday, I finally took student volunteers to Malin Middle School for our English Language Workshop. After more than four months of planning and more than a few headaches along the home stretch, I can say that I have successfully implemented an education program here in Xingyi.
I woke up at around 5:45 am on Friday morning because I could not sleep for fear that something might go wrong. I thought I heard rain falling outside and gave a deep groan into my pillow. I went to the front door and in the dim morning light I could see that, in fact, no rain had fallen and what I had heard had just been running water from my neighbor’s house. I spent those early hours preparing for the day and putting some last minute touches on some of the various materials.
The road to get to this point has been a long one. Last semester, my friend Jordan (a local government worker) and I discussed creating a program where we would take student volunteers from Xingyi University to outlying rural schools. Students at these schools rarely get the opportunity to practice oral English and have little interest in English as a subject. Our goal was to provide an opportunity for students see the fun and interesting side of English while offering the teachers at these schools a chance to see first hand how we use the Communicative Learning Approach to teach students English.
To fund the project and the purchase of the necessary materials as well as pay for transport, I had submitted a project proposal to the Peace Corps Partnership Program which in turn gave me all the funding I requested. I received 2,439 RMB (or 381.69 US dollars) to execute my program
We were to leave at about 12:30 but I received a call from Susan our assistant Foreign Affairs Officer at 11:00am telling me that we would have to take a different route than the one originally planned. Susan went on to explain that Ms. Qiao, the head of the Foreign Affairs Department could not attend because she would be meeting with the Syrian Ambassador today. Now Ms. Qiao had been organizing all our transportation so you can imagine my chagrin to discover that she would not be attending after all the careful planning we had gone through to organize this event. Still the show must go on, so I packed the materials and met my students in front of the school.
At Malin Middle School, we quickly set up and I organized my students into groups before giving a short speech to the Middle school students explaining what we would do that day. After that it was a round-robin affair with students passing from one activity to the next every thirty minutes. Students did activities like Simon says, English Dodgeball, Telephone, Bingo, and Blindfolded Directions. At first the students were a little shy about participating but soon they were becoming more enthusiastic. Bingo and dodgeball were especially popular and as I drifted from activity to activity to check on my volunteers, I saw a lot of smiling faces.
After the Workshop, the students sang a song for us and then were dismissed from school. I gave the English teachers a packet of ideas for Communicative activities which they greeted with lukewarm enthusiasm. I hope to get a better reaction from the next group I see. On the way back to Xingyi, my students were elated and many vowed to go to the next school with me in November. “I think we can do it,” one of my students told me before running off to eat the leftover Bingo candy with her friends.