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This week I had my second session as a volunteer English teacher at a Shanghai migrant school. Chinese elementary schools, however, are not like my good old Delaware Township School, with its colorful rugs, loaded bookshelves, maximum 20 students per class, and heaters. The classroom we teach in has about 50 second graders in varying degrees of grubbiness. Their desks are arranged in tight columns of two, three, two with about 7 or so rows, and completely fill the classroom, save for a few feet in front of the blackboard. The room is pretty sparse: no pictures on the walls, no heat or air conditioning, a solid cement floor, and one big blackboard across the front wall.
My first time volunteering was absolutely terrifying. How do you keep control of 50 kids, let alone get them to learn English? And how do you do it without speaking much of their language?
Find out after the jump ...
Though my friend and fellow "laoshi", Kaela, and I aren't the best teachers, thus far we've helped the students learn simple greetings, verbs, adjectives, family members, and body parts.
We try and keep the class engaged by playing games, having the kids draw on the board, and singing songs. Most of the students are really excited to learn from us. They are quick to repeat anything we say, which is both a blessing and a curse (for awhile they would all say "My name is Becca" back to me while shaking my hand), and they often yell when they know the answer. Thankfully, now we know the hand sign that means quiet, but when they raise their hands we hear little voices going "wo, wo, wo!", the Chinese version of "me, me, me!". At the end of each class period, jingle bells plays over the loudspeaker and the classroom literally explodes with children running around or out to the playground during their three-minute break. I dont know how their teachers do it day in and day out; we're tired after an hour and a half.
On the bus ride back to our campus, someone wondered out loud what these students would be when they grew up. Factory workers? Business owners? Would they live in Shanghai, or even China, forever? Will they ever master English? Will that even matter? I'm in a junior in college, and even I'm not sure where I'll be in five years. China is changing so drastically, so quickly, it's nearly impossible to say what these kids' world will look like when they reach my age. Or if they will remember the silly white girls who gave them stickers and high fives for saying," Nice to meet you".