Sara and I prepared for teaching in Xian by: a) reading up on China; b)meeting with a former Chinese mother I'd helped learn English for tips on Chinese; and c) cruising up the Yangtze to Chunging for the week before we were to start. We'd never traveled so far before starting our tasks, but we knew that two older ladies in their 70's needed to be a bit rested in order to be at their best.
Our interaction with Chinese travelers and then our Chinese hosts was delightful in every way. Our 'tutor' had told us not to be surprised if people just stared. So we smiled back. Those who spoke a bit of English were eager to try and chat, which can be done in words, gestures and smiles.
Global Volunteers always has program leaders to help you find your way. All nine of us stayed at the Holiday Inn across from the Old City gates of Xian. We had various assignments ... some with teenagers; others with elementary students. We had ample time to plan, but for me, it was a challenge because I'm used to secondary students. My first assignment was Grade One (7 year olds, 50 of them sitting at small desks on small stools, packed together like sardines.
My theme for the week: the Human Body. Each class was 50 minutes long. The teacher, Miss Lily, said she'd never taught English before, so was interested in my techniques.
So, we did 50 minutes of song and games. By the end of the week, I also drew figures on the board and had them label them in English. 'Head and shoulders, knees and toes,'... I'm sure you've sung the song and know the movements. I found the second verse ... and there's even a third verse, which was new to me. But the children did learn English names for major body parts. Five could come up to the front of the room and demonstrate the song; then have the class join in.
Actually, the Body lesson plan was usable for second and third grade as a review. After the first day, we received a schedule of the classes for each day, so we could plan and prepare. Teachers in the older classes used us as native speakers. I've always wondered what Miss Lilly did the following week.
Sara found a sixth grader with such proficient English that he lectured her about our Civil War. He was a history buff and read voraciously.
Each day was an adventure with attentive, well behaved students and friendly teachers. The food was fabulous. We wandered through many shops in the neighborhood near the hotel, and managed to visit museums like Shaanxi History Museum, Hu'Xian Peasant Exhibition Hall where we met artist, Li Finglan. All nine of us taught Sunday morning for a trip to the famous Terracotta Army, 221-206 B.C. in the afternoon.
I love traveling as a Global Volunteer. You get to meet and interact with real people, and make new friends, always feeling safe.