Saturday, August 25, 2012

Professional Road Trip!

I have been quiet about my professional future since we have moved to Shanghai, because I am under contract with a new employer but I don’t know the specifics as to where I will be teaching.

I do know that I will be teaching oral English to Chinese students in the Chinese public school system.  I had job offers to teach at private academies, but I figured if I was going to live in China I might as well go native and teach in their public schools.  I will learn next week where I will be teaching during my job orientation.

In late July, my new boss called me and asked if I would be interested in teaching Chinese teachers about Western culture and how we teach English in the US.  The training would be held in a smaller town about two hours outside of Shanghai called Hangzhou.  I am always up for a road trip, and I wanted to get a peek into Chinese Schools before the first day of school, so I gladly accepted the challenge.  How difficult could it be?  Professional development has been my life for the past five years. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Parts of Hangzhou are quite beautiful. Luckily I was able to catch a sunset at the West Lake area the first night I arrived. 

A very large dragonboat floats on West Lake.  Unfortunately, I did not arrive in time to take a ride.

West Lake at sunset.  When I originally thought we were moving to China, this is what came to my mind.

A couple poses in traditional Chinese costumes near West Lake.

Chinese folks are hard-core when it comes to professional development.  What started as a light five-day training turned into a seven-day marathon of Western language, cultural and teaching methods.  Each day from 8:30-4:30, students would learn about British and American holidays, family structures, vacations, table manners, songs, games, teaching strategies and more. 

Students celebrate Easter by bunny hopping around the classroom.

All students had to create Valentines to celebrate Valentine's Day.
We review animal vocabulary by playing The Farmer in the Dell.


I quickly learned the teaching conditions were a little different than those in Dorchester 2.  (My former district.)  There were no SMART boards, iPads, or even Internet access in the classroom.  There was a no smoking sign in the front, a lovely vintage chalkboard with multiple colors of chalk for notes, and the tables arranged in neat rows.  Luckily, there was a desktop computer circa 1995, a microphone, and TV projection system so I was not totally out of my element.  (Even if the all of the computer menus were in Chinese.) After wondering how I was going to manage, I took Chris’ advice and I pretended to teach like I was on the TV show Little House on the Prairie.

Despite the different conditions, I taught a lot, learned a lot, and had a tremendous amount of fun.  I was extremely impressed with the teachers.  They were attentive, cheerful, and extremely generous with their cultural advice and enthusiasm.

Sandy reads a newspaper article and prepares to share the details with her small group.  I LOVE the South Park dress!!

Sugar debates the advantages of eating organic food.

Group Six completes their hand turkeys for Thanksgiving.

My British Co-Presenter, Donald, chats about his recent holiday in London.

My Chinese students were very generous.  One bought me an iPhone cover the day after I mentioned I liked hers.  I don't know what moved me more, the fact that she thought of me or the fact she presented it perfectly wrapped the day after my mini lesson on Western gift giving.  Chinese folks don't usually wrap gifts.  I was moved to almost tears.

The week was a challenge, but I am so glad I had the opportunity to work with such a lovely group of professionals!  Next week I will have my formal job orientation, and will finally learn where my career is heading.  

I am going to miss my Hangzhou crew!