Last week in LPC was Project Week. Basically, this is a week where all the students (and teachers) from LPCUWC goes on a trip to different parts of Asia (or to places as far as Kazakhstan) to carry out service for the local communities and explore the culture there. It features so many projects - from monitoring coral in the Philippines, building houses in Indonesia to hydroponic farming in Taiwan. It is a crucial part of our Education outside the classroom program.
For me, I was allocated into the trip to Beijing China, where we have to teach English at a school for the children from migrant families. No, no, no, it is not another sweet sounding voluntourism trip to China. We did real intense work from morning to late night, for the entire week and the impact was tangible.
First of all, we had our last Project Week planning session at our school and we finalized everything. Before starting our trip, we had to make sure that the materials for our lessons and the performances for cultural exchange were ready. Then, we went shopping for food because we will on a 24-hour overnight train to Beijing.
(An army can't march on an empty stomach)
The train ride was an exhausting, but forgettable experience. The journey was a bit boring so we ended up talking and watching Ghibli movies together. And the best thing is that we celebrated one of our peer’s birthday on the train. I bet it was a very special birthday for her.
(My first time on a bunk bed)
(Arrival in Beijing)
After arrival in Beijing, we drove directly to the Dendelion School (蒲公英中学) in Beijing. The school has just moved to its new campus, so the facilities are new. The students are very hardworking and humble. We stayed at the school and spent the entire week with them.
Our usual routine starts at 6:30 a.m. and we went for breakfast, which was usually congee, radish, and mantou. Then, we help the students with their morning English reading sessions. Afterward, we have some time to prepare our lessons. Then, we go into the classes and taught them what we have planned - in an interactive manner.
The schedule was very tight but our work was fruitful. Every evening, we receive feedback from the class teachers on how well we have performed in teaching their students. Based on this, we have a reflection session every night on how to improve our lessons every night, and sometimes we have to modify our lesson plans to suit the abilities of the students if necessary. Of course, there were a lot of up and downs during the process. However, this gives me an impression of how the life of a teacher is like.
(Showing off my artistic skills)
This graph above is my impression on our process of teaching. Whenever we focus a lot on grammar, students get bored and the class was very dull. However, the students do not really learn about the grammar rules (which would be on their tests) if they spend too much time on the interactive activities, which they enjoy. Therefore, we ended up planning our lessons with alternating ‘Grammar’ and ‘Activity’ days so that the boredom level in class fluctuates.
Another highlight is our workshops. During our time at Dandelion school, we not only taught English lessons but also conducted various workshops, such as dance, origami, presentations about UWC in general and language workshops. As for me, I conducted the workshops for Origami and Myanmar language.
(My class created this semi Kusudama ball, through collaborative effort)
Personally, this Myanmar language workshop is very rewarding for me because I got a chance to sharpen my Mandarin skills. During this workshop, I was trying to teach the Chinese students how to pronounce common phrases in Myanmar. Realizing that Myanmar syllables are more similar to Chinese pronunciation than the English language, I ended up writing the pronunciations in Chinese characters, as shown below.
To my surprise, it really worked. Apart from one pronunciation, all the Chinese students were able to speak in Myanmar like natives. The troublesome pronunciation is the word for I - ငါ, pronounced ‘ngar’ (as in ‘ငါနင့်ကို’ ). There was no equivalent word in Mandarin. However, a lot of my Cantonese friends did not have trouble speaking it because it is the same pronunciation as Cantonese 牙。
This has evolved into a long post, so I will cut the next part of the trip into a separate post. It is about our explorations around Beijing, the Great Wall, and the Forbidden City.