There’s about 50 of us American (mostly) fellows who are here for a week before the Chinese fellows get here, and we’ve been working for the most part on learning to be teachers by going through basically the same program that the Teach for America kids go through with some extra stuff added. The TAL sessions (Teaching as Leadership, they love acronyms) are where we learn about what makes a teacher effective, how to construct an effective lesson plan, what good practice looks like, etc are really fascinating because you can recognize them using the same things that they’re trying to teach you to teach you and it just gets really meta. It’s just really nice to have the example of what a good lesson and teacher should look like at the same time that we’re learning about these things.
These sessions actually contrast a lot with the Chinese language sessions because these Chinese teachers have definitely not gone through this kind of teaching program, and approach teaching with a very different mentality, so we end up analyzing what the Chinese teachers could do to improve, while at the same time learning Chinese.
The Chinese classes are going well. The first day, I got placed in the lowest level Chinese class, and moving classes was somewhat inflexible so I had to wait till the evening to chat with the Chinese teachers about moving me to a different class. It ended up being a really funny conversation, because the fact that I was able to have this conversation with them in Chinese clearly meant that I had been placed in the wrong level. I got moved to a much higher one, and talking with the teachers then we figured out that while I had tested for level, that information had just not gotten processed so I was put in the default lowest class. Having one day of that class was kind of cool though. I was with all the kids who did the pre-institute training in Beijing, and it was awesome to see how far they had come in only 3 weeks.