Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Going to Summer Institute

After these last few weeks of teaching, I'll be heading to Summer Institute, where I'll help train the next cohort of fellows. I'll be a subject pedagogy instructor, so I'll be helping to teach the new fellows how to teach English. We had a very minimal amount of instruction in how to teach our subject during our S.I., and as a result, much of the first semester and year was spent figuring out how to make students remember vocabulary words (motivation, repetition, self-study time, checks for understanding, spiraling review, and a variety of activities), how to teach students to write essays (spelling dictations, fun sentences and sentence frames, dialogues, and scaffolding), or even how to teach the ABCs (the Chinese alphabet song is better, your handwriting needs to change to the standard Chinese way, explicitly teach word spacing, make sure students don't write 'a,' 'g,' or 'l' the way it looks when it's typed, make sure students actually cross the bottom line in their notebooks when they write 'j,' 'y', 'g,' 'p,' and 'q'.....). There's a ton of English pedagogy specific knowledge that fellows should know before they enter the classroom if they're to have any hope of giving effective English instruction.

It seems crazy to me that with only two years of experience I'll be one of the people responsible for teaching the new fellows how to do all of this. The two years of experience I have is extremely relevant to what fellows will be doing (foreigners who have taught in rural China are rare), but some days I really wish someone with more experience and knowledge was coming to help run the sessions; I'd love to be that person's assistant.

Summer Institute is going to last about a month for fellows, and I know everyone who will be working there has been spending tons of time and effort preparing, but it still seems a little crazy to me that we'll be putting new teachers in the classroom after just a month of training. Summer institute has been getting better and better every year, but there's still only so much you can teach people in a month, no matter how dedicated those people are. The first semester and year are rough for new teachers everywhere, and I think it's a reflection on the kind of people that come to TFC that only 20-30% of people quit after the first year or teaching with the minimal preparation that we're given.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

One Month Left

Today marks exactly a month until I'm done teaching, and done with my two year commitment to TFC. It's weird; it feels like I haven't been doing this for very long, and yet I'll soon be moving on to the next thing. I've definitely changed a lot over these past two years, and while I'm a much better teacher than when I began, I'm still a beginner, and if I were to continue teaching, I don't think I'd really be a good teacher for another couple of years. That's really the problem with TFC's model--no foreign fellow ever keeps teaching in rural China for a third year, and only a handful of Chinese fellows have stayed, so our students never get a TFC trained fellow with the sort of experience that you need to be a truly powerful teacher. Some very few teachers might be great during their first and second year, but it's rare.

All of this is not to say that TFC fellows haven't done awesome things and been successful in the classroom. Fellows, especially Chinese fellows, have done a lot of really cool thing, both in and out of class, but I'd love to see what some of the great people that have chosen to dedicate two years to teaching rural Chinese kids could do with five or ten years of experience.

I think I've been a good teacher, especially in this second year, but I often feel like I've gotten more out of this experience than my students have.

And here's an Onion article that's too true to be funny