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.


  1. Hi Will,
    Sure, there may be someone else in the world who knows more than you, but you have learned a ton about teaching and you can pass that on to the new cohort.

  2. I bet you will be one of the best they have had! You've learned so much, and you know how they will feel getting dropped into the situation. Will the people you teach also include people who speak any Chinese language? Or will they also be beginners there?