For a long time, I’ve been very interested in teaching and on academia. This has been crystal clear to my friends, who hear me using words like “pedagogy,” “exegesis” and “empirical” in a colloquial fashion. Moreover, one of my personal goals is to be fluent in at least 4 languages. Now, why am I mentioning these things? Well, the reason is that this week I’d like to share how I’ve been able to combine both interests. I will tell you about the joys I’ve been experiencing while teaching Chinese middle school students.
During my first week in Chengdu, I (together with four other students) signed up to participate in an internship which would focus on helping Chinese students with their English skills and American cultural awareness. While as a group we would work with different ages and focus on either activities and/or English oral practice, I was to work with Chinese middle school students focusing on their oral skills. The following points some of the innumerable joys and experiences I’ve had while working with these students.
- Having to teach about American life and culture has given me new insight into the same. When you live in America you do just that—live. But when you have to teach others—like Chinese students for example—about how we live in American and why we do the things in the way we do them, you’re taken into the depths of American culture and of the priorities of our worldviews.
- Teaching and interacting with Chinese students is helping me create and foster cross-cultural understanding between the two peoples. As an International Relations student I read and write a lot about globalization and world citizenry. Yet those things don’t compare to the joy I experience through being part of these processes and watching them take place right in front of my noses.
- Seven 40-minute classes a week and intermingling with over 300 Chinese students can drastically improve your Chinese Mandarin skills. The desire to be able to convey the information to my students even when they don’t understand the equivalent in English words has pushed me for learn more and more Chinese characters and words. Moreover, because my students feverishly want to see “Mr. Ai (Da Long)” speak Chinese properly, my pronunciation has been drastically improved through their corrections. In all honesty, sometimes I wonder who is teaching who more.
- Finally, I doubt that I’ve ever been so popular in my life or that I will ever be as famous in the future as I am in that middle school. From the moment I appear in front of the school’s gate to any other moment and/or appearance I make anywhere around the school, all I see and hear is students saying “Hello Mr. Ai!” “Hi Mr. Ai!” or “Ai Da Long!!!” Not to mention that I am the MVP of basketball-team A. I might have the smallest players in my team, but every Friday at 1 p.m. Team A turns out victories.
As I am a very tough man (*cough* *cough*) I don’t feel 100% comfortable with saying this, but for them I will do it: I am REALLY going to miss my students once I leave China^_^.
(Mr. Ai with middle school students)
(Norbertha and the students after dancing bachata with Mr. Ai)