SESP Shanxi Week 1 Reflections
By：Elizabeth Yan 燕天语
The first year I came I was extremely nervous to teach. I didn’t think I was going to be able to contain a whole classroom of kids, no matter how much I loved teaching. However, the moment I stepped into the room, all of the kids looked at with me with their utmost attention and eagerness, as well as curiosity and they made me feel comfortable enough to speak loudly to them.
This year is completely different. I have been looking forward to coming to Shanxi since we began planning for it, and to be honest, even before that. In November, I shipped a box back to Shanxi from Washington in order for the treats I put inside to arrive on Christmas, one of the holidays we’d learned the year before. When I came into the classroom the very first time, two days ago, they still remembered and asked me if I still had any of the candy I’d shipped them. I think I’m very lucky to able to teach the same class three years in a row and see how much they’ve grown in both height and knowledge. Although we’ve grown very close, we still keep a slight difference between status, as they respect us as we teach. Out of the classroom, things are completely different. The students like seeing us on the streets and running up and talking to us, and sometimes they even follow us to the house we’re staying at just to play with us. This year, I was extremely excited to lead the new volunteers who came with me. With three years of experience, I’ve seen almost everything the students do, from hiding under the table to seeing small fights between best friends, and I know others may not know how to deal with it, which is why I decided to become a lead. Teaching here calls for patience and eagerness, but it also calls for discipline when the students do not listen. I was sure that I could make this year the best year the students could have by helping the new volunteers.
Last year, the dance group prepared a dance for the students. It’s a very famous piece of ballet called “The Nutcracker”. We used the money we had fundraised months before to buy all the dresses and accessories the dance called for. The students seemed very intrigued and asked many questions after we told them about the story. When the costumes arrived, the students took one look and collectively gasped. The first thing they asked was, “are these all for us?” I found that question so innocent that I couldn’t help but smile. I now understand that we don’t come here solely to teach, we also come here to see that our hard work definitely pays off. Like I’d expressed before, this program is not just us, the volunteers teaching these students. The students teach us so much as well. They taught me what it means to be a hard worker, what it means to have fun, and most importantly, what it means to be a teacher. I definitely appreciate my teachers a lot more, but I think I know now that our teachers love us all, and love us the same, no matter how loud or quiet we are. I am deeply thankful for LMC and SESP giving me a chance to be the lead this year. I think this program is very important to us volunteers, and I hope that we can help the students at the FaCheng School grow and flourish in the future.
It’s been a full week of teaching already, but it feels like I’ve only been with my students for a day. The first day I walked into the classroom with bags full of candy and prizes, every single student in the room expressed their awe and stood up to try to see them better. My kids surprisingly would not listen on the first day. They goofed around, refused to earn points, and cried “not fair!” every time another student earned a point. The second day, we used bribery, yelling, and giving out candy to arouse their curiosity for English again. Although they are incredibly loud and smart mouthed, when you are able to get them to look up to you, they will do anything to try to please you. When Jessie and I started teaching the cup song, we sang to the movements we did with the cup. Right after we finished, our kids started clapping crazily, asking us to do it again, and asking to learn it. It was then that I truly felt their eagerness to pick up information from us.
Not to pick favorites, but 李承达 is probably one of the funniest yet most obedient students of my class. He’s very loud, and loves turning around to talk, but the minute I walk up to him and say his name, he turns around, sits up straight, and pretends to zip up his lips. Of course his silence never lasts very long, but I do think it’s the thought that counts.
It has been only 4 days of teaching ballet/gymnastics, but the girls have improved immensely. Not only are they closer to touching the ground, almost all of them can back bend into bridge with minimal help, and many have even learned to do so by themselves. The dance kids are so sweet and genuine that at times I find myself wishing that they were my actual class, but then I realize it’s the loud jokesters that make a boring class interesting, and a quiet work-time full of laughs. I am overwhelmed with the fact that I only have 30 hours of teaching left this year, and it breaks my heart to think that in exactly one week, I will be leaving this quaint simple yet beautifully quaint village, and waiting yet another year for just a glimpse at my children.