Wednesday, July 19, 2006


Our hosts have arranged two trips to surrounding areas as part of the program. This weekend we are traveling to Hangzhou for 2 days and last weekend we took a day trip to Tongli. ( 45 minute bus ride) Tongli is a beautiful town divided into seven islands intersected by 15 canals. Because of the landscape, almost all of the buildings in the town are along the waterfront. In front of the buildings, small stairs lead to the canals for residents to wash clothes and for traveling around the town by boat. There are 49 stone bridges linking different sections of the town, each displaying a different style. There were many tourists and a charge to enter the town. Enjoy the pics.

A Few Words on Teaching

Most of the teachers we are teaching are very young. I think they were hand picked for this program for having the greatest potential to teach in English for years to come. Raf and I have the bilingual primary school math teachers who probably are the least English proficient. Tom has the middle school English and Math teachers, Shelagh and Hector have the primary English teachers and Jane, Richard and Ian are teaching High School English teachers. It should be fun because for the next two weeks we get to rotate in the afternoons and meet all the students. Everyone, almost, is very eager to practice their English and people even stop us on the streets to have a conversation. (Had a lovely talk today with a police officer who learned to speak English on his own through books and the BBC, He said he prefered to speak "American English" and couldn't thank us enough for what we were doing, He felt it to be of great importance that American and Chinese children become friends. He also seemed quite concerned about the situation in the middle east.)

Most teachers here have between 45-55 students in each class. This makes it very difficult for them to do any kind of group work or to address students individual needs. Most of the teachers say that class size is the biggest obstacle they face. It is interesting that primary math teachers must have a degree in mathematics, unlike the US, and the degree requirements increase the higher the level taught. Remember, China graduates more engineers each year than any other country in the world. The Suzhou district is the top in the country and from what I've heard the other provinces do not have the resources we have here.

As I mentioned before, each classroom has a computer hooked up to an lcd projector, overhead, tv, boards that move up and down, projector screens, and a water cooler with hot and cold water, I join my students in drinking tea throughout the day. There is no cafeteria in any of the schools and lunch is delivered to each class. Students eat their lunch in the room. I wont go into what the bathrooms are like. We will save those pics for Miami.