China Team Journal

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

"There is no end to learning"

How true the Confucian saying that there is no end to learning! Perhaps nowhere is this concept more evident than in the teaching-learning process. If the sage were living today, he would have more than a thing or two to learn about this ever-changing world, wouldn't he? I wonder what kind of student he would be if he were in our class. Would he give Nancy and me a thumbs-up for our teaching? Would he have trouble pronouncing the /i/ and /e/ phonemes? Would he say "pain" as "pen"? Would his pronunciation of these and some other sounds make Nancy throw up her arms exasperation? Well, enough of my reveries!

This was an unusually full teaching-and-learning day, enriched by an exhilarating field trip and concluded with a sumptuous banquet at the "Kind and Gentle Like Spring" restaurant.

In each of our group learning session, Nancy and I use appropriate songs, drills, exercises, and dances to help the teachers improve their English skills. Today was no different, but, in addition to using the Bingo game to reinforce their learning about antonyms, we asked them to write stories on such silly topics as "an elephant that can talk," "an invisible island," "a car that is afraid of kids, " etc.  At first, we thought the assignment might be somewhat daunting for them, but they allayed our anxieties with surprising aplomb. We did, of course, have to correct their pronunciations after their recitation to the group, but we were pleased by their overall performance and look forward to using the assignment as the basis of a skit.

Unlike the field trips that I took when I was a school girl, this afternoon's outing was a learning activity which was both inspiring and fun. At Hump Memorial Park, the stories and photos about the Flying Tigers, the construction of the airfield, and the building of the Yunnan-Burma road not only underscore the human capacity to endure extreme hardships and to make personal sacrifices but also affirm the triumph of good over evil. 

The sacred grounds around the Flying Tigers Monument provided a natural surrounding for volunteers and their teacher-students to take group photos. It was particularly amusing to see them compete for having a shot taken with us, as if we were celebrities. Their laughters and giggles as they stood by my side made my heart flutter with excitement. After the shutterbugs had put their cameras away, the group did singing and dancing in the much-admired accompaniment of Nancy and her sister, Dixie, strumming on their Ukuleles. The joyful noises this large group made reverberated through the verdant mountains and lush trees, so much so, in fact, that perhaps even the dead in those tombs on the hillside wished they could join in the fun.

To our gastronomic delight, the extraordinarily rich banquet of 30-or-so dishes promised to be something to write home about. Lester wasted no time to capture on camera the mouth-watering food arranged around an ornate centerpiece on an enormous round table. He had a hidden agenda, it seemed, and that was to have Stella learn to cook the dishes for his epicurean enjoyment after they return to the U.S.

As I was writing this journal, Dixie called to say that Leon had found a way to import photos and videos to his Mac and invited me to her room to let Leon upload the videos on my iPad for Baoli. So in a late-night crash course,  I learned something new. Indeed, there is no end to learning. From learning about how to teach ESL effectively, to learning the songs and dance steps, to learning the technique of uploading or downloading photos, we live and learn until our visa on this planet expires.