I feel like I’m at TFA Institute. The odd thing is that I’m actually in Xiuning County, Huangshan City, Anhui Province, China. It’s main drag looks like this:
7,000 miles from the nearest actual TFA Institute, I am waking up tomorrow and teaching new students. I am and have been preparing lesson plans, gathering supplies, and rehearsing lessons for English classes that I’ll be teaching on public speaking and oral history to local high school students.
Over 200 fellow participants have descended upon this rural town–taking over an entire hotel complex along the way–all as eager as I to teach and interact with Chinese students. These participants come from all walks of life: professors, architects, development workers, lawyers, physicians, K-12 teachers. Despite our differences, we have one thing in common: we want to be of use to the Chinese students and community members whom we’re serving for this week.
All of this is part of the Yale Alumni Service Corps/Yale-China Association China Service Program.
Basically, Yale alumni, family and friends are spending a week, in partnership with the county’s local government, to run an English summer program in its schools. We are essentially running our own version of TFA Institute. We are offering dozens of classes (e.g. business education, photography, “English Through Board Games”, art history) to the hundreds of students who eagerly await our arrival.
Indeed, we’ve been told we are a special treat to our students. At the high school level, for instance, students, who all live in dorms on campus, maintain excruciating 6am-10pm daily schedules 6 days a week. Our arrival is a welcome change from that lifestyle. The city’s inland, secluded location means that most students will count their conversations with–or even sightings of–us as their first encounters with non-Chinese people. When we arrived this afternoon to scope our classrooms, we were welcomed by dozens of curious students:
My initial skepticism about the impact our project could have has morphed into confidence that we can make a large difference in the lives of our students and on the local community. Today, we learned about the groundwork laid by the Yale-China Association, which, over 110 years ago, sent recent Yale graduates to rural parts of China to teach and work with local communities. We learned that one of the early Yale-China Fellows founded a small hospital in a rural town. Today, that hospital has grown into 4 hospitals and a medical school, offering medical services to thousands of Chinese each day. Hundreds of Yale graduates have spent years of service teaching in schools all over China.
We hope and expect to build upon this legacy of service.
As I mentioned, I’m struck by the uncanny number of similarities between what I’m doing now and what I did during Philly Institute 2009. I’m traveling with 5 other CMs and they all agree that the similarities are striking. Only time will tell how similar the experiences truly are. Tomorrow is the first day of teaching. I’m told classroom management here will not be an issue. I’ll find out soon enough.