Between February 1988 and March of 1991 I lived and taught in the People's
Republic of China and Hong Kong.
Department of Education of Yunnan, Kaiyuan Oral English Training CourseDuring the fall semester of 1989 I was asked if I would come down to Kaiyuan in February 1990 during the Winter holiday to hold a special two week intensive English class for the county educational authority. The students were practicing English teachers in the county - many from remote villages. Permission was granted by my danwei (Kunming Teachers Training College) and the Yunnan Department of Education. This was an experiment developed between the Yunnan Department of Education and the local education authority to give some "in service" training to English teachers.
Keith and Gail DeMio went with me down to Kaiyuan to hold classes between February 6th and the 15th, 1990. The DeMios had been living and teaching in the province just to the east of Yunnan for three years - and Keith's command of spoken Chinese was excellent. He also played the guitar - a real asset in China.
In preparation, we gathered all the English magazines / newspapers / posters / maps / books we could find in Kunming to take as teaching aids. We also brought along several English videos and about 150 cassette tapes. Gail operated a library - where the students could "check out" the materials for two days at a time. I also took along a Compaq computer and printer for lesson preparation. At the end of the session we left each student with a complete set of our "lesson plans".
Kaiyuan was only about 128 miles from Kunming but we knew that many of the English teachers we were to work with had never had an occasion to meet a native English speaker - and most had made very few trips to the capital of the province. We had been told that Kaiyuan was a "poor" area and that the teachers had very few English teaching materials to work with.
Seventy-seven "students" were divided between the two of us. We knew that all of them were not teachers - we had been told that - perhaps some were with the sugar cane industry, the government, and the security system. Later we found out that several of the students were from the Yunnan Tin Mining Corporation, and at the end of the course we were invited to hold a training session in June in Gejiu.
It seems to me that I taught group A in the morning for three hours and then group B in the afternoon for three hours - Keith taught the reverse schedule. That way, we gave the students exposure to both voices. Our formal classes ran from 9 AM to 12 and then from 2 PM to 5 PM. I say formal because we ate with our students - all three meals - in the courtyard of the county educational compound - and so we spent time striking up conversations with the students housed with us. Evenings were filled with invitations to visit homes, and schools and our weekend was scheduled with an outing. We really were teaching from breakfast time until we dropped into bed at night.
It was intense but just great. We were worn out when we finished. On the last day we invited each student in for a final oral examination - just a few questions - and then we allowed them to select 3 items from the library teaching materials. We were paid ¥400 each - about $90 U.S. for eleven very full days.
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