When it all began…
In summer of 2014, we launched our pilot program, Learning Journey in China.
During the summer, we visited two middle schools in China’s Hainan Province, an island off the south coast of China. We focused in on Wanning City, a developing area towards the south of the island, and spent ten days at each of the two schools. Native English speakers paired with bilingual Chinese college students to design a curriculum that focused on topics that allowed students to express themselves and their creativity. Students explored confidence, love, happiness, curiosity, and nature together with their teachers over the ten-day summer program.
This first summer gave us a unique opportunity to see just how students and local teachers view their approach to English. For many students, in similarly under-privileged areas to Hainan, English is little more than a test subject that can often be a frustrating obstacle standing between them and an acceptable test score. The frustration can be layered upon when considering that the Chinese college entrance exam, given to every graduating Chinese high schooler across the country, uses English as a key subject to evaluate performance. For our students, they’re automatically placed at a disadvantage, since their English education resources are not nearly as impressive as those that might be found in a first or second tier city such as Shanghai or Beijing.
Despite the fact that students’ communication skills were far lower than teachers initially expected, classes were able to come together to find fun and exciting ways to get to know each other, as well as learn and practice English in a way that made students comfortable and confident. Because students were able to leave behind inhibitions and anxieties, their conversational abilities soared from the beginning to the end of each 10 day program. Students often expressed to their teachers towards the end of the program that their perspectives had been forever changed, not only towards English, but also their personal goals for the future. After such an impactful experience, we came away with a new resolve to recreate and expand upon the accomplishments we were able to make in future summer programs to come.
2014 English Teacher
“The Learning Journey in China program has been one of the most enlightening, eye-opening and simply wonderful experiences of my life. It was the first year in its making when I participated, but it was well thought out and I met some of the most hard-working and motivated students in Hainan, China. For these students, who have never had exposure to foreigners, I believe that the program was an invaluable experience but it was very meaningful for us teachers as well because we got to experience a different society and culture. We had to learn to be creative and innovative, and our mutual difficulties as first-time teachers brought us all together. The Learning Journey in China program has had such a profound effect on me that I find myself continually referring to these experiences in all that I do. It truly has been one of the fondest and most inspiring of my memories and I encourage everyone to apply!”
Bryn Mawr College
2014 English Teacher
“It’s a learning journey not only for the local students but also for the voluntary teachers. Almost 30 days spent with students from 2 schools in Hainan have left deep marks in my life. Responsibility is no longer a distant term for me; instead, it became such a vivid word when I stayed with my students all day long. It’s not simply that we were teaching students, but simultaneously they were showing us meanings of care, love and hope. It’s a one-month journey and a lifetime journey as well.”
2014 English Teacher
“The program allowed students to be so creative in their expression of English, through mediums as diverse as songs, role plays, trade markets and debates. You visibly (and audibly) noticed the increase in confidence over the teaching period, with even the quietest students in my class talking and smiling by the end. The challenge for teachers was to come up with engaging activities that fit into a coherent lesson plan, and there was a great sense of collaboration and sharing of ideas that made this happen.”