I could not have imagined a better week to start DukeEngage. It was a somewhat rocky start for me. I was traveling to see my sister in Chicago when our first team meeting occurred. However, after overcoming that and finally making it back home to the Bay Area, I became so excited to teach my first day, last Sunday, despite a nagging sore throat and jet lag.
As soon as I got on Zoom, I forgot about it and became immersed in the classroom. The first day was probably the roughest day, even though I had done two test calls already. I was not really sure what to expect. I was also nervous because I do not speak much Mandarin. I have not had much experience teaching larger groups of students, so I talked too fast and there were many periods of awkward silence in the beginning. However, with the guidance of Hsiaomei, Sara, and my teammates, I found myself already growing a lot as a teacher. I learned to talk slower and got through awkward silence by answering my own questions. Thanks also to my teammates and teaching partners, the lesson planning was a lot easier than I thought it would be. I never felt alone.
Even though I basically taught the lesson for five days straight, I never got tired of it because of the students. Many students seemed very excited to learn English and learn about us too. I noticed that their English skills were already very good and I did not really have to use much of my limited Mandarin to speak to them. Some students were flattering my ego, saying that I was handsome, cool, and good at Chinese. I am not sure if they were lying, especially about my basically non-existent Chinese. Nevertheless, their fun comments definitely did not hurt my ego. There were several instances where I would end class at the appropriate time, but the students would stay on the Zoom call. Sometimes we would just wave bye for a minute straight with our wide smiles. Another time, we did funny reaction emojis for like two minutes. Teaching through Zoom has been a lot more fun than I could ever have imagined.
In addition to teaching Nanping and Zhuhai No.9 middle school students, I had my first Cantonese lesson and my first Baobaoban class teaching adults yesterday. The Cantonese lesson was so fun and Bao Laoshi was really nice. She had never taught Cantonese before and even though I was probably still messing up the tones, I already learned so much. I wrote Chinese characters for the first time in five years. I cannot wait to learn how to order Dim Sum in Cantonese. I also taught my adult class yesterday, which was actually so fun and a lot easier than I thought it would be. The teachers were so involved and seemed very happy to be there. We did some food and restaurant phrases and their English was very good. They asked great questions that even stumped me. Next week, I will be teaching about traveling and I cannot wait for that.
I cannot wait to know my students more and become a better teacher for them. There were definitely times where just a few students would answer all the questions, while others did not introduce themselves and were quieter. I hope to become better at getting more students to participate and excited to learn, with the help of my team members. I also cannot wait to get to know my teammates more and attend more social events together, especially when I return to Durham next week.