Who knew that so much excitement and energy could be felt through a screen?
Last Sunday began our first week of class and from the start, my team members and I were very anxious. We were one of the first programs to start virtual DukeEngage, and this was many of our first times on the other side of the screen…as teachers! (I have a whole new appreciation for our professors because teaching virtually is no joke, it almost feels more overwhelming than teaching in person.) My teaching partners and I created our teaching plan the day our program began which was a day before our first day of class. I felt a little unprepared because I wasn’t sure what to expect…we just jumped right into the deep end. Additionally, I was nervous to teach because I was (and still am) recovering from a back injury, so I wasn’t sure if my body could handle hours of sitting up to teach. Luckily, my amazing teaching partners Jessica and Wendy, along with Hsiao-Mei, Sara and my brother, were so accommodating to my situation, so I want to give a big shoutout to them for their help and constant check ins.
Although I was nervous for my first class, the second the students started showing up on the zoom link, the nerves were replaced with excitement. I couldn’t believe that I had the opportunity to meet all these kids and learn with them for the rest of the semester! The first class I taught was with my teaching partner Jessica, and the students were not nervous to speak at all. They were chatting away with each other and teasing each other. Jessica and I had the students introduce themselves with their name, age, and hobbies. The kids really enjoyed the “popcorn” system because they could choose their friends to go next, and it created a sense of community and familiarity in our classroom. Next, we played a game where the students matched a picture to the word that showed up on the screen, and this game got them warmed up to speak English in front of everyone. Finally, we finished off our class by playing jeopardy and split the kids off into two teams to see who could win the most money. The kids really loved competing with each other, and it was great to feel their excitement through the screen. For the other classes the rest of the week, there was a mix of challenges that we went through. Some classes had students that were so shy that they didn’t speak much, other classes had bad connection that made teaching almost impossible, and other classes were so loud that we couldn’t hear anyone clearly. However, we had to adapt very quickly to these challenges by using the chat feature, drawing on the screen, or just speaking slower. We tried to speak in English at all times, but when we got frustrated, we would sometimes use Chinese to communicate. Hopefully, we will make it the norm to have these classes be in all English next week which requires some self-discipline from me. No matter what, we were able to make it work, and the kids had fun during every class, which is all we want!
My goal for this week was to get the kids excited for the 2 months we are spending with them, and I feel so proud that we were able to do that. The students of Zhuhai no.9 middle school and Nanping middle school surprised us with how much English they already knew, so I am super excited to chat with the kids more to get to know them. I also can’t wait to see their improvement whether it’s being more fluent in English, gaining confidence , or becoming excited to learn new things. I can already tell that this is going to be a huge learning experience for both me and the kids. I could also tell that the students were just as happy to see us and we were to see them, and many of them didn’t even want to leave after class had ended and kept staying on the zoom to say bye. They also complimented us so much and were overall the sweetest kids ever.
It really feels like we are transported to Zhuhai for a couple hours everyday when we teach and for that, I am so grateful.