Saturday morning was first the Mandarin lesson for Gianni, Sryia, and me. For the first thirty minutes of our hour-long lesson, our teacher Zeng Fanjie (an English teacher at Nanping who volunteered an hour of her evening for us) had thought our beginner class had some degree of experience with Mandarin when really we had none. She took us around her house, telling us words for objects and having us repeat. In the last half of the class we adjusted and began learning characters for simple words, still repeating as best as we could. Truthfully, there’s a lot that I’ve forgotten in the last day, but maybe that first lesson was meant for something different than language instruction. It was an intense introduction, but to be challenged immediately makes me want to learn more Mandarin, especially since it’ll help me communicate with my own students instead of being completely clueless whenever they speak Mandarin. (This is often the case when there are technical difficulties and confusion about the lesson, both of which can be hard to navigate.) Just being a student for an hour was an important shift for me too. The freshness of having to learn and struggle in class has worn off since the semester ended, so going through it again reminded me about how my students may feel, especially when I accidentally go too fast or use words that are more advanced than I realize. I’m grateful for Zeng Fanjie’s time, and I’m hoping that these lessons continue to be valuable and fun as the weeks carry on.
Saturday also was wonderful because it was our first in-person group meeting since the program started. Many people got dinner beforehand, and we all hung out outside of Biddle and talked. To just relax and not have conversation too centered around work was really great. The opportunities to socialize are fewer since the program is online, which creates certain obstacles to bonding. Yet I’ve bonded with people through these group meetings, and through teaching and other planning that we’ve begun doing on the side. Maybe we aren’t being thrust into bonding experiences like we might be in a different year, but bonding is still happening. Being comfortable with each other will definitely make the program more enjoyable for us in the future, and it’ll hopefully make it more fun for the students as well. Ideally, our cohesion will come out during our interactions with students, making learning all the more enjoyable and motivating.