With the third week of our program coming to an end, many of the hardships of teaching online have been worked around by our team. Furthermore, I feel much more comfortable leading classrooms because I know exactly what tools and strategies I enjoy due to their success at engaging the entire classroom. Alongside my growing comfort in teaching a class, I can feel that my students are becoming less nervous due to their increased engagement in class. While being able to work with the students is enjoyable and eye-opening on its own, some doubts have arisen in my mind.
Thus far into the program, I have a decent idea of how I will carry out lesson plans and structure my teaching sessions. My favorite tool to utilize at the moment is the “white-screen” screen sharing option because it allows the students to be engaged with images while sharing their ideas. The list of potential games and activities this feature allows is unlimited, and the students seem to enjoy it just as much as I. As a result, it has become a common utility in my teaching sessions, and the students are warming up to the idea of communicating with me in class. There are fewer awkward silences after questions, and the students appear to have less shame in trying their best to speak in English.
This image is of one of my classes creating stories with fun activities we enjoy performing.
Another strategy that is successful in engaging the classroom is asking all of the students to say their names as they enter the zoom room. I then write down how their names sound phonetically to me on a sticky note so that I can call on students during class. I enjoy this process because it allows everyone to speak and presents our environment as a place where communication is encouraged by everyone. Furthermore, I have no Chinese background so going over this at the beginning of class allows for me to successfully call on students during later activities. Also, I usually do not pronounce everyone’s name correctly on the very first try, and the students find fun in guiding me through the correct pronunciations.
Finally, while every aspect of Duke Engage Zhuhai has been enjoyable at this point, I cannot help but face the realization that the students are not going to speak perfect English at the end of the program. We will not be the teachers that change their life by enabling them to communicate fluently in a second language, but the leader of our program, Professor Hsiao-Mei, offered us reassuring advice on this topic. She informed us that it is far more important to consider how we make the students feel while learning English in an educational setting than to worry about the exact grammar rules the students are struggling with. The importance of our impact is to allow the students to see that learning is an enjoyable process while granting them more confidence in their English-speaking skills. While the conversation Professor Hsiao-Mei led at the end of our last meeting was brief, I found it very impactful and important to keep in mind as I continue through the rest of the program. Conversations like these remind me of what the work we do on behalf of Duke Engage is truly about and make me feel even more thankful for being a part of the program.