Teaching teachers English, part 2 2

Teaching teachers English, part 2
YONGSHUN, HUNAN — This part is less about the teaching, and more about the whole experience of the training gig. First of all, getting there was a job in itself. This part of China is mountainous, a lot like the Appalachian region in the USA, so straight line distances on maps mean nothing. For example, I had passed through Yongshun 永顺 back in February, when I visited Jackie Li in Longshan, which is even further back in the hill country. On a map, Longshan 龙山 is only about 150-200 km away from Jishou; the trip took seven hours. Yongshun, fortunately, is not at the end of a major road construction project. Even so, it took two hours to get there on twisty roads that rival New York City streets for potholes per linear meter. Aside from topography, and the attendant isolation, there is not much else in common between Appalachia and this part of China. For one thing, Yongshun County has a population of almost 500,000; the city has about 70,000. That’s a pretty big “small town.” The city, like Jishou, is a big grubby, but also showing signs of steady improvement. In other words, it’s not Podunk, but you ...

Teaching teachers English 4

YONGSHUN, HUNAN — I have participated in who-knows how many teacher workshops, training sessions and in-service days during 25 years of teaching. Last week, I approached the task from a new angle — as an in-service teacher — and it went better than I expected. Several weeks ago, my foreign affairs officer, Cyril, asked me if I was going to be around during the summer. The Xiangxi Prefecture foreign experts bureau (the people who hand out our teaching licenses) was organizing a one-week oral English workshop for local middle school teachers. The job actually sounded like fun, although the pay was also decent, so I agreed to do it. I was joined by Michael, an American teaching in the Foreign Language College in Zhangjiajie. Our duties were to teach pronunciation and intonation, useful expressions, and the differences between American and British English. Michael took the expressions assignment, and I did the nitty-gritty pronunciation/intonation tasks. Our students were 37 teachers from Yongshun, Huayuan, Luxi, Baojing, Fenghuang and Jishou — all counties or cities in the Xiangxi Tujia and Miao Autonomous Prefecture. Most were between the ages of 24 and 40 and, I am happy to report, had really good English speaking ...
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