La Salle Study Centre Changjiao
September 2005 Newsletter
Summer 2005 … 4th Summer English Reading Programme.
Greetings to all from Changjiao, mainland China. Peace and Joy is within you.
Three months ago, I ended my last report saying that the Summer English Programme will be the next main activity. I mentioned that I would be enlisting help from Malaysia and assistance from my local senior students. As to be expected, for one reason or another, not all who offered to help turned up. Thank God, when the programme started on 18th July, we had a good team assembled. From Malaysia were Sr. Alice Lee IJ and Ms Rose Peih. Locally were two second year university students, Wenna Liao and Cilla Wu, and three pre-university students, Nicol Liao, Sisi Lan and Michelle. I had planned for a 5 days training session beginning on 11th July. However, it could not be carried out because the two university students, who are student leaders, had to undergo party leadership training at their respective universities. Thank God, we were able to put in three days of training from 14th to 16th July.
Registration for old and new students was held on 9th and 10th July. All new students were interviewed in the presence of their parents or guardian. This was to ensure that the students personally wanted to study and parents understood their responsibility that students must study at home each day. Apparently, the tough stand taken last year in weeding out “unwilling students” within a week is known to both students and parents alike. We registered 86 new students. When the course started we had 212 students. I am glad to say that this summer, I only had to sack three students, although a few more left on their own accord when they found the going tough. This year, we had more university students attending the course.
Last year, each student attended three classes of 45 minutes each. This year we decided that each student would attend a one hour lesson followed by 50 minutes of supervised group study. I personally taught every lesson. The rest of the team supervised the group study. In this way, we ensured that every student had to read and engaged in dialogue with the team leaders and each other every day. Initially, I intended to run a 5 weeks course, but when I realized that both university students, Wenna and Cilla, would have only 5 days of rest before returning to university, we decided to keep to a 4 weeks course as in previous years. To ensure maximum benefit from the time spent attending classes, handouts were given out each day so that all written work had to be done at home. It meant that we had to spend time printing pages of handouts each day but it also meant that students would have to spend time at home studying and doing their homework in order to keep up with the pace of the lessons.
The feedback we received from students and parents alike was that, this year the students in general, felt they benefited much more than last year. They pointed to the fact that they were all forced to read and speak more because of the small group work. In addition, they had to spend time studying at home because of the daily homework assignments that were based on the handouts. The fact that each Friday was evaluation day and based on the results students were shifted upwards or downwards, forced the students to be more attentive and serious. I mentioned earlier on that some students left on their own accord. Most of those were students who were re-assigned to junior classes. However, some who were re-assigned downwards were willing to go and were able to cope with the slower pace in the junior classes. I was glad too that quite a few students who were re-assigned upwards, chose to remain where they were because they felt that they wanted a stronger foundation.
However, not everything was smooth all summer. To begin with, while the headmaster last year was very supportive and was present throughout the summer programme to look after discipline, the new headmaster of Changjiao’s Primary School was not very supportive. When I went to see him in the company of the village head he seemed reluctant to let me use the school for the summer programme and mentioned money in the course of our conversation. I was not amused. After all, I donate RMB3000 each year to help pay for general school expenses. It is much more than the RMB900 plus that the school received from the local education authority each year. I decided to see the political secretary and asked him to settle the matter. I did not know what transpired after that but a few days later, I was informed that I could use the school for the summer programme. The villagers of Baijiang, where I now lived were furious when they heard it and they told me that they will help me to run next year’s programme here in Baijiang itself. It is an idea that is very appealing to me.
After a week into the course, I had to make a sad and difficult decision to end the services of one of my three pre-university students. It was because she was not a “team player”. We had lessons review each afternoon and in spite of the fact that we decided together how to proceed the next day, she chose to do things her own way. The turning point for me was that at the first evaluation exercise we conducted, she chose to ignore the four steps evaluation process we agreed upon. Then I also discovered that instead of helping weaker students in her study group to read better, she “punished them” by asking them to write out many times the short stories that were used each day. Then, mid-way through the course, Alice had to return to Malaysia. Consequently, the ideal group of 8 students each grew to 10 students each. Thank God, under the guidance of Rose and lead by my two experienced helpers, Wenna and Cilla, the depleted teaching team managed to keep the show going in spite of the heavier workload.
This year I also had to deal with a very difficult situation when our political secretary and members of his administration make an appeal on behalf of an official from Dabu-Huliao to reinstate her son who was one of the three students that I sacked for lack of interest in following the course. To cut the story short, I told them that what they were asking me to do go against the core principal of LSSC which is to provide an opportunity to those interested in learning English and that time would prove that sacking the boy was a right decision. Members of the teaching team were furious, when I told them that I accepted the boy back. As I predicted, the following week, he was again way behind in his work. I called the political secretary to settle the matter. I was later called to the office when the political secretary, two teachers whose children were attending lessons and the boy’s mother were present. The boy was called in. He went into a horrible tantrum, threw the handouts given to him at me and shouted that he never wanted to study English and that his mother forced him to attend the course. His mother was so angry that she slapped him right in front of us. She was horribly embarrassed when he physically fought back! At that moment, I walked away. Two days later, the boy, accompanied by the wife of a villager came to see me three times. They met me at the third attempt. I told the lady that the boy should spend time reflecting on what had happened and why it happened. I also assured him that if he should decide that he wants to study next summer, he could come again.
Here at Baijiang itself, I had problem with one of the villagers whose grandson was one those that I sacked. She came to my house one evening when I had guests and accused me of being unfair and partial to the rich and powerful. For the first time, the villagers heard me raise my voice and challenged the lady to bring her grandson and be tested in front of everyone. I said if the child had done all his assignments up to date and was able to read any three short stories that he himself chose, I would apologise to him and to her. That shut her up. Later on the villagers told me that the lady’s grandson never studied but spent his time playing and watching TV.
On a lighter vein, throughout the summer, some villagers often shared their vegetables with us. Now and then we received a chicken, a duck or a fish. Once, a family of three killed a duck for dinner and decided to share half a duck with us. The half a duck was presented to us with a big piece of ginger. We had a dish of duck cooked with ginger soaked in rice wine for dinner that day. Often, after 9 p.m. when the children had gone home, some villagers would come over for a visit. I shared with them what is now popularly known as “Parents’ Brand” beer, local brandy, cigarettes, tea, fruits, groundnuts and other eatables that were donated to LSSC by parents of students from Dabu-Huliao. The often quoted saying here is “If gifts are received, gifts must be given. If more is given, more will be received”. Very often the children get to eat up the fruits that were given as they do not keep well in the summer heat.
While the English Programme this summer officially ended on 12th August, LSSC continued to function from 7 to 11 each morning and 2.30 to 5.30 in the afternoon and 6.30 to 9.15 each night for students who wanted extra help. We shut down completely on 1st September when school re-opened for the 2005-2006 academic year. We re-opened on 5th September. Every evening from 6.15 to 8.15 some students from Changjiao come to LSSC to do their own study and learn to use the computers. Some students also asked for English tuition. Saturdays and Sundays lessons have not resumed. I will organise the lessons after I take my summer break at the end of this month. Meanwhile, I am designing and building a little garden on a small piece of land in front of LSSC. I think it will look very pretty by next Spring.
As always with love in DLS, in the service of youth and nation.
Take care and God bless. BDLiaoFSC
La Salle Study Centre, Changjiao
12th September 2005
All good things must
come to an end...