La Salle Study Centre Changjiao
August 2006 Newsletter
Summer 2006 … 5th Summer English Reading Programme.
In a twinkling of an eye, this year’s Summer English Reading Programme is now behind us. The overall feeling of both staff and students is that it was a good programme. We can give ourselves a pat on the back. The cooperation between staff, students and parents was very encouraging. In my opinion, the combination of the commitment and desire of the majority of the students to study, the organization and arrangement of the curriculum, and the dedication and willingness of the staff to do a good job, all contributed to the smooth running and successful completion of this year’s programme. In addition, the presence of 9 student volunteers and two graduate old boys from St. Joseph’s College, Hong Kong, for the first week, gave the programme an extra dimension. Their capable and efficient running of the week’s evening activities left a great impact on both the students and their parents.
When I wrote in June, the repair on my grandfather’s house was still in progress. Due to bad weather, work was delayed for 27 days and thus when the programme began on 17th July, workers were still at work. However it did not affect teaching and most crucially, the bathrooms and toilets were ready for use.
Thank God, this year I had “reinforcements” from Malaysia and Hongkong. Ms Rose Peih from Ipoh, coming for the second year to assist us, arrived in Hong Kong on 26th June to apply for a 90 days entry visa which is not available in Malaysia. On 30th June she traveled to Changjiao to assist in the preparations to interview and register students from 8th to 11th July. Mr. and Mrs. Wang Chee Seng from Penang traveled to Hong Kong on 9th June to apply for their 90 days visa. On 13th June they arrived in Changjiao for their first tour of service in the company 9 student volunteers led by Jason Cheung and accompanied by Mr. Christopher Lo and Mr. Benson Kwan. A very welcomed surprise volunteer was Mdm Su “Tuck Sum” a member of the non-teaching staff of St. Joseph’s College. We thank her for her endless efforts in keeping the premises sparkling clean throughout the 10 days she was with us.
As usual, registration for former students, local students and relatives from outstation took place the weekend schools closed for the summer on Saturday and Sunday 8th and 9th July. The following Monday and Tuesday, 10th and 11th, we registered new students. Every student, new and old, was interview and tested. At times parents were called in when there was any double about the desire of the student to study. In total we registered 246 students, 108 primary students, 96 lower secondary students, 20 upper secondary students, 18 tertiary students and 4 kindergarten teachers for the start of the programme. The tests conducted enabled us to divide the students into 4 classes for the first week. A total of 190 students stayed till the end of the programme as some schools reopened early to conduct extra lessons for examination classes. We also had to ask two boys and a girl to leave in the 2nd week for lack of interests and complete indifference because it was their parents who wanted them to attend programme. They somehow slipped through the net during registration.
Training for the volunteers was delayed for a day because some universities required students to undergo military training at the end of the academic year. Anyway, we managed to get the whole team together on Saturday 15th July for orientation and training. Logistically, it was a new experience for us as we had to provide accommodation for 21 persons and prepare meals for more than 30 persons. Thank God, no one had to go hungry and no one fell sick. We thank Mr. Black, section leader in Baijiang, and his wife for volunteering to assist my niece, our housekeeper Yunqing in buying and cooking all the meals.
Thank God, the first day, Monday 17th July, was cool and dry although it rained in the early hours of the morning. Many parents and villagers were on hand to witness “the event of this summer”. For the first time in living memory, that morning, this little hamlet of Baijiang sprang into to life as early as 6.30 a.m. with students on foot, bicycles, motorbikes and some cars streaming in. In the past it was only a handful of workers moving out! Under the watchful eye of “Mother Rose” and her team of student helpers and guided by the able organization skills of Mr. Wang, everything went off smoothly from the very first day. Name tags with the newly created official logo of La Salle Study Centre Changjiao were issued to identify each student. Mrs. Wang, in addition to her duty as roving quarter-mistress to ensure that desks and chairs were adequately supplied and utilized, was also our official photographer, recording the learning activities and “catching the wayward on film”. I am very thankful to Mr. and Mrs. Wang and Rose for their very strict and efficient handling of the students, parents and village officers. They deal directly with problems that arose and made decisions to resolve them so that I was never interrupted and could concentrate on teaching. Their roving presence was critical when the students broke into small tutorial groups. It ensured that discipline was maintained and students benefit from the small group study activities.
The main thrust of the programme is the ability to read correctly and confidently. It is very common to hear China’s students say, “I cannot read this word because my teacher has not taught me”. They are not taught to read words alpha-phonically as they are written. Over the last 5 years I have developed a system of 3 basic sounds, vowel-consonants (VC), (VCV) and (VVC) and a small collection of special sounds. With the assistance of Mr.Wang, we develop several series of slides to teach and re-enforce the learning processes well as for revision and testing purposes. The method of reading is now popularly known among the students as “看kan 猪zhu打da猪zhu读du英ying文wen方fang法fa”, simply transliterated as “see pig shoot pig reading method”. Students were also taught poems and lyrics from inspirational songs to improve reading their reading skills. Through poems and songs, universal moral and social values are explained and the importance self esteem and social responsibilities are promoted.
The presence of St. Joseph’s College student volunteers for the first week played an important role in raising the English learning process. They provided the catalyst for speaking English in the small tutorial groups. Their very interesting and innovative evening activities throughout the week had an impact on the students and parents that is invaluable in promoting the study of English and the image of La Salle Study Centre. On Saturday 22nd July, the village Political Secretary hosted a dinner on behalf of the village to say thanks our Josephian volunteers. We thank them for giving up 10 days of their summer holidays to assist us in running our summer programme. They left us after a week of active service on Sunday 23rd July with much sadness amidst much tears, hugs of thank you and goodbye and promises of returning next year if time and opportunity allows.
Going according to plan, we re-organised the classes according to reading and learning abilities. Some students were invited to join faster pace classes and others were required to move to slower pace classes. It was then apparent that while the presence of the Josephians gave the students the much needed impetus to speak English, the lack of drilling in basic sounds adversely affected the reading ability of the students. To rectify this shortcoming, it was decided to utilize only locally trained assistant tutors who are familiar with the reading system. That meant a primary 6 student and six lower secondary students were invited to join the tutoring team of 3 local university students and 3 upper secondary students. That was an important change. By the end of the 3rd week, basic reading ability in general improved to the level where in the 4th and final week, we were able to introduce poems and lyrics of inspirational songs. We ended with a high note as the new team successfully organized and ran an evening activities session on Friday 11th August.
With the excitement the summer programme behind us, it is time to plan and prepare for the new academic year 2006-07 which officially begins on 1st September, although many schools are already in session running regular extra classes. Now that we have new and expanded premises, we can expand the services offered. I will write about that in my next article.
Before I end, I want to put on record our sincere thanks to all, who in one way or another reached out to help us. As is customary, no names will be mentioned. I thank the many local parents who donated fruits, food and drinks and a local parent for the donation of 5 stand fans. I thank Hong Kong Lasallians and one parent in particular their generous financial support that helped pay for the repairs to my ancestral house and the cost of buying and making school furniture. I assure you that as long as the house is used for educational purposes, none of my relatives can interfere. An official and legal document is securely lodged with the local government to the effect. I also want to record my thanks to this year’s students whose commitment to study enabled us to teach effectively. I also want to thank the team, Mr. and Mrs. Wang, Ms Rose Peih, Josephian Volunteers, local university volunteers, my local student volunteers and officers of Changjiao’s local government.
As always with love in DLS, in the service of youth and nation.
Take care and God bless.
Changjiao 16th August 2006
All good things must
come to an end...