La Salle Study Centre Changjiao
August 2007 Newsletter
Summer 2007 … 6th Summer English Reading Programme.
Greetings from Changjiao. Peace and Joy is within you.
It had been a long, hot and busy summer for us here in Changjiao. Today 20th August we are house bound as typhoon Senpa hit the coastal region of Fujian and send lashing rains into the hills of Fujian and northern Guangdong . All government relief agencies including all village officers are on full alert. The rain is a welcomed change from the heat of the summer where temperature reached 40 degrees Celsius for the first few days of our programme. I wish to put on record our thanks to a Singapore Lasallian who insisted that air-conditioners be installed and paid for all expenses incurred. I could not have taught continuously for four and a half hours if not for the comfort of air-conditioning in the study hall. Volunteers from Malaysia and Hong Kong also enjoyed the comfort of air-conditioned sleeping quarters for siesta and a good nights rest. Our local volunteers also benefited from the air-conditioning as most of them decided to move in after the HK volunteers left.
On 17th August, the main summer activity of LSSC ended on a high note. The growing popularity of our Summer English Reading Programme is evident in the number of outstation students from throughout Guangdong and neighbouring province of Fujian . We registered a record high of 429 students this summer. Those who could not be accommodated asked to be given a chance at the next Winter Holiday Programme in mid January 2008, another annual programme which until now has been exclusively reserved for local Changjiao students and regular weekend students. We foresee a multiple increase in the number of weekend students when LSSC reopens for English tuition classes 22nd September.
During our post-programme evaluation, we concluded that an on-going student-teacher training programme has to be initiated immediately to nurture the human resources necessary to keep up with the rapid development of LSSC as a much sort after English learning centre in Dabu-Huliao. I plan to invite about 20 Junior High school students to participate in this training programme. Selected students will be required to report to LSSC every Saturday evening for training. They will stay the night at LSSC and will conduct the Sunday morning classes for Primary students. They join the High school class at 10 a.m. on Sunday before going home at noon.
This year, registration for local and regular students was scheduled for Saturday and Sunday 7th & 8th July in order to train a group of local students. A total of 97 students were registered in a very orderly manner. Registration for outstation and new students was scheduled for 14th & 15th July. The local authorities, political secretary and village headman, were asked to be on hand to identify the applicants as first preference was to be given to relatives of villagers from outstation who would form one queue and new local students form the other. On paper the plan looked good but on Saturday morning 14th July, it was total mayhem. Our hamlet of Baijiang never ever experienced such crowds. I had to leave my of post interviewing students to intervene twice as some unscrupulous parents got involved and led their children to jump queue. Thank God, in spite of the chaos, registration and interview was successfully completed by 1 p.m. on Sunday 15th. We were able to post up the class list by Tuesday 17th July and thus gave us a breathing space to make final preparations to welcome the Hong Kong student volunteers.
The key personnel for this summer were volunteers from Malaysia . They are the veterans of Summer 2006, Mr. Wang Chee Seng and his wife Ms Ho Poh Lin from Penang . The newcomers are Mr. Martin Lee and his wife Ms Lily Leong from Ipoh. I was greatly relieved when they arrived safely on the evening of Saturday 14th July. With their arrival, I was confident that we could manage although the number of students almost doubled the 2006 figure of 246 students to 429 students. At our first meeting, we decided to rent a double story house for the tutoring classes. After inspecting it we were still apprehensive as to whether there would be sufficient space. Then two families offered their ancestral halls. We decided to accept the offer of one that is near to our tuition house. A massive cleaning operation was organized the next day as both premises were not lived in and had been used as store rooms for many years. Our local students came in strength to help. Many hands make light work. Both premises were ready for use within 3 hours.
The Hong Kong student volunteers arrived in two batches. La Salle College volunteers of 12 students accompanied by their teachers and three parents arrived in the comfort of a specially hired coach on Friday 20th July. They were quartered in a house nearby that was rented specifically for the purpose. Our local students were on hand to welcome them. That very night, Mr. Wang and I realized that something was not right. The LSC volunteers kept to themselves because of the physical separation and were not interacting with our local students gathered at LSSC. We decided to shift all the volunteers to the two air-conditioned rooms at LSSC. When the 9 St. Joseph's volunteers arrived on Saturday 21st July, the moving operation began. Literally speaking, the volunteers had to make their own bed. Each room could accommodate 5 double decked beds. It was a busy afternoon for all as we got organized. The local students were on hand to lend assistance whenever needed. This year, we installed two spin-dry machines to alleviate the laundry problem that we faced last year.
That evening, we held our first combined gathering for all, the adult staff, the HK volunteers and the local volunteers. It was a getting to know you session as well as a getting to know the aim and purpose, the organization structure and methodology of LSSC Summer English Reading Programme. On Sunday morning, I gave an overview of our "PinPhonics" English reading method, developed over the last 5 years specifically to overcome reading problems faced by students in China . It is a method somewhat unique to LSSC. Our local volunteers are familiar with it as they are all LSSC students whereas it is a completely new ball game to the HK volunteers. In the afternoon, Mr. Wang put the volunteers through a dry run for the movement of students from LSSC to the tuition house and the tuition hall.
This year we provided a simple Handbook for all teachers and students. It was a brilliant move suggested by Mr. Wang the day after he arrived. I already had my lessons plans ready for 60 students per class and teach 4 classes 2 hours each. We had to change plans to run 5 classes of one and a half hour each, 3 junior classes of about 100 students each and two senior classes of about 60 students each. I locked myself in one night to pull together the key elements of my teaching materials into a simple and easy to use handbook. We spent two days and nights printing and putting 500 books together. Mr. Martin had to work overtime as he was in charge of the printing but we only have a small three-in-one printer to work with. We certainly require a proper photocopying machine for the future.
On opening day 23rd July, the section leader of Baijiang, Mr. Black, was co-opted to direct traffic to avoid the traffic congestion and confusion that we saw during the previous registration weekend. The atmosphere early in the morning was somewhat festive as on the average each junior student was accompanied by at least two or more adults. Baijiang had never seen so many motorbikes and cars queuing to come in. It was estimated that day and each day following, more than thousand people come into Baijiang in a variety of transport.
Mr and Mrs Wang put a firm hold on discipline from the very start. The students lined up in a quiet and orderly fashion when attendance was taken. The problem was with parents and on lookers who were talking and commenting on what they witnessed. Thank God, we did not have to deal with them as they obediently stayed behind a line we designated as no admittance except for students with our LSSC name tag. The discipline and orderliness of students at LSSC is admired and greatly appreciated by parents. Local teachers as well as our teachers from HK also expressed amazement. In just two days, the pattern was set. Parents and taxi drivers ferrying students knew exactly where to drop off their charges and where to pick them up. Students knew where to wait, when to line up to join the classes and to move in an orderly manner from the study hall to the tuition house and the tuition hall.
This year, of the 429 students accepted, 377 were local and 52 were from outstation. We had a record high of 17 university students following the course. Although we discourage senior high school students from joining, 33 such students, some of whom were with us last summer, attended the course. The other breakdown is 129 junior high school students and 250 primary school students. It is interesting to note that there were 87 students from one particular primary school in Dabu-Huliao. Many of them are children of teachers. Based on past and especially this year's experience, we found that most secondary school students are locked in a mindset that every word must be taught before they can read it. This is because in most schools in China today every English word is taught exactly as a Chinese character is taught i.e. as a separate and unique "pictograph". Most students do not know how to use the vowels to pronounce a word alpha-phonically. Next year we must limit new admissions to primary 4 and 5 students. We found that primary students are free from the mindset of older students and are like sponges readily soaking up the "PinPhonics" method of reading. Secondary school students have already acquired bad reading habits that are difficult to change in just 20 days of summer lessons.
We thank God that in spite of the unexpected increase in the number of students we managed to run a very successful programme. We added line dancing to our evening activities. Lily and Martin were a great husband and wife team for the task, with Lily taking to the floor and Martin in control of the PA system providing exhilarating and pulsating music that made Baijiang come alive. The line dancing evenings not only brought students back to learn and dance but also provide an evening entertainment for villagers young and old who sat around and watch. Alternating with line dancing the Hong Kong volunteers ran the popular evening socials. Both SJC and LSC volunteers came well prepared for the task. It was full house every time. In fact I had to invite different classes for each evening or we would not have been able to accommodate the numbers turning up.
Last year, we experimented using of poems and lyrics of songs to facilitate the reading process. We felt it was very helpful. This year we added singing into our regular lessons. It was an instant success. Students were more willing to read songs repeatedly so that they can remember the words in order to sing. Furthermore they found that if they could read fluently, they could keep up with the rhythm of the music and sing well. The lyrics of the inspirational songs used also provided the basic ideas for discussions for the senior classes. The last day of the course ended powerfully and emotionally when we combined the classes, filling up all the space available at LSSC, singing the ever popular song "It's a small world" and the inspirational song "Tomorrow will be better" with its powerful chorus:
Come out from your corner. Don't doubt and join us. You can decide the future.
Devote your youthful power to this world.
Come together, hand in hand together. I know you'll do.
We pray and believe that tomorrow will be better.
This year the Hong Kong student volunteers stayed for two full weeks. We record our thanks to the Principals, teachers and PTAs of both schools for organizing and funding this outreach mission to LSSC Changjiao. We record our grateful thanks to Mr. Anthony Ng of SJC who accompanied the SJC volunteers throughout the two weeks and Mr. Robert Wong and Mr. Francis Tse of LSC for bringing the LSC volunteers in and taking them back as well as arranging for a relay of LSC teachers to look after them throughout the two weeks.
We are very grateful and proud of local team of 7 university, 16 secondary students and 3 primary students. After the departure of HK students they ran the tutoring sessions efficiently and effectively. Our student-tutor ratio was 3:1 or less for the first two weeks because of the presence of the 21 HK volunteers. The ratio became 4:1 for the last two weeks. In spite of the heavier workload per tutor, the tutoring was more intensive and better organized as all local tutors are familiar with the PinPhonics reading method.
What can I say except to thank God for the gift of many Lasallians whose spiritual, moral or financial support enable LSSC to exist and function as an example of gratuitous education service to youth and nation here in Changjiao, China. Our handbook this year is aptly entitled:
La Salle Study Centre. Changjiao.
English Reading Programme Handbook. Summer 2007.
A Gratuitous Education Service sponsored by Overseas Chinese.
Managed by La Salle .
As always with love in DLS,
All good things must
come to an end...