La Salle Study Centre Changjiao
December 2008 Newsletter
Christmas Day 2008
I have been reminded a few time by Brother Vincent to write a few lines for the end of 2008 issue of our District newsletter. This is Christmas morning. It is nice and quiet as most are sleeping in. To all, I say ... The Peace and Joy of Christmas is upon us. I thank you for your friendship. I thank you for your prayers. We recall the birth of Jesus our God of Love. We are called to share His Love.
When I last wrote in September, I mentioned that because of public recognition of the education service provided at LSSC, we won the Dabu County Public Service Award under the education category. The local TV visited us again to record another programme as the Dabu government chose us as one of four candidates for the Meizhou State award. The public is invited to participate in the process via SMS vote. It is not a one person one vote system as we are used to. It is a one mobile number one vote system. If a person has two mobile phones, he/she is entitled to two votes and so on. I am told the results will be announced just before the Spring Festival – that is, Chinese New Year as we know it.
Schools in China reopened on 1st September. La Salle Study Centre sponsored Kindergarten opened its doors for the first time with a credible enrollment of 9 students for children of Changjiao. As to be expected, with a new teacher with no teaching experience at all, the little ones were quite a handful, even with grandparents around, for the first week. The children were all new and had no experience of being in a kindergarten. At times, when one wanted a toilet break, everyone else was also dying for a leak. On the contrary, there were times, some wanted to sleep, another wanted to play and another was “enjoying” a good cry calling for the grandparents whom they knew were having tea in the school office. The second week was what I would call the “great escape” week. It was collectively decided that grandparents just leave their charges in school and go home, coming back only to collect the children after school. There were some many attempts at “breaking out” that we had to close the main gate to buy us a little time to catch up with the little escapees. Thank God, the regular teachers of the primary school were very helpful and attentive and no serious mishap happened.
The good news is by the end of November a certain amount of order could be seen. The new teacher got the hang of it and was able to manage a good mix of recreational and learning activities to keep the children interested to go to school and not get exhausted at the end of the day. The not so good news is that the physical upgrading of the facilities did not take off by the time I returned to Malaysia in early December. The local contractor awarded the job was still busy working on other jobs as householders are eager to have their renovations completed for Spring Festival 2009 which comes early on January 26th 2009.
Registration for weekend students began on 6th & 7th September. 44 students on the waiting list during the summer joined the weekend classes. Half the summer students, around 240, re-registered. We re-opened for weekend tuition on Saturday 13th Sept. The student population during the weekends fluctuates because of extra Saturday classes are offered by schools on different days.
In addition to my regular teaching assignments and night study supervision duties, I had to keep an eye on the kindergarten and spend time training my first full time student to be an English teacher. She completed her Senior High School in August 2008, did not get the grades that she worked for and decided to learn English full time at LSSC. She was one of my students in the early days, left the village during her senior high school days and had not been studying at LSSC the last 3 summers. She re-learned fast and was able to teach part of the lessons during the weekends. So, it looks like this is the beginning of two new avenues of service, the kindergarten and English language teacher training.
On Monday 29th Sept, a local Sister Kuang from the diocese of Meizhou, stayed a week at LSSC. As to be expected, her presence caused quite a stir on the first day. She arrived at about 3 p.m. and by 5 p.m. Baijiang was buzzing with rumours that “Liao Laoshi is about to get married. His girlfriend has arrived from Meixian”. Filled with curiosity, Baijiang’s adult residents began “visiting me” with the flimsiest of excuses just to “see for themselves”. Sister had a busy but interesting time. Later she told me that for the first time in her life she had the opportunity to talk to so many non-Catholics, to have to explain what it means to be a religious brother or sister, and to meet so many non-Catholics, parents of students of LSSC during the weekends.
The villagers were in for a bigger surprise for she left us on Sunday 5th Oct. and promptly returned on Monday 6th Oct with three other Sisters, including the Mother Superior of the Congregation. One out-spoken villager – popularly known as “half-catty” – asked me if I needed help to choose a “bride”. I promptly replied, to a chorus of laughter from those who, through contact with Sr. Kuang, already had some idea as to who religious brothers and sister are, that I am not choosy and to be fair, I will have four wives all at once!
On a more serious note, the visit of the Sisters helped clarify my status as the Sisters were able to communicate more effectively with the villagers in religious terminologies that I do not have in the Chinese language. It also opened up the possibility of Sisters coming to study English and to be trained as English tutors for primary school students. Their presence will be greatly appreciated in the event I open the possibility of allowing other high school leavers to participate in a training programme for English language tutors for primary schools.
Actually, the local education authorities approached me to help train English teachers. Unfortunately they are more interested that I get involved up-grading the professional skills of senior high school teachers. I can understand their rational. They want to have instant results shown in the university entrance exam. I am more interested in training primary school teachers because they will help lay the foundation of interest and ability to study English more effectively. Furthermore, from experience, I know that senior high school teachers are easily tempted to leave for greener pastures once they acquire fluency in oral English. I offered to teach and supervise 30 primary 4 teachers per year. Over a period of 6 years 180 primary school teachers will be trained to use our popular LSSC – PinPhonics method. The year of the Ox 2009 is going to be an exciting year.
Please keep me in your prayers. Volunteers for short stint of 30 days and long commitment of 100 days are most welcomed. I return to Changjiao on 8th January 2008. The winter programme begins on 12th January. From January 25th to 7th February we celebrate the Spring Festival. Come. Join the adventure at LSSC Changjiao, China!
As always with love
All good things must
come to an end...