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About Books and Materials for Rural Teachers

Written by Doug and Liz Searles
June 27, 2006

Doug and Liz Searles – China

The Searles in Chengdu, here. We're gearing up for the end of the term, finals, grading, etc. Here students have their longest holiday during Spring Festival, in January and February. In June and July, it gets hotter and hotter and more and more humid, and the dormitories get stuffier and stuffier, but the students must persevere, study late, and take huge exams, all while living in small rooms with 6 or more students to a room, and no air conditioning--not even a fan.

Our teachers from minority areas--Tibetan, Qiang and Yi--are eager to start their journeys home, on the other side of the mountains. A few must travel five days from Chengdu by bus and minibus to get to their homes. Many of the teachers left spouses and children to take advantage of the teacher training program

One teacher in the program has twins. She teaches at the School of Hope in Danba, aGlobal Ministries project, and has come to Chengdu for two years to upgrade her skills. While she is in Chengdu, one twin is with her parents, and the other is with her husband's parents. Her husband works in yet another town. It's a "four-point family."

Next summer(of 2007), 25 teachers will graduate from the minority teacher program. We are beginning now to plan for the "teacher packs" we will give each studentand to wish them well as they embark on their new professional lives.The teacher packs help teachers teach real English, and help them move away from teaching by rote to more communicative methodologies. With us they have learned: 1) "students are people, not parrots"; 2) "respond--don't repeat"; and 3) "teach the student, and not the book." This is a difficult shift, especially when teachers, themselves, have learned by rote. Even now, many teachers of English in China are not confident enough to speak English spontaneously in the classroom. They repeat and recite from the book, teaching grammar first, in Chinese.

To see pictures of teachers selecting books for their classrooms, check out our new picture site. We'll be loading more images soon: http://imageevent.com/searles/teachersselectingbooks.

Why are these teachers and their rural students learning English? Like it or not, almost all Chinese students must pass an English exam to go on to high school or university. Students with no English instruction, or poor English instruction, may not go on to school. They can't pass the entrance exams.

Many thanks for your continued interest and support--thanks from us, and from the teachers and students whose possibilities are expanded, thanks to you!

The Searles family in Chengdu, China: Douglas, Elizabeth and McCleary (and Mackenzie in the U.S.)

Doug and Elizabeth Searles work with the Sichuan TV and Radio University in Chengdu, China. They both serve as English teachers.

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