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Teacher Training

June 7, 2010

As many of you may remember, in May 2008 Sichuan province was struck by a terrible earthquake that killed more than 80,000 people. Many of the schools in the affected area collapsed, killing the students and teachers inside.

Even though the government has done an impressive job of rebuilding after the quake, finding new teachers to fill the hundreds or thousands of openings in rural schools will take years. Especially since many of the areas are less than desirable placements with low salaries.

This last week Lynnea (my fiancé) and I were able to travel to Deyang(德阳) and Guangyuan(广元) counties and take part in training of about 200 new English teachers. I believe these new teachers are going to be a much needed ray of hope in the communities they will serve. Most of them will be working in primary and middle schools. The teachers are a diverse group. For most of them teaching is going to be a new vocation. Some had been translators; others had been working in small businesses, but had volunteered when there was a need. Unfortunately, this means that few of them had any formal training as teachers, and some of them can hardly speak English. None-the-less, they are the teachers available.

Even though our time with them was limited, we were able to introduce them to several activities they could use in their classes to make them more interesting for their students. Most Chinese teachers prefer to lecture about grammar or the use of new vocabulary, which tends to be boring and ineffective. The teachers seemed nervous about using these new ideas in their classes, but were driven to be great teachers.

At the end of one session a teacher told me that in her school the headmaster said that her English classes were unimportant, the class grew a bit quiet, it seemed like most of them were in the same situation. I told her that, "teachers are in a unique position, no matter how good or bad the text book, no matter how fast or slow the students, it is the teacher that makes the difference, not only that, but neither the headmaster nor the parents decide how interested the students are in your class, that too is up to you, the teacher. You are the most important piece in your students' education." The teachers at the training nodded in approval, and you could almost see their responsibilities shifting from a heavy burden to a source of energy and empowerment.

The training was a reminder of how long a process it is to recover from natural disasters, it will be decades before things are back to "normal" in Sichuan. At the same time it was a reminder of the strength humanity has to recover from losses so great, that even knowing "normalcy" is far away, they can focus on what they need to do today and work towards that future. I could not be more proud to say that we are a part of that here in Sichuan, as well as everywhere else Global Ministries sends personnel to serve with communities in their times of need.

Tom Morse

Tom Morse serves with the Amity Foundation of China as an English teacher   

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