Give Students a Chance to Think and Practice

Last day of training in Feicheng City, Shandong Province, China. Tomorrow we begin the three-day trek back home.

I wish to share with you the speech I gave this morning at the closing ceremonies:

Many years ago, I heard a quote that shaped the way I have taught my students. It goes like this: “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” As you probably know, this quote is from your great teacher, Confucius.

You know that if you only talk to your students, and your students simply listen, they will probably forget what you say and learn very little. If you show them pictures when you are talking, they might remember, for a while…if they are paying attention. However, when you show the students what to do, if you practice with the students, and then give them a chance to practice on their own, you are giving them the opportunity to DO. You are helping them to understand, to remember, and to learn.

I told you that everything I taught you has the same focus. Everything you’ve learned will help your students to THINK. By DOING….by WRITING, your students will think more deeply. They will understand more about the English language and more about themselves and their world.

Give your students many opportunities to write. You do not always need to give them long writing assignments. Give them short assignments…a few words or sentences can help them to practice a skill, for example, using vocabulary words correctly, using verbs correctly, or using the right punctuation in a sentence.

Make sure that your students write something every day. Make them write words. Make them write sentences. At some point, they will be able to write a paragraph and then a long passage. Use the Active Student Engagement Strategies that you learned from all of us. Use the Reading Strategies and the Writing Strategies. When you use the strategies, you are giving your students many opportunities to DO. You are giving them many opportunities to understand. You are giving them many opportunities to learn English.

I have enjoyed the past few weeks with you wonderful teachers, and I have learned that you are the best people on earth. I thank you for giving me the opportunity to understand you and your incredible Chinese culture. I leave you with another quote from Confucius: “Wherever you go, go with all your heart.” I want to add to the great teacher’s words. “Whatever you teach, and whomever you teach, teach with all your heart.”  Thank you.

Our participants and the people of the education bureau and the four of us American trainers.

Our participants and the people of the education bureau and the four of us American trainers.

Respect for Elders

I understand that, based on the teachings of Confucius, respect for elders has been the foundation of Chinese culture and morality for more than a thousand years. 
 
Last summer, when the teachers in my workshop learned my age (only 60) they referred to me as a “senior citizen” and were astounded that I would still be working; they said that their moms (who are my age) live with them, are taken care of, and do very little work other than play with the little one (their words). I must admit that there have been a few times when I’ve longed to retire in China at 60 rather than continue working in the US until 70 or so. My 81-year-old mother, by the way, just recently quit working. 
 
While wandering around the streets of Shanghai this past week, I’ve frequently seen an elderly person on the arm of a younger person — I assume a daughter or son. I compared this sweet relationship to our seemingly barbaric practice of putting our elderly in nursing homes.

 
 
But I googled it tonight, initially searching for Confucius’ teachings on the relationship between parent and child and on showing respect to the elderly. My search eventually led me to disturbing information that challenges my previous conception that those over 60 live out their golden years in ease.
 
The traditional social security system in China has been the family. But, according to the  sources I read tonight, that support is dwindling. See  “ELDERLY PEOPLE, RETIREMENT AND GRAYING OF CHINA.” In addition, it seems that there is a shortage of nursing homes and retirement centers.
 
With China’s one child per family policy, there are fewer children to take care of mom when she can no longer support herself. In many rural areas, with the flight of young people to the cities, dad’s situation is precarious. A Time article dated August 31, 2011, “100 Million Elderly: China’s Demographic Time Bomb,” indicates that many of China’s growing population of old people live alone and many in hardship.