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Article by New Confucius Institute Teacher Zou Ke Published in China

The following article by Zou Ke, a new Confucius Institute teacher in the Lewiston Porter Central School District, was published in the Confucius Institute journal and then republished by the People’s Daily (Overseas Edition). Teacher Zou describes her initial experiences in America and explains the process of adapting to the American school setting. The article appears below, first in English, then in Chinese.

An Observant and Conscientious Chinese Teacher Comes to Buffalo

On August 23, 2018, with my heavy luggage and best wishes from my family and friends, I arrived in the United States and started my new journey of Chinese education as a Confucius Institute guest teacher in Lewiston Porter Primary School.

Lewiston is a quiet and beautiful town near the famous Niagara Falls. As an adventurer thrust into a new work and living environment, I have needed to adapt actively to so many things.

Time always flies so fast with fulfilling work. It’s hard to imagine that I have been in the United States for more than a month already. With the warmhearted support provided by directors of the University at Buffalo Confucius Institute and my colleagues, I am settling well into my daily life and education work.

Before I came to the United States, I had been an English teacher for 12 years. But here I am very green. As a newcomer, more observation and more questions become the most direct way for me to gain more experience.

At the same time, I have been trying my best to draw on my previous language teaching experience to help with the present teaching tasks. I have put a lot of effort into the details of establishing a positive learning environment, managing the classroom and teaching Chinese. I hope my methods can help ignite students’ interest in leaning and facilitate study of Chinese language and of China itself.

Elementary educators in the United States pay lots of attention to the learning environment of the classrooms. Every classroom reveals something about the unique style of the teacher. Even though there is a big diversity of styles, there are some common elements of classroom settings, such as colorful decorations and clearly-divided areas in the room.

After observation, in addition to the original Chinese-style classroom, I decorated the classroom with more colorful frames and English letters, and the favorite Chinese animal of American kids—the panda. I also divided the classroom into different areas in order to make the classroom clearer and more vivid for students, so it will be pleasant when walking into the Chinese classroom.

Lewiston Porter is a highly-regarded local public school in which teachers provide clear rules and expectations for student achievement and behavior. However, kids can still be little trouble-makers in the class. After observing classes of the former Chinese guest teacher and American teachers, I established the classroom rules on the first day. Those rules are very detailed, including how to properly raise hands to answer questions and excuse themselves to go to the restroom. I reinforce those rules with my students in every class and consistently enforce them.

Since I need to teach 20 classes, I write down special comments on the roster for each class in order to be able to recognize my students’ names as quickly as possible. Practice has proved that’s very helpful for management of my teaching. During class time, it’s common to see two or three students sitting together on the carpet and having side conversations that can distract the class. At the Confucius Institute teacher workshop at the University at Buffalo in September, a teacher shared a very useful method of keeping students in their own spot. The method is basically to use tape to divide the carpet into grids and have students sit inside assigned grids. That method efficiently prevents students from squeezing together or having too much physical contact. I found this method is very useful after I tried it in my classroom.

In addition, I greet or have simple conversations with my students in Chinese outside of the classroom before class, or use a rhythmic Chinese song to start class. Those steps are all helpful to quickly getting students into a learning frame of mind and increasing their sense of ritual.

I teach 20 classes in Lewiston Porter. The majority of my students are from 5 to 8 years old, including kindergarten and classes with multiple ages. Students who are young in age generally can only concentrate for around 20 minutes in class, and then tend to feel very tired if they keep studying beyond that time.

I try to design every class with interesting activities based on the students’ age range. These students are very actively participating in class activities, so teachers need to be patient in giving opportunities for every student to present his or her own ideas instead of shutting down students during the class period. Organizing hands-on activities serves this function. Besides providing detailed instructions in the beginning, more patience is needed in guiding students so that every student can successfully finish the work and enjoy the sense of achievement.

American teachers in the school are very enthusiastic. Sometimes, I will also go to the school cafeteria after class, taste each kind of food, and praise the cook for the delicious chicken they cooked the day before.

Besides that, having conversations, sharing funny stories with local teachers, and participating in all kinds of cultural and charitable events are all helpful for me to blend into American culture. As a new teacher, I hope I can make a positive contribution to Chinese education. As long as you always observe and are attentive to details, there are always new and fantastic experiences waiting for you.

 

做汉语教育的“多心人”

邹可 孔子学院院刊 《孔子学院》2018年10月14日
2018年8月23日,我拖着行李,带着家人和朋友沉甸甸的祝福来到了美国,在纽约州立布法罗大学孔子学院下设孔子课堂Lewiston-porter 小学部做中文访问教师,开启了汉语教育的新旅程。Lewiston是一个美丽安宁的小镇,离著名的尼亚加拉大瀑布不远。初来乍到,新的环境,新的工作伙伴,有很多事情需要主动去适应。充实的时间总是过得飞快,不知不觉已经在美国工作一个月整了。在孔子学院院长和各位同事的热心帮助下,目前生活与教学已经基本稳定下来。接受汉办的委派前,我只是一名普通的小学英语教师。作为一个并不年轻的“新人”,多观察,多开口问成为我获取经验的最直接途径,并力求能与自己原有的语言教学经验结合起来。基于儿童心理、生理和认知特点,我在环境创设、课堂管理和教学等各方面上着重细节,希望能激发学生的学习兴趣,有助于更好地开展汉语教学。
在环境创设上用心
美国小学教师十分注重教室的布置,每间教室虽然极具教师的个人风格,各有亮点,但基本都具备两个共同点:色彩丰富,区域分明。我在教室原有中国风的基础上加入了一些彩色字母、边框装饰和美国儿童最喜爱的“大熊猫”,并将分成了几个版块,希望能做到鲜明清晰,让学生乐意走进中文教室。
在课堂管理上细心
Lewiston-porter是当地一所不错的公立学校,老师对学生的日常行为规范要求比较严格。但是也难免会有一些小调皮“欺负”新老师。在观察了前任汉语老师和其他美国老师的课堂后,上课的第一天我就立好了细致的课堂规则,比如说如何举手回答问题,课堂上如何请假上卫生间等等。并在以后的课堂反复强调、一以贯之;由于有二十个任教班级,我将每个班的花名册细分在folder上,并作一些特殊备注,争取能尽快叫出学生的名字。实践证明,这会对教学管理有非常大的帮助;课堂上经常有两三个要好的孩子挤在一起坐在地毯上,难免相互聊天影响听课。在9月份布法罗孔院组织的的教师培训中,李岩老师分享了一个很好的经验,用胶带将地毯分割成小方块,让孩子坐在各自的区域,这样既解决了拥挤的状况,又减少孩子之间的肢体接触。尝试以后,我感觉这个小点子很有效,在此也与大家分享一下。另外,上课前在教室门口用中文和每一个孩子问好或者简单对话,或者用一首朗朗上口的中文歌作为教学的开始,这些也是迅速使学生进入学习状态、增加仪式感的好方法。
在教学过程中耐心
在Lewiston-porter,我的教学对象主要是5-8岁的孩子。普通低龄孩子的注意力大概能保持20分钟左右,再持续学习就会感觉疲惫。在我的二十个教学班级中,有Kindergarten的小娃娃,刚刚开始学习英文字母;也有混合年龄班Muti-age的孩子,年纪各不相同,其中有的还是特殊学生。每堂课我都分年龄段设计一些有趣味的教学活动。当地孩子参与课堂活动的积极性非常高,所以教师要耐心的让每一个孩子都能够有表现自己的机会,千万不能让孩子在课堂上感到沮丧。进行手工活动时亦如此,除了动手之前给出详细指令,更要耐心的给予每一个孩子指导,让每一个孩子都能做出成功的作品,享受成就感。
在其他方面留心
学校的美国教师都很热情。在课余,我也会走进食堂,尝试每一种食物,夸一夸阿姨昨天的鸡肉很好吃;与本土老师们聊天玩笑;参与学校各种文化与募捐活动,尝试融入他们的文化。作为一个新老师,我真心感谢孔院的院长及学校各位老师的引领。希望能为汉语教学尽小小一份力,只要留心,处处都是新体验,也想把这最初的教学心得与大家分享。
作者简介:
邹可,湖南省长沙市实验小学英语教师,英语教研组长。现任教于美国纽约州立布法罗大学孔子学院下属Lewiston-Porter孔子课堂。