This is one of two community service trips that Lotus hosts and one of the more special activities that we will get to participate in on this trip. Today we all loaded onto the Lotus bus, along with many other Lotus volunteers, and headed to our destination.
Before I go into more depth of what we did, let me first give you some background on what a migrant school is. Lotus provided us with a handout that I will quote. According to this handout, “since the 1990s, rapid economical development of China attracts a mass of rural population flow to big cities, especially Beijing.” But, as things are, these migrant workers are not considered legal residents by the Beijing government. Because of this, the kids of these families are not entitled to an education. This means that these kids depend on “school[s that are] generally run by private persons. There is no special standard for teachers,” so any person who is willing and able can be a teacher. Lotus says, “there are more than 200 schools for children of migrant workers in Beijing and about 200,000 students.” If you do the math, this is roughly 1000 students per school. And, of course, since these are not official schools, they are “in poor conditions and few teaching equipments.”
Our job for this trip was to teach these kids several English words (head, shoulders, knees, hands, and face) and then a song (“If you’re happy and you know it”) for them to remember them by (we changed the words).
Upon arrival at the school, volunteers were assigned to work with various group sof Chinese kids. My group was wonderful. All of the kids were very bright (ranging from age 10-13), and several knew how to introduce themselves in English. Teaching in another language is not easy, but everyone managed. After practicing the words several times we did a game of ‘Simon says.’ Evan was in my group and the three girls that he taught were astonishingly confident, but this was not always the case. Some of the girls seemed intimidated by their friends’ capabilities and were more timid because of it.
In my group there was one girl who could not answer as quickly as the others and so was deterred a little. Noticing this, I switched up my teaching method and had it so only one person answered my question at a time. After I did this, the girl picked it up very quickly. I can’t help but think, though, that this kind of attention to a single student is not always possible. I wonder how she will fare in the future. No doubt she has a better chance than most in her position.
The school is a one story building with a 50 foot or so courtyard placed in the center. Once inside the courtyard there are about 8 or so doorways to classrooms. Each classroom was about 10’ by 15’ if I were to guess, all crammed with wooden desks and garnished by one very unattractive chalkboard.
After having class, everyone’s groups came together in front of the school to sing “If you’re happy and you know it,” first in English and then in Chinese. After that we got to take pictures and talk with the kids for a little while before we had to leave. Olivia, Kelsey…well actually all of the girls I believe, had made little Chinese boyfriends and the guys were very popular as well.
I have to say it was a wonderful experience and, after having talked with the Maret students, I know that they were all moved. This is surely an experience they will remember for a very long time. I think they had more influence on the kids than they realize.