The start of the 2013-2014 school year: 开学

My Principal asked me to speak at the “Start of School” opening ceremony in front of the whole school and administrators. Through all my nervousness and terror of being asked to give a speech in Chinese, I would like to thank my Teach for China teammates and local teachers for helping me practice!

The speech was written by me.

Thank you Principal for giving me the opportunity to speak today.

Good morning faculty and students of Lao Ying Middle School. Most importantly, I would like to welcome everyone to the start of a new school year! I would like to thank Principal Jiang, teachers, and students for making me feel at home here. I arrived to China a month ago to work with Teach for China to help bring more opportunities to students here at Lao Ying Middle School. I am so thankful and lucky to have great help and support from my teammates Zu Laoshi and Ceng Laoshi, as well as the teaching staff.

My name is Rachael Burton, I am American and I recently graduated from George Washington University studying International Relations and Chinese.  From a very young age I was motivated to go to college and make a difference in this world. When I was just your age I knew I wanted to have a career that would help others and I worked hard in school to achieve this dream.

When I was in school, I was not the brightest or smartest student. There was always someone who scored higher on the exams However, everyday I asked my teachers for help and I studied and practiced until I was successful.  Everyday I would ask my teachers what I was doing wrong, what I was doing correct, and what I could improve on. I ask you all to do the same. Your teachers here at Lao Ying Middle School will help you become a better, smarter person.

I want to speak about perseverance. Perseverance is a trait we all have within ourselves; it is a trait I learned at your age. Perseverance means to never give up. Perseverance means when you face defeat, struggles and challenges you will keep trying.

I encourage all of you to think about this term and apply it to your studies and to your life. School will prepare you for college and for your future career. In life you will often meet challenges and you might believe that you cannot achieve your goals-but if you practice perseverance you will be successful.

Second, I want to speak about personal responsibility. Everyone is responsible for their own actions.  At school you are responsible for how you treat your classmates and your teachers. It takes more courage to admit you did something wrong 。

I teach 7th grade spoken English, and for the past two week you have all learned how to say Hello my name is,  Hello how are you, Im fine how are you, and the colors red, yellow, green, blue, black, white, purple, brown.  I am so proud of what you have accomplished in only two weeks! Can you imagine what you all can accomplish in one year?

Every student, 7th 8th and 9th grade, should be thankful for his or her family and thankful for their teachers.  Most importantly, always remember to never give up, do not think your life is minimal and cannot be changed.

Thank you Principal Jiang, faculty, and students for welcoming me and my Teach for China teammates to Lao Ying Middle School, I look forward to seeing growth and improvement in your studies, I know you will all be successful!老营中学:2013-2013 开学

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The challenges

I often live on my own

I teach about 350 7th graders 口语 (spoken english) at 老营中学 (Lao Ying Middle School). I teach in China’s Yunnan Province, near the city of BaoShan. Due to limited resources and finances, my students are receiving english language instruction for the first time this year.

Challenge 1:

Students in China are expected to begin studying English in elementary school (3rd grade).  Therefore, the 7th grade standard English PEP textbook instructs under the assumption that these students have had previous exposure to the english language. One could imagine just how steep their learning curve must be. In middle school, students will face the 中考 (middle school exam)-where English will be tested.  This test will determine what high school a student will be able to attend, a higher score will lead to a better high school, which in turn will lead to more opportunities to attend college.  How is a student meant to master 6 years worth of language instruction in only 3?

Challenge 2:

Interest. English is difficult and though many students understand the language’s importance in today’s globalized world, it is hard to connect english to their reality. Most of my students might end up working in factories, construction, and service oriented occupations within the confines of their county, city, province. These occupations may not stress the necessity of speaking English, nor will my students have the opportunity to use their english language skills outside the classroom.

Challenge 3:

Me as their teacher. Though my students benefit from having an educated foreigner speak and instruct them in the english language. I wonder if the exposure is enough? Am I or will I truly be an effective teacher? Teach for China provided a summer training institute where we received instruction on pedagogy and hands on experience in the classroom-be that as it may, I did not study education in college and I find myself questioning my ability to be a teacher in the classroom.

However, despite the few challenges I have provided above, teaching the past three weeks has given me a purpose.

I learned that most of my students parents work in far-away cities and only see their children twice a year, when I asked the students who they live with while at home, many answered- I often live by myself.

These students are 12 years old with a unique dichotomy of innocence and responsibility.

My hope is to instill in them, confidence in themselves, choices for the future, and a desire to strive and expect more from oneself. Last of all, I hope to teach them a thing or two in English

104 班

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