50 Students Teach English in China & Taiwan

50 Students Teach English in China & Taiwan
Cal Poly Pomona education students and faculty take a break from teaching at the Great Wall of China.
Cal Poly Pomona students teach English to students in China.
This summer students taught English in Taiwan for the first time.

Fifty aspiring teachers recently returned from an intensive month-long stint teaching English in China and Taiwan.

Students who participated in the Teaching English in China Program spent about eight months preparing lesson plans, and they each lugged their own teaching materials across the globe in their carry-on luggage.

“It was something that I was terrified at first to do actually,” says Jennifer Smith, who participated in the program for the second time this summer. “It's life changing because you develop this sense of self confidence, and it tears down the fear of the unknown.”

Schools in China and Taiwan paid for the students' room and board and travel expenses in exchange for their services.

The program is in its sixth year, and is directed by professors Karen Russikoff and Liliane Fucaloro of the English and Foreign Languages Department. Five teams of 10 students each taught at seven summer English immersion camps in Zhejiang and Sichuan Provinces as well as Beijing and, for the first time this year, in Taiwan. The program curriculum covered elementary, middle school, high school and college.

“The selection process begins in the fall and has become increasingly competitive, but each year we seek the best and most diligent students,” Russikoff says. “Everyone teaches nearly six hours per day, and in the heat, this means rigorous work. By the end of the camp, all have taught the equivalent of two quarters of language education.”

Students gain in numerous ways, including confidence, second-language pedagogy, cultural recognition and understanding, and classroom management, she adds.

“Community college and school district employers have often commented that students who have participated in this program make the best teachers at their schools,” Russikoff says.

Students who are accepted into the program are those who plan to teach and are willing to work seriously for their own professional development, the good of the team and for the English language growth and motivation of Chinese or Taiwanese students.

Preparation begins in January. The students each teach with a partner, often one who has taught in China during a previous year and who becomes a mentor. This allows students, new to teaching, a comfortable place to build skills. The preparation  includes developing lesson plans and materials, working from themes and teaching as a team. It also includes cultural and geographic awareness, language teaching sensitivities, and practical considerations for travel and work abroad.

Smith, who is a graduate student and lecturer, was a mentor this summer after going through the culture shock last year. Until her trip to China, she had never traveled abroad and was still developing her confidence in teaching.

“You learn so much by just being in front of a classroom,” she says.

Smith, who taught Chinese middle-school students, was humbled by their ability and willingness to learn English.

“They make you feel like a million bucks,” she added.

Any students who may be interested in the 2007 program should contact Professor Karen Russikoff at (909) 869-3836 before November.