Tag Archives: change

Teaching English to Migrant Students in Shanghai

By Jasmine Zahedi

[4 minute read]

While studying abroad in Shanghai, I had the incredible opportunity to work with Stepping Stones, a non-profit organization through which I taught English to grade school students at various Shanghai migrant schools. Through my experience, I learned that there is a huge influx of migrants moving from the farmlands and agricultural areas into Chinese cities, with Shanghai having one of the highest concentrations of migrants in China. In recent years, the government created many new schools to provide the children of migrant parents with access to education they might otherwise not receive. In theory, the idea is a good one, but there are still many underlying issues affecting the quality of education these students are receiving.

Photo by Jerry Wang on Unsplash

Stepping Stones placed me at Huabo Lixing Hang School, an elementary school about an hour away from the university campus at which I was studying. When I first arrived, I immediately noticed that the area was much poorer than the area in which I lived in and went to school. I noticed that even the inhabitants looked recognizably different (or distinguishable) from the Shanghainese people I normally saw in the city, probably due to the fact that they originally came from inland provinces such as Anhui, Hunan, and Sichuan.

The government chartered school I worked at clearly stood out from the rest of the environment. Its modern architecture seemed out of place among the surrounding buildings and shops. The classes were packed with students. A normal class size was around 60 which, as one might imagine, made teaching English incredibly difficult. The children were extremely excited to learn, but there were many daily challenges in the classroom. Having so many peers, the students were often rowdy and distractible, and the ones in the back of the classroom had trouble understanding what was occurring at the front. Furthermore, the children were all greatly varied in their English abilities. This is a common characteristic in migrant schools, as students who weren’t born in Shanghai have a wide range of educational history. One of the Chinese volunteers who worked with me in the classroom told me that her elementary school was nothing like this. She said everyone was always well-behaved because parents reinforced their children’s behavior at home. Unfortunately, with parents that often have to work late, these children tended to have very different home lives, and these differences translated into the classroom.

Continue reading Teaching English to Migrant Students in Shanghai

Dreaming of Tanzania

By Ashna Tanna

I come from dark nights without electricity, to vibrant fireworks. From scorching heat, to shivering showers. From 20 people crowded around a tiny 1996 Samsung television watching Manchester United play Chelsea, to the largest screen in East Africa. From arrogant mosquitoes, to twirling palm trees, from skin burns, to cooling coconut juice.

I come from an international school with “Twiga” domes, swimming pools, music rooms, a couple of holes in the ceiling, stacks of year books, heart-warming teachers, and a bunch of completely strange teenagers. I come from sleeping with rats when climbing Mount Kilimanjaro with 24 of my friends, while also listening to the stories of the porters who have been climbing the mountain for 20 years.

I come from literature that has been shaped by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and I come from a severe case of eye-rolling from questions like “OMG if you’re from Africa do you have elephants in your backyard?”. The ironic compositions of my environment, and the contrasts that continue to lace my life have given “my world” diversity that extends beyond diverse ethnicities, but stem from a diversity of opportunities. I have seen young girls walking with broomsticks to school, and I have seen students go off abroad to study. With two ends of an incredibly large spectrum, I have come to understand that opportunities are scarce, and that one should always be ready for them, and that no matter how hard your life is, there is no such thing as a life that’s better than yours.

I come from split cultures that have been merged through history. The cultural foundations of my life have influenced how I understand people, how I make decisions, and how I continue to try and break stereotypes, defend authenticity and truly value the cards I have been dealt. I have been privileged enough to have a sheltered, but exposed childhood, where I have had several opportunities and international experiences that allow me to thrive in any global environment.

Despite my “global” exposure, moving to LA for college was something I initially struggled with. I missed the warm ocean water, I missed my amazing friends, I missed the food, I missed the music, I missed the people, the language, the sunsets, the sunrises, the humidity, I missed everything, and I still do. At first, swimming amongst a sea of blonde hair was overwhelming, and I became so attached to what I had lost, that I forgot to live and enjoy what I was so blessed to have. I didn’t bother to meet new people (how could I possibly find better friends than the ones I already have?), I didn’t explore LA (because what could be better than my city), I didn’t make any effort to embrace anything. Eventually however, with time, I changed my perspective.

I made it a priority to explore as many opportunities, places and food as I possibly could. Embracing change, and adapting to change is a skill, and I envied people who mastered the ability to change with time, because I really struggled with this. However, I have finally realized that change is less scary when you understand that you have control over how you are going to react to that change. Your attitude can shape your relationship with change and lead to an abundance of fun times, stories, and opportunities if you allow it. I have made some really great friends here, met some really inspiring professors and have accomplished things I never would have dreamed of. And of course, I still miss home, but it’s comforting to know that my relationship with my friends back home have strengthened over time despite the distance, and I haven’t really lost anything, but instead, I have gained so much. I love LA in all its basic-ness, and you may just catch me chilling on the beach, dreaming of a Tanzanian sunset while sipping on some Starbucks iced coffee with nonfat milk.

Featured image from Wikipedia

Continue reading Dreaming of Tanzania

Teaching Men To Fish (Metaphorically): Pondering the Educational System

By Autumn Palen

A few days ago, standing across the kitchen island from my roommate, we discussed what our TED Talks would be, were we given the chance to have one. I talked about potentially studying the correlation between old parents and nerdy kids. Hers was much better. She had one in mind right off the bat, apparently having already pondered over it for quite a while.

My roommate works as a volunteer teacher throughout the week, helping 2nd and 3rd graders learn the fundamentals of science and math. Her TED Talk, as she had intricately sketched out in her mind, would focus on the inadequacies of the educational system. She had particularly noticed that many teachers of scientific subjects — Chemistry, Physics, Biology — teach facts, figures, and solutions, but not how to arrive at these conclusions. This method of teaching is all fine and good for passing quizzes and tests, but is detrimental to the future individual development of knowledge in these fields. Students know what the answers are because they’ve memorized them, but many may be incapable of finding the answer on their own, or knowing why the answer is found in a particular way.

You give a man a fish, and he’ll be fed for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll be fed for a lifetime. This is an old adage, saying that instant gratification is all fine and good (and gratifying), but the apprehension of a skill, while more difficult, pays off into the foreseeable future.

Continue reading Teaching Men To Fish (Metaphorically): Pondering the Educational System