Teach Conversational English
in Eastern Europe, China and Turkey
WE GET LETTERS
Please share this letter with any person who is interested in the BFE program.[...]
First, I have been involved with both classroom teaching and administration for over three decades. Additionally, I hold a doctorate and have worked extensively in curriculum development. That said, I fully endorse the BFE program.
The structure organizationally is to empower terachers to work effectively with students. Because teachers are free to design lessons, the magic of working with students -- their interests and your interests -- shines through.
The team, while definitely diverse in composition, functioned as a unit. We were individuals, and certainly personalities dictated that some interpersonal relationships would be stronger than others. The students only knew that we functioned as a team. It was a delight! People shared lessons, tips, ideas, and helped out. I had previously worked with a team in Krakow that did not have strong leadership, but even with that team, students came first. I could write pages about this experience. Without a doubt, it was the benchmark...possibly the best professional experience of my life. I adored my students and keep in contact with many of them. The teaching assistants were great...from help in the classroom to personal assistance (where to get stamps and buy jade). We felt honored by all the Chinese -- both individuals in the city as well as those we met traveling. Students valued our teaching and reminded me of why I entered education in the first place.
I have traveled extensively, but I could not duplicate this experience. I was part of a huge Chinese family. I was honored and everyone we met was thrilled that we would come to China to teach. Whatever Beth writes about the warmth of the Chinese is a pale reflection of the reality. Everywhere we were, we were treated as celebrities....pretty heady stuff for terachers, huh?
However, I do not wish to ignore the facts of the hard work and the unrelenting heat of South China. Our accomodations were the best we could be offered and were fine. Classrooms had fans...and a Chinese staff that struggled to make sure they worked, and that we had water and every creature comfort possible. I value privacy and quiet and there was precious little of that. We ate our meals with the students, ran afternoon and evening activities, and even spent our free time with them. It was vastly rewarding, but exhausting. Beth, as GL, and the rest of the staff, cooperated in trying to provide adequate free time for teachers.
Should I write about the noodle shop where five of us dined for less than $2...and the bill had already been paid by a complete stranger? How about the strangers who stopped us on the street and gestured for their children's photos to be taken with us? The church service where we were given seats of honor...under the fans? The students were so excited about "Sit and Chat," a chance to talk about their country and learn about ours that they packed the room beyond seating capacity.
I ate with families, met relatives, somehow communicated with people who had no English and got involved with a group of shopkeepers to order tee shirts. I discussed my life in America with students who soaked up every word. I apologized for my mistakes in their culture, but they had already totally accepted me. I tried foods I've never heard of, and was offered full time teaching positions. I saw wedding photos, got measured for a dress, went to a private dealer to buy jade...and all the while shared so much of this with students who felt it was a privilege to have the opportunity to learn better English and about another life.
I came to this experience believing I was flexible and desiring to be an ambasador for the US. I was rewarded beyond any preconceived notions. I am a changed person in many ways. I value things I took for granted and I have broadened my own views. Honestly, I believe that I owe Bridges a debt that can never be repaid.
To any interested person - snatch this opportunity! Carpe diem! No other experience comes close. Good luck and please feel free to contact me should you have any questions.
September 16, 2004, The Vancouver Sun
Canadian Teachers Can Lead Others to Peace.
This past July, I was a volunteer teacher in an English-Language camp in Eastern Europe that included Russian, Chechen, Ingushetian and Romanian youth. We used the Vancouver Sun articles "Mixed City" from May 2004 in our discussions. In one class we explored the issue of crime becoming racialized and a Russian student Kirill, finally said what was in everyone's mind: "Everyone knows it's the Chechens who are the criminals here...." Sitting just down from him was Fariza, a Chechen girl and I could see defensiveness and hostility rising in her eyes. Thankfully, the young man continued: "...but after being at this camp, I've seen that they're just regular people, like you and me..." Canadians are well-known for our proactive approach to contributing to solutions to world conflicts, and I highly recommend this experience to any teacher who is willing to volunteer and be stretched."
Sylvia Watt, Letter to the Editor
This is how most BFE campers from Kosovo, Albania, Serbia, Poland, Romania, Georgia and Armenia evaluate their camp experiences: