Thanks to Huang Wu who helped stage this awesome photo.
This year I took an extra plunge at being the learner to walk in my learner’s shoes. I placed an application for the Chinese Scholarship Programme to Beijing. This week I received news that I have been selected as one of twelve New Zealand educators to go. I am super excited. I have been to China twice before.
The first time to Shanghai to visit my homestay. The second time to Winan about three hours north of Xian, famous for terracotta warriors. The focus of my second trip was to attend my homestay wedding. This time I will be visiting Beijing home to our current Mandarin Language Assistant.
Last year I was in a massive learning curve as I opted to learn and teach Chinese as part of my role as an ALLiS Lead teacher for Newmarket School. I always say I would never ask teachers to do anything I was not prepared to do myself. Pushing my comfort zone and with encouragement from our TPDL tutors, I sat and passed HSK Level 1.
I pulled together all my learning for 2016 and included this in my application.
When I reflected on the past year for learning, it was massive. My biggest reminder is how hard it is to learn a language. Especially one with a different script and with tone nuances. It took me ages to memorise characters for numbers and even some basic characters. I still rely on Pinyin which is our script and know that I have to work really hard to leave that behind as a learning crutch.
One of the focus of the scholarship is developing intercultural communicative competence. An area that I am passionate about. There will be some extra-curricular activities such as visiting historical sites, experiencing life on a Chinese university campus, a homestay, a visit to Hanban and school visits. I really hope to climb the great wall of China and take the tourist selfie. I am especially keen on participating in immersion tasks designed to encourage interaction in everyday situations. I felt a little discouraged during the summer vacation when I met a new Chinese family and I could not pull my formulaic phrases out fast enough. I hope I can put to use my Thursday lessons with my student tutors who worked with me for most of last year.
Our trip host will be Jiwei Fu, National Adviser for Chinese, ILEP and programme host. We will be based at the Beijing Language and Culture University and if that is no more than a coincident but that is the university of our current Mandarin Language Assistant Xuan.
Next week we will all meet together and begin the induction programme. I hope everyone is on WeChat the Chinese Social Media Communication space.
While I am away my usual social media tools will be blocked by the great firewall of China but that is not a problem because this year at my school most of the teachers have been using WeChat with our community so I will be able to keep in contact with school. I will also be able to communicate with my host daughter in Shanghai who has had a baby. I would have loved the opportunity to pop over there to hold her but that will have to wait for another visit.
I often just do things because I believe I have nothing to lose but in order for this trip to go ahead I needed my principal’s and board’s approval and my sisters support because they will be looking after my aging parents while I am gone.
Why am I going? Well for me the greatest reason is to learn more about the children that I teach. I want to make stronger connections. A key towards empathy is learning some of their language and learning about where they come from. I am an ACCoS Across School Leader and in our Community of Learners we have identified that our Chinese learners are growing in greater numbers.
Where to next
When I return from my journey I am expected to share and implement what I learnt with our students. In addition I am expected to share at clusters, networks, language associations, conferences and various other professional development sessions including my work colleagues. I am also expected to continue teaching Mandarin which I will do. Part of that includes continuing with my night classes at Unitec with Huang and learning Mandarin alongside other amazing people. This year I set a personal goal of achieving HSK Level 2. If you want to know more about WeChat download the phone app and then look for me. My id is: Ulimasao. I love WeChat for the ease I have with translating from the language being used for communication and back into my own language. What an absolute gem for our migrant families.