by Kelly W., and Allison Z., High School Global Development Studies students
If you ever have a chance to visit Qingsi village in the spring, you will get lost in the endless rows of canola flowers, flooding into your vision, perfectly golden under the yellow sun. The brown soil hides, resting contently in the shade, while the green peaks through, flirtatiously moving in the brisk breeze. The sound of children’s laughter will ring in your ears, old women picking up the planted chives in their yards, lost in conversation about who knows what. The tranquility around you slows down your pace, broaden your steps; your eyelids struggle against the morning sun so you succumb and think: maybe it’s time for a nap.
The soft-spoken morning takes an abrupt turn once you enter the church.
9:30 in the morning, the students, some animated with chatter and giggles and movement, others sluggish, still half asleep, sit promptly in their seats. Some boys still have their skateboards wrapped in their arms; others are reaching into their bags and digging out their textbooks. Regardless, within minutes, the students are ready to learn.
This is where we spend our Saturday mornings.
Thanks to the course Applied Global Development, we, a group of Concordia High School students, have embarked on our own initiative to help migrant children in Shanghai grow holistically — as critical thinkers, courageous speakers, and curious learners.
Our project is now finally taking shape and we are hopeful that we will create positive change in the lives of these students.
Looking back, we encountered many difficulties throughout the initial stages of our project. Not considering the hours of brainstorming and series of interviews we had conducted, the beginning of our project marked a time of experimentation when events rarely ever transpired as expected.
Subsequent to teaching at a migrant village, we observed that our migrant students, though, like all students, were in need of academic support, lacked the guidance in practicing some valuable life skills such as confidence and respect.
Thus, we sketched out our goals: to not only teach migrant students English but also provide them with opportunities to grow as strong, independent, and curious learners.
With these goals in mind, we created lesson plans, drawing ideas and inspiration from organizations like Shining Star and Adream Foundation. In all honesty, we were pretty clueless and unsure of whether our lessons reflected our purpose and if our activities would interest the students.
Today, we have two ongoing projects. The first is the Pen Pal Project, where our students at the migrant village become friends with students from Concordia’s elementary school through handwritten letters.
The other is our original lesson plan, My Adventure, which was created to foster a love for learning and the courage for speaking up in each of our migrant children.
Already, we have noticed remarkable growth in our students.
When writing letters for the Pen Pal Project, the same boys that put little to no effort in scribbling a couple of words on a scrap piece of paper are now taking time to construct long eloquent sentences in English and decorate their cards with colorful drawings. One of our favorite students from the third-grade class, Danny, had invited his pen pal Crystal to enjoy lobsters and ride the airplane with him, only to be told that she is allergic to seafood and gets plane sick. As if the girl of his dreams had just turned him down, Danny smiled shyly to mask his disappointment. However, remaining determined, he tilted his head up and asked: “do you think if I invited her to ride the car with me, she will say that she gets carsick too?”
When presenting in front of an audience, the same students who could only muster a whisper and attempt to run away every five seconds, can now speak up louder and stand up taller. Gabby, whose first presentation lasted no longer than a few seconds of panic, now, though still shy and nervous in her stance, looks straight at her audience, pacing her sentences and amplifying her voice.
Our opportunity to be teachers every weekend continues to be a wonderfully rewarding experience we are grateful to have, full of joy and laughter tinged with a slight fear of “when will we lose our voice?” Amidst all the yelling and smiling, we have tested the limits of our patience, but felt the sweetest sense of pride seeing our students present. Come time to harvest the canola seeds, how much growth would we see in our students?