Alumni Comments 2013

I thought the management at the school site was good. I appreciated that Faye and Maggie were visible and available throughout the program. The teacher’s workroom was well-stocked. The printing office was helpful and timely with our requests. I know some of the American teachers had issues with technology, so maybe posting pictures of the needed AV adaptors for both Mac and PC would be helpful for future participants so they know exactly what to buy stateside. If possible, it would be nice to have a second air conditioner in each classroom near the front of the room. It was extremely hot in the front of the classrooms, which is where the majority of the technology is (adding heat to the room), where the teacher stands and where group activities take place - games, skits, etc.

I liked the culture lessons a lot. It would be nice if the painting class was long enough to do 2 paintings - the first painting to practice the technique and the second one to take home and show off our skill to family/friends. :)

I felt the food at the school was good. I enjoyed many of the dishes, so I didn’t have a favorite dish. I also appreciated the “nicer” meals, such as the Welcome Lunch. It was nice when they started offering tea at lunch in addition to soda. I’d also like to say that the Farewell Dinner was excellent (as was the spontaneous dance party!). I would definitely recommend the school return to that restaurant with future groups.

The accommodations were good in each of the cities. Apart from a few anomalies that could happen at any hotel (leaking toilet in Nanjing, quirky light switches in Xi’an, clogged drain in Beijing), I was happy with each of the hotels. I was very satisfied with the Grand Metro Hotel in Nanjing. Not only were the rooms comfortable for a 2 week stay, the location was excellent as well. It was great to be within walking distance of the lake, shops, restaurants, and the subway station. The hotel in Beijing was quite a walk to the subway station, but the rooms were nice and it was close to the good Beijing duck restaurant, which was great.

I loved Hangzhou. West Lake was beautiful, I enjoyed the boat cruise, the dinner at the mountain resort was very good (especially the beggar’s chicken!), we were able to walk back to the lake in the evening and enjoy a sound and light show, and the Dragon Well tea plantation was interesting (I would definitely emphasize to future groups that it is the best tea in China). The amusement park was fun but I would have the show be part of the tour (not just optional). I also enjoyed seeing the temples.

JJ, Gao, and Wei were all pleasant and helpful. It was kind of Wei to make us a “things to do on your free day in Beijing” paper with locations and subway information. Each guide was very responsive to our questions and needs when we voiced them. JJ was great and I enjoyed having him with us throughout all the tour days. I think it was helpful to have one person who knew our group and was our “go-to” person for the tour portions of the trip.

My constructive suggestions for future teachers:

  1. Bring one comfortable pair of WATERPROOF shoes. I wasn’t expecting as much rain as we had. Many of the teachers this year had good shoes for the rain, but many did not.
  2. If you don’t want to eat Chinese breakfast items for a month, I would suggest bringing alternatives from the USA such as granola bars, graham crackers, instant oatmeal packets (bring a bowl and spoon), and instant coffee packets. Each hotel room provides an electric tea pot and bottled water.
  3. The middle school students didn’t care for pencils as prizes. They did like stickers, pencil cases, items with an NBA team logo, small toys, etc.
  4. Bring various items to facilitate the pairing of students in middle school - numbered cards, appointment clock papers, find your match cards, etc. The students tended to work with the same person for every paired activity unless I “forced” them to switch.
  5. Bring lots of dice. The students enjoyed activities that involved rolling a die to direct their responses. For example, 1 = describe where you live, 2 = say 5 things you did yesterday, etc.
  6. Build SUBSTANTIAL picture/video files prior to coming to China for the lessons you might want to teach. It is difficult to access the Internet to build these files once you’re in China. For example, if you want to do a lesson on the 4th of July, take or find lots of pictures/videos depicting many aspects of the holiday (food, parades, parties, fireworks) that you could build class activities around. FYI, middle school students already know a lot about Christmas and Halloween.
  7. Suggested themes and realia for middle school lessons:
    1. American high school - pictures/video from your school and student activities (pep rally, Prom, etc.), the Taylor Swift music video for You Belong With Me, example of a student class schedule, map of your school, popular slang words/expressions, short video clips from movies that take place in a high school setting (for example, Mean Girls), words and music to your school’s Alma Mater, etc.
    2. Baseball/American football - the song Take Me Out To The Ballgame, vocabulary lists for each sport, team logos for each sport, develop a question/answer game that can be played like baseball (e.g. “batter” rolls a die: 1 = single, 2 = double, 3 = triple, 4 = home run, 5 = strike out, 6 = foul ball (roll again) and then answers a question in that category), pictures from the Super Bowl and half-time show, pictures from a tailgate party, the differences between college football and pro football, etc.
    3. Your state - tourist maps of the major city/cities, popular songs about or from your state, well-known foods or restaurants, pictures of popular things to see and do, pictures of where you live, pictures of professional sports teams, pictures of well-known festivals, etc.

Shana K.

Nanjing 2013

Every facet of the travel and teaching was well-planned. The entire faculty and staff were most helpful and welcoming. This includes: the partner Chinese teachers, the school liaisons, the kitchen staff, the woman and her assistant in the copy room, and the people in charge of the cultural exchange classes. However, as is so often the case in participating in a program like SCT&TP, flexibility is the key to survival.

It is important to realize that big schools, whether at home or abroad, are like slow-moving animals, and are therefore not quite in step with the very latest technology. A few teachers who had brought along the latest high-tech gadgets were frustrated with what the school had to offer in terms of compatibility. Once again, the more flexible one can be with lesson planning, the better. A nice aspect of the program is that no formal assessments of the students are required.

I was pleased with my sixth-graders. Going into the teaching, I was worried that the children of the one-child policy would be too spoiled to do any work or have any interest in the United States. However, the students in general were inquisitive. They were also, for the most part, attentive and well behaved. There were a couple of kids in each class who were lost the whole time, due to their low level of English, but even they were amazingly polite and patient. Many of the students benefited from the program, and they were kind enough to let me know that I had made a difference. They were very honest and sincere, and want to keep in touch.

The teachers collaborated. This was not your professional development day where groups of teachers put up with being coerced into making a chart on an aspect of the Topic of the Day on a large, expensive Post-it Note and then doing a gallery walk. The teachers in the program collaborated in a most productive and congenial way about activities and classroom management strategies that work. It was open source lesson sharing. It was extremely fulfilling professionally. It was also a lot of work, and we really blew off steam dancing after the closing dinner!

The French consider the Chinese to have the most sophisticated cuisine (outside of their own, of course). Cultivating an appreciation of Chinese food can therefore be viewed as an often overlooked, but integral point to becoming a refined person. In fact, Chinese food would be an excellent topic for a cultural lesson. The food served reflected a wide range of Chinese cuisines. There were only two problems: 1, the lunches were prepared and set out in a chilled room well in advance, so the food (even the soup) was often cold, and 2, the rice was often served at the end of the meal. It would be helpful for anyone participating in the program to be a big fan of watermelon. You will always have something to eat!

I thought that the hotels and choices of roommates were excellent. The Nanjing hotel is most important, and it was very good: excellent location (near the lake, city wall, and subway station), good breakfast, and good service. It took a while to locate the nearest subway stop from the Beijing hotel, but once we knew how to find it (about a 10-minute walk), we were set. I was also very pleased with the choice of restaurants during the touring. There were a few unforgettable meals including the best Beijing Duck I have ever had in Beijing (just two blocks from the hotel), Beggar’s Chicken at Mountain Beyond Mountain Restaurant in Hangzhou, and Hand-made Pulled Noodles at Terra – Cotta Soldier museum in Xi’an.

Like many people on the tour, I fell in love with Nanjing. The city has a lot to offer. It has enough important tourist sites, and is big enough to offer foreign amenities such as Starbucks and Pizza Hut, but the city is not so overwhelmingly important as to make it a huge draw for foreign tourists. Despite its sad history, the people of Nanjing are very friendly and upbeat, and since foreign tourists are not so very common there, they will often go out of their way to make you feel special.

China is a big, confusing place. This tour gives you an introduction to some of the most famous and interesting sites. The tour guides played a key role in making what you see come alive. They are all knowledgeable, local people and they can really help you to understand the China that you see. The Beijing tour guide, Wei Man, in particular, has a keen understanding of the pros and cons of modern China vs. the traditional, eastern vs. western paradigms, and the mingling of the two. She is an exceptionally insightful woman.

I have tried to include some tips for future teachers in my above remarks. Most important is to be flexible. I came away from the experience a more open-minded and well-rounded person and a better teacher. The whole experience was extremely rewarding on both a personal and professional level. It was the best summer of my life, and given the right mind set, I see no reason why others would not feel the same way.

Kit H.

Nanjing 2013

I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your hard work and dedication to this program. You are a star! I can only imagine the months and hours of time you put into the overall organization of the program. You open our eyes to the rich cultural heritage and geography of a great nation. The whole experience you provide is a gift and a chance of a lifetime.

You provide a global education and an incredible professional development opportunity for so many North American educators. Your effort and time goes a long way because we take our new found knowledge into the classroom to share with others – and our encounters with Chinese students and staff help to break down the stereotypes and divisions that exist between countries and cultures. We learn how much we have in common and this ultimately creates bonds with our fellow man.

It was an outstanding opportunity and so well organized! The whole program was so educational, fulfilling, adventurous, and heart warming. I fell in love with my students and I was so sad to leave them. When I think of them now, and see their pictures/videos my heart melts. There certainly were some tough challenges when teaching them, but I saw every moment as a privilege and a unique learning opportunity. I loved being around the boarding school. It’s so colorful, organized, and the staff/children are beautiful. It was a unique experience to be cordially greeted by every child in the hallways. I was impressed with the proverbs and geographic information posted all over the school walls. Working with my partner Chinese teacher was a joy, and it gave me great insight into the education system in China. And now I have a new friend.

For educators, it was an excellent opportunity to practice and fine tune our “trade” in an international setting, since we had to jog our minds into planning and implementing lessons in a new, fresh setting. It was a marvelous exercise in adapting, thinking quickly, and communicating with body language, visuals, music, realia, and facial expressions.

Again, hats off to you for being a global advocate for linguistic, educational, and cultural exchange!

The management was excellent. All the school officials were so concerned, loving, and dedicated to us. We really could not ask for more. All the school administrators were friendly, kind, and helpful. We were so warmly welcomed. It was very, very touching

Flexibility was always the key, and this goes without saying in any work environment. We learned to adapt to all the schedule changes.

Many school staff offered their time to take us out in the evenings and help us. They went above and beyond for us and I’m so thankful. Eileen and Richard were so kind to us. Many of the other staff were so helpful and warm. When anyone was sick or hurt, we were always taken care of.

Mr. Mao is a precious person and he took care of us as if we were his own children and he was always there to watch over us. Thanks. He is so loveable and fun. Jason was a rock of stability and was a calm, organized leader.

The food was wholesome and nutritional. Hurrah! No fast food with additives and preservatives. Thanks to the cook who labored each day for us. I loved all the greens, sprouts, and vegetables. Our group loved eggplant. The rice and noodles were good for energy. Thanks for all the fruit, cookies, and bread snacks throughout the day. The ice cold water and sodas were invaluable too. It was very thoughtful of the school to provide all of this. In general, every meal (restaurants and school) that we had was a culinary adventure and it was fun to try new flavors. Thank you so much for keeping us so well fed. I ate and ate and ate. I really loved having the resting room dormitory downstairs at school because I was able to get off my legs - and sometimes I washed some clothes down there and hung them up to dry. There was a rack in the back. We were able to use the toilet down there, if we did not want to use the children’s restroom.

The accommodations were great! Very comfortable! I absolutely loved the buffet breakfasts. They were very healthy for me. Thank you for providing all our food and lodging. I FELT PRIVILEGED LIKE A QUEEN!!! The beds were comfortable, the sheets were always clean, the showers worked well, and the front desk staff were very accommodating. There were some musty (Suzhou) or unpleasant sewage pipe smells (Beijing) that we had to adapt to, but to me this was minor.

Hangzhou and Xi’an were my favorites. I liked Hangzhou because of the lake, Tai Chi environment, and beautiful surrounding greenery. I enjoyed meeting the local retired people and wished I’d had longer time there because I made some Chinese friends and was invited to come back for tea along the lake. There is so much to explore in Xi’an. I love the Muslim market, the wall around the city, and the vast topography of central China. It was wonderful to get views of the Yellow River and be in such an ancient capital of the renowned Qin Shihuangdi.

Our Hangzhou guide was lovely, knowledgeable, friendly, and always answered questions in such a professional and insightful way. Our guide in Xi’an was humorous, entertaining, and energetic. The guide in Beijing was helpful too. We learned a lot from them.

Constructive suggestions for future teachers:

  • Get an atlas and find the cities where you will be in China. Learn a little about the geography of China beforehand Study a city map of Suzhou, Nanjing, Beijing etc. so you are geographically ready. Read something about the ancient history, geography, and culture of China before you go and this will help you will grasp new facts and concepts easily because you already have the BIG IDEA. Watch some Chinese foreign films with subtitles.
  • Download as many YouTube ESL videos for your age group and put them on a flash drive. They were so useful for many of the teachers at our school and we shared them.
  • The Oriental Trading Company has great little bags of prizes/trinkets/plastic toys for daily rewards. For example a bag of plastic jumping frogs costs $3-4 dollars and the students loved them. If you plan carefully you can match the particular grammar/conversation lesson that you are teaching for the day with the prize you give. For example, after I taught a little about July 4th, the students had to orally state what Americans do on the 4th of July and then they got a tiny plastic patriotic spinning top. They loved this little tops and they played with them every day. They are good incentives to get them to speak and raise their hand – or to give for good behavior. Old baseball cards were great prizes.
  • Go to garage sales and find realia/hands-on props. Find and collect lightweight hats or mini-costumes (Santa hat, flower headband, top hat, Uncle Sam hat) and bring them because they add color and novelty to any holiday or grammar lesson. A toy plastic stethoscope was great for role playing a doctor/patient scene. Ask a kindergarten teacher at your school if you can borrow some props. Thrift stores are fantastic places to get lightweight props. Paper cups with a string would be good “telephones.” I brought some toy plastic cell phones at the 99 Cents store, and a duck phone we found at a garage sale.
  • If you go to a hotel or tourism spot in your city/state it’s useful to take the brochures (city maps, Disneyland, plantations, city tours, Knott’s Berry Farm, Helicopter Tours, Grand Canyon, Lakes, Museums). These are usually free and they’re good for role playing, mapping/directional lessons, and giving colorful information about fun things to do in North America.
  • Paper lunch bags are useful and lightweight for paper bag puppets. I had my reader’s theater students(in California) make puppets for an assignment. Then I just took them with me to China and I had ready made oral language tools. At the end of the program I used these puppets for review. I would say things we’d already learned (conversation sentences) and their puppet would repeat and say these things. If they get bored with the puppet they’re using they can get up and change.
  • You can download vocabulary flashcards from the internet and get your own students (USA/Canada) to color them before you go to China.
  • For ages 5-10 stickers work well. I made a little mini notebooks for each child with colored paper that the school provided. Every time a child answered, spoke out loud, participated orally etc. I would put a sticker in their booklet. My Chinese partner teacher helped with this. I would hear the children counting the number of stickers they had and they bragged about it. Good incentive and inexpensive.
  • It’s a good idea to pick the song you’ll do for the performance ahead of time, and start practicing a little bit each day right from the beginning of the summer camp.
  • Don’t wear slippery shoes like flip flops. One teacher tripped on a bridge and got hurt.
  • Carry hand sanitizer and a little bit of daily toilet paper in your purse/pocket.
  • A sun hat or any hat might come in handy.
  • Umbrellas are needed!
  • Know the location of your passport at all times. I always kept mine in my money belt. I never took it off. Some people left it in the safe,
  • Study some basic Chinese BEFORE the trip so you can greet the local people that you meet. We only spoke English at the school, but think how wonderful it would be to interact with someone you meet while travelling. Start early – a few months before. You’ll make friends in the market, in the hotel, or even on a boat with just a few basic phrases. The internet offers hundreds of beginning lessons. Take a beginning Chinese class. You can even learn to write a few basic characters. Why not? We’re teachers. If we’re teaching English, why not try learning some Chinese. You will be much more aware and cognizant of the shapes/origin of Chinese characters and you can later teach your own students. Bring a Chinese-English phrase book and try out some phrases.
  • Local people are really quite friendly and sweet. Learn how to say “Ni hao” (hello) and Shie shie (thank you) right from the beginning of your trip.
  • We were all guilty of this at times, but try to complain or express frustration (about unusual/annoying/culturally strange things you encounter in China) quietly (not out loud) about things that frustrate you on the trip. Many people in China speak and understand English so criticize and complain so nobody can hear you except your dialogue partner. It’s so easy to be critical. Try and think with a culturally relative perspective because some things that we do in the West probably seem absurd, rude and gross to them.
  • Ask permission before taking pictures of people.

Sandra H. – A.

Suzhou 2013

I loved the experience. It was strenuous, as you had warned several times. I had been super fit leaving CA, but I felt my body took a beating. The food was great everywhere we went (with the exception of a basement restaurant in Beijing where we had a buffet that was not fresh.) even the school meals were good. I was delighted with the snacks they also provided.

Management of the program at school site was great and supportive. We had Mr Mah, who took care of me when I was having digestive problems, and Jason was 'Johnny on the spot' for copying or any computer/technical issue. Eileen was a darling, who took good care of those who were ill, and was just a great friend.

The accommodations were great in each city. Charley drove us crazy, but we would never have seen so much without a taskmaster like him! All of the tour guides were knowledgeable and did a great job.

The best thing about this experience was going through it with a bunch of teachers from all over the US and Canada. We shared our materials and helped each other out during our teaching stint. We experienced the culture together, and were able to discuss where these new insights led us. I believe that some will become personal friends.

Suggestions for future teachers? #1 Read every email thoroughly and highlight it. Any answer IS in there! #2 Maybe that they don't absolutely have to have a laptop, because all I needed was a Zip drive, however it was useful to have for things other than teaching.

Thanks again for this opportunity.

Clara M.

Suzhou 2013

The management of the program overall was fantastic. Sally and Lewie did a great job preparing us and letting us know what to expect. Sally's information provided before the trip covered pretty much everything that we needed to know. Sally was always updating us on any changes throughout the trip, which I appreciated. Lewie's webinars were also a great way of talking about our concerns before the trip. Lewie's training in China was excellent, and I think every teacher used some (if not all) of his strategies in their classes. At the school, things were a little bit less organized (for example, finding out at the last minute about the class photos) but overall still great. Technology was an issue for myself as well as a few other teachers, but the problems were solved as quickly as they could be. I think that testing the technology (laptops, sound, document cameras, etc.) should be the first priority when arriving at the school so that if there are any issues, there will be a day or two to get them fixed. We didn't test technology until the second day on campus and by then it was too late to get them solved before the first day of teaching. The cultural activities were well-organized and fun, too. Sometimes it was hard to see or hear the presenters but it wasn't a big deal because the activities were just for fun.

One of my suggestions is about the middle school closing performance. A lot of the students were not excited about performing and some of them even refused to do anything other than stand there. Also, I didn't realize that both of my classes (over 50 students) would be expected to perform together until the second week of school. This made coordinating something very difficult. I would have loved to do a skit or play to showcase their English, but with having all students perform that wasn't possible. Almost all of the middle school teachers had their classes lip-singing to popular music, which (in my opinion) doesn't demonstrate our purpose for coming to China. I think if we could choose the students who perform (or at least choose one out of the two classes) that there would have been a much better variety and higher quality performances. After they performed, most students left the ceremony so by the last performance there was practically no one left in the audience.

The school food was great! I really liked the sweet and sour pork as well as the egg/tomato dish that was often served. The fruit salads were delicious and it was also nice that they put a variety of fruit in our workroom every day. I think in the future, it would be best not to vote on having the dinner at school. Several teachers voted not to eat at school since because they didn't think Sally or the school really wanted us to. I would have liked to eat at the school (same food that we got on the streets but free and I felt safer eating there) but had it not been an option I wouldn't have been disappointed that we didn't.

The hotels were very conveniently located and had everything we needed. They had even more than I was expecting such as slippers, toothbrushes, combs, etc. every day.

I don't have one single favorite (city), only because each city was special for different reasons. I felt like we got to see a nice variety of places during our trip.

The tour guides were very nice and informative. They did a good job of getting us places on time and they were very patient when answering our questions.

I have no regrets about the China trip! Yes, the teaching job was hectic but it was also fun. The amount of travelling we got to do on the trip was fair compensation for the work we put in as teachers. The collaboration at the middle school was incredible amongst the American teachers. All of us were willing to share what we had with each other, which helped us get through on the days we truly needed ideas.

My constructive suggestions for future teachers: Having a general outline for the twelve days (not necessarily lesson plans, just ideas on what topics to teach) would have been a good thing to prepare before the trip. I would recommend that future teachers prepare plenty of visuals at home. This could save them a lot of time in China. Powerpoints were useful and having them done beforehand (or at least finding the images) would have been helpful for me to do before I left. Also, deciding what themes I wanted to teach beforehand would have helped me as well (holidays, food, household, etc).

Jennifer B.

Nanjing 2013

Sally, first of all, thanks for another great summer in China! As before, everything was fantastic!

The management on the school site was excellent. Jason and Mr. Mao had everything running smoothly. The teachers and administration were great as well. From the opening ceremony (and before) to the closing dinner and everything in between, it all went as planned.

I'm not the best person to ask about the school food. I am a very picky eater. There was plenty of food, though, and everyone else seemed to like it. I did like the fried noodles and the daily fresh fruit. Luckily for me, just down the street there are plenty of places to grab a bite to eat.

The hotels were excellent. The hotel in Beijing this year was a major improvement over last year. The only minor complaint was that the beds in a couple of the hotels were a little hard, but nothing that a few extra blankets couldn't fix. Breakfast in all of the hotels was good, with plenty of variety to choose from. The locations of the hotels, with the possible exception of Shanghai, were great as well. Hangzhou is in walking distance of downtown and West Lake, Suzhou is in the heart of everything, Xi'an was in the perfect place, and even Beijing was just down the street from the Temple of Heaven. Shanghai was the only place that didn't look too safe for walking, next door to a train station. But there wasn't time for much walking anyway, so it was fine!

My favorite city was Xi'an. And the same problem as last year- not enough time in Xi'an to see everything! I was able to see a bit more of Beijing this year and loved it! I walked to the History Museum, then up to Qianmen Street and finally over to Tiananmen Square where I went to the National Museum. (I didn't go with the group to the Great Wall because of stomach issues....) The tour guides were very friendly and helpful.

As far as tips for future teachers: prepare for heat and humidity (although this year was not as bad as last year... or maybe I'm getting used to it!), plan for a daily 3 hour lunch break (bring a book, puzzles, etc.), wear comfortable clothing/shoes, get a month-long calling plan from Skype ($13.99 and you can call on wi-fi with your phone to ANY other phone in the world), before coming fill your second suitcase with books and things for the teachers and students and then fill it up with souvenirs from China for the return flight, wait until Xi'an (Muslim Market) and Beijing (Silk Market) before you do any serious souvenir shopping (cheaper and you don't have to carry them with you all over China), bring extra memory for your camera (you will take hundreds and hundreds of pictures), DON'T bother packing an umbrella- you can buy one if it looks like rain for under $2....

Dywane K.

Suzhou 2013

First, thank you for such a wonderful opportunity. Everything you told us about the trip was right one, so I was prepared for everything, I feel fortunate to have been part of such a well organized, mature program.

I thought things were managed very well and very smoothly. Teachers and admin (at school) and Jason and Mr. Mao were so helpful to me!

I loved the food b/c I got to eat so many vegetables for lunch (and I am not a vegetarian!) Everything was delicious. I noticed that every body liked the thinly sliced cooked potato dish. Everything with mushrooms was great!

The accommodations were excellent. I loved living in Suzhou and really enjoyed Xi'an. The tour guides were excellent and managed our group very well, despite it's tendency to not act as a cohesive group - (we were lacking a bit in being able to move together as a group).

Molly N.

Suzhou 2013

I want to start by thanking you for giving me the opportunity to be part of this great program in China.

First I want to remind you that on day one, from the airport, you were there for me. I was a little anxious because our flight was 2 hours late but I felt taken cared of by you when you answered the phone calls and continued to walk me through the LAX airport. I must add that throughout the whole trip I felt that you were taking care of all of us including the way you made sure that we got our rest and medications when we got sick.

The teaching program in Nanjing was very well organized. I enjoyed so much teaching the Chinese students. I love the happy faces! The classroom teachers that I worked with were excellent. In addition, I felt very proud when I was one of the teachers chosen to be part of the Summer Program finally. With the help of my classroom teacher, my students came out shining while performing Surfing in the USA. The teachers that I worked with were exceptional. We learned from each other and worked harmoniously together. I learned so much from them and felt that I made a host of new friends. I must say we worked hard and we also had great fun together :)

The training from Lewis right in the beginning was very helpful setting me in the mode for teaching. I also enjoyed the Cultural Classes. The Calligraphy class was the very first art class I have taken as an adult!

The tours in the various cities were excellent. I really felt that we accomplished seeing a lot of the beautiful sites in China.

I will certainty tell my coworkers about this great program I thank you again. I hope that you would consider me to work in this program in the future.

Take good care,

Prima M.

Nanjing 2013

I found the management of the program to be outstanding from beginning to end. Everything seems to have been handled efficiently from the trip preparations and logistics to the arrival and preparations at the school. I didn't experience any glitches. I really appreciated how much the staff and managers at the Middle School in Nanjing took care of us teachers. We kept getting food, water, sodas, etc in the workroom, and there was often someone from the school to walk us to special events, etc. The attention they gave us was a sign of how much they care and I certainly appreciated it. I would recommend participation in this program to all my colleagues in the teaching profession.

I think one way to improve the program for teachers participating in it the first time would be to have "sample lesson plans" and "a typical day" scenarios available ahead of time so they can have a better idea of how to prepare and what to expect.

The food at the school was good most of the time. There were a few times when the lunch wasn't that great. My only suggestion or recommendation would be to have more meat (with fewer bones) and less spicy foods at each meal.

I really liked all the hotels. They were clean, spacious, and felt safe. I especially liked the location of the hotel in Xian! The only things I would change if I could would be the location of the hotel in Beijing. It seemed to be quite a walk to get to the metro.

I think Xian was one of my favorite cities. It was so pretty, clean, and full of history. At the same time, we were surrounded by modern conveniences and an abundance of restaurants and shops. It was great being in a hotel where we could just step out and go out for a walk. The city was very lively as well. One of the most intriguing things I saw (besides the Terracotta Warriors) was the "Muslim street" bazaar right behind the drum tower. It was fascinating to see that blend of cultures and traditions. I also loved the dumpling banquet.

All the tour guides were great and very helpful, especially the one in Beijing! They were all very knowledgeable. JJ was great and I really enjoyed having him as out tour guide throughout the trip.

Constructive suggestions for future teachers: Go in with an open mind, be flexible, and remember, you are learning as much as you are teaching!

Christopher B.

Nanjing 2013

I do want to take this opportunity to express my humble THANK YOU. There are no words to express my gratitude, all the long hours and work you dedicate to this program to provide us with this amazing experience is truly admirable. I will always be indebted to you, this program not only allowed me to grow as an educator, it did so so so much more I can't even explain it nor describe it, it is like a new sense of renewal and appreciation. Anyhow, I will not take more of your time. Please take care and may you have a wonderful school year. THANK YOU SALLY!

I believe all aspects at the administrative level were well organized. Perhaps my only suggestion would be to add to the orientation. In addition to Lewie’s segment I would have liked a round-table discussion with those teachers who had already taught in the program to share what really worked for them and in which levels.

Overall, it was a little more than I had expected, the hotel which had the best location was in Nanjing, but my favorite was the hotel in Beijing. My least favorite was in Xi An, due to the awful smell coming out of the drains, fortunately we didn’t stay there too long. My favorite city was Hangzhou because of its scenery and its overall feeling of tranquility. OUR TOUR GUIDES WERE AWESOME!!!!

My constructive suggestions for our future teachers: Future teachers should start getting in shape a couple of months before the trip. Teachers should start their collection of videos to accompany their lesson plans. They should develop thematic units because they work better than isolated lessons. But more importantly take time to learn about the country and its culture before the trip so you know what to expect and just ENJOY IT!

Lourdes F.

Nanjing 2013

I have had the privilege of teaching both at the Suzhou school and most recently, in Nanjing. The management in Nanjing is VERY good - I honestly cannot think of a suggestion, I was very impressed with how efficiently things were run.

Both schools really tried hard to make dishes we liked. They did a great job with the fried chicken! Accommodations in Nanjing were very good. The location of the hotel could not have been better! I loved being near the lake. I did not tour with the group after teaching, so I cannot comment on the other accommodations. I went to Yellow Mtn, that was my favorite :) The guide was knowledgeable and fun!

Melissa B.

Nanjing 2013

I miss you and China very much. It was such a rewarding and fun experience I cannot wait for the opportunity to do it again (if my job permits it). Thank you for all of your hard work. The organization was incredible and you helped us get around China and be a part of a great summer program.

The management was great! I always knew where I needed to be and what the expectations were. I would say that Jim did a good job of helping us with the printer and our room teacher did an excellent job of letting us know what they expected. I truly appreciated that we met them and talked to them before we started teaching.

There was a variety of food, I enjoyed the lettuce, eggplant and friend chicken the most but I also liked having soup and rice with the spicy sauce. It would have been nice to have someone in the beginning go over what each dish was and what was in it. ex: Tofu with duck made with a soy sauce etc.

I had no complaints with our accommodations and I stayed at all of the same hotels except for the one in Hangzhou because the beds were not comfortable. Great job choosing locations!

Hangzhou was my favorite city. The lake was beautiful and the feeling of the city was calm and romantic. I went back and saw the water lake show which both Josh and I loved! I also loved the show we saw at the park with Jay Jay, it was one of my favorites!

All of our tour guides were wonderful and their English was impressive! Jay Jay and the last girl, May? were my favorites. Jay Jay was always happy, knowledgeable and willing to answer our questions. He should share more about his mom and family it was nice to hear about daily life.

The resources in the workroom were helpful and Lewis did a good job of training the group and supporting us when we asked for help. I would recommend establishing workroom norms as a group so that space and noise level have a structure. It would have been nice for Lewis and the returning teacher to share their resources with us, some of them did but it was only 1 lesson and it took a while for them to share it with us. I want to provide all of my resources to all of the new teachers because I know they will benefit from seeing what level I used with students and they will be able to see how a foreign language teacher would approach the lesson. Some teacher needed support because they were not familiar with teaching a foreign language and I think that is an easy problem to solve with some collaboration. It would be nice if there was a resources flash drive with materials that previous teacher have used by level. Ex" Grade 1, Grade 2, then broken down by unit ex: 4th of July resources, reading resources etc.

Thank you Sally!!!!!

Karina G.

Nanjing 2013

Thanks again for the opportunity to go to China again. I loved it! I have loved it every time I have gone. I love the country. I love the people. I love the schools and the kids I get to teach. I love meeting the staff and teachers at the school. I love being treated like royalty. I love meeting new people and the group this year was especially fun to be with. I really love your dad! He is amazing! It was well managed.

The only improvement I can think of is the unfairness of the class sizes. I always feel bad that some teachers earn a ton of extra money for having extra students, and then some teachers earn nothing extra. It causes hurt feelings in the group. I wish it would be evened out so that everyone either has the same opportunity to earn extra money, or no extra money is paid to anyone. In the US we don't get extra money if our class size is bigger than someone else's. We all work just as hard and put in just as much effort.

The cooks really did a great job with the variety of food. Sadly, I picked up a bug and for some reason the food at the school didn't agree with my tummy. I ate a lot of rice and bananas. I really appreciate the extra treats like cookies and fruit that were always there in the morning break and afternoon break.

The accommodation was wonderful! Everything was well taken care of. My favorite city was Xian. The service of your tour guides was Excellent.

My constructive suggestions for future teachers: Just be very flexible about everything. China is such a wonderful and unique place. The people are awesome and there are adventures everyday to be had. All long as you are flexible and don't complain about things, the trip and teaching will be an experience you will always love and remember.

I would love it if there were new cities on the tour. I really enjoyed Guilin (spelling) when we went there.

Keep in touch!

Diane T.

Suzhou 2013

First of all, I wanted to thank you for doing such a wonderful job organizing this magnificent program. It is obvious how hard you work to make everything run smoothly and I appreciate your dedication and attention to even the smallest details. You were very clear in your information packet on what to expect, so I felt very prepared. It was an honor to get to know you and work with you this summer. It was an experience I will never forget and I will cherish the memories of my summer adventures forever!

I thought the management of the program on the school site was very well done. Jim, Maggie and Faye were phenomenal and their effort to make everything run smoothly was evident. I knew exactly where I was supposed to be and what times I was supposed to be there and what was expected of me. The classrooms were well equipped with technology and the workroom was nice and cool and had lots of supplies to be used. My only suggestion would be to give Elementary teachers more time in the morning before having to go to their first classroom. We had to be ready to teach almost as soon as we got off the bus. I know this may have only been because of the two separate campuses this year, but that would be my suggestion. Otherwise, I thought everything ran very well.

I thought the food at the school was pretty good, and there was a lot of variety. I liked it better when they started serving more vegetables than meat (I think at your suggestion, Sally). I can't really say what my favorite food was, though. On the nights that we stayed for dinner during the cultural classes, there was a kung pao chicken that I enjoyed a lot. The fruit and ice cream at the breaks were a nice treat as well, and I appreciated the endless supply of cold water.

The accommodations at the cities we toured were great. I thought the hotels were exactly how you described them in your information packet, so they were just what I expected. They were comfortable and most of them were near a metro station. I would have liked the hotel in Nanjing to be a little bigger and have a place to put our clothes, being that we were there for two weeks. But, having it next the beautiful lake made up for it! The dinners were all wonderful and I was so impressed how the places we ate always had the food ready for us as soon as we got there. It was amazing that we were able to have 35 people in and out of a restaurant in under an hour!

It's hard to pick a favorite city because each city had something wonderful to offer. But, I'd have to say it was Hangzhou. I thought it had the most natural beauty. I loved seeing West Lake, Yellow Dragon Garden and the Lingyin Buddhism Temple. My only complaint about our time in Hangzhou was the tour of the tea plantation. I was really looking forward to this to see the beautiful grounds and learn more about how they make the tea. Instead, I felt like as soon as we got seated in the conference room it became an info-mercial. I would've liked to have spent more time just seeing the plantation and learning about the process instead of hearing about how I can lose weight and lower my cholesterol if I buy their product.

All of our tour guides were AMAZING. I especially liked JJ and Wae (sp?). JJ taught us a lot of history and culture, without overdoing it. He personalized it by telling us stories of his childhood to make it interesting. He was very knowledgable, entertaining, and well organized and his English was great. Wae was so sweet and helpful. She went out of her way to make sure we all knew how to find what we needed while in Beijing. She wrote down addresses in Chinese for us, made suggestions on where to go on our time off, and actually walked us half way to the metro station because it was pretty far from our hotel, and she wanted to make sure we were pointed in the right direction. Her stories were also very interesting and I learned a lot from her as well. I don't know if this had anything to do with the tour guides, but one suggestion I have is to allow more time at the Great Wall. Two hours just wasn't enough to experience one of the seven architectural wonders of the world! I would've gladly given up the Tomb of the Ming Dynasty or the tour of the Bird's Nest Stadium to stay at the Great wall a little longer. The Great Wall was one of the most memorable and fantastic parts of the trip for me.

I loved all of the Chinese Culture classes that the school offered. These included Chinese knotting, paper cutting, painting and calligraphy, and Kung Fu. I thought they were all very interesting and fun and I appreciated experiencing these cultural activities and learning more about their significance.

The suggestions I have for future teachers is to remember that you are experiencing a new and different culture and to embrace it. I found it so rewarding that I was able to bond with these little first graders from around the world even in the short time I was there, and even with the language barrier. The feeling you get as you enter both the opening and closing ceremonies is indescribable. It brought tears to my eyes! As far as teaching, the power points and videos are really helpful and the students love them, but don't depend on them because some teachers had technological difficulties on certain days. So, you definitely need a "back up" plan. Bringing my ipod and speakers was helpful, being that there were no CD players. This way, if there were technological difficulties, I still had my music. I thought it was wonderful how all the teachers I worked with were willing to share their ideas and power points, so go there with the idea of working collaboratively with your fellow teachers. By the end of my time teaching, I felt like I had made a lot of new life-long friends in my fellow teachers.

Another thing to remember is that the Level 1 students in China are different than the Level 1 students here. In America, the Level 1 students tend to understand more and speak less. The students in China tend to understand less and speak more. What they are speaking, though, is just vocabulary. They needed a lot of practice using that vocabulary and a lot of help understanding directions. I found that after teaching them new vocabulary, it is good to play games to review, but also to have some sort of written activity to go with it. This gave me time to go around to each student individually to allow them to use their new vocabulary one on one. The written activity could be as simple as a mini booklet or a paper folded into squares with pictures and words. Their writing and drawing skills were excellent and they seemed to enjoy these activities.

As far as discipline, keep in mind that this is a summer camp. They are definitely in 'play' mode so make your lessons as fun and engaging as possible and don't expect perfect 'school' behavior. If they are learning and having fun, you are doing your job!

Other suggestions I have is that women pack skirts and dresses, as they are easier when using the squat toilets. I would also mention that the Chinese people seem to be fascinated with Americans, especially in big groups, so to be ready to feel like a celebrity being surrounded by paparazzi when getting off the bus! This took a little getting used to.

Overall, the touring was fantastic and well thought out and planned. My final advice is to get ready for an experience of a lifetime! You will do, see, and learn more in the time you are there than you ever thought possible!

Edie A.

Nanjing 2013

Regarding the management of the program on the school site:

  • Maggie and Yi-fay were very helpful. It also worked so well because Sally immediately responded to any of our needs if we were unable to contact one of the ladies.
  • My teachers, Chen Ke (CoCo) and Qi Min (Mina), were so helpful and receptive to sharing the classroom and the students. They clearly love teaching middle school students.
  • On picture day the Chinese teachers on the middle school level were not there. I asked my teachers and they had not been informed about getting the picture taken.
  • My connection to audio (Block A 307) in one of my classes did not work properly. Since I needed to teach my class a song I really needed the sound system to work in both rooms.
  • The projector kept going out in one of my rooms-Block A 307.
  • My Chromebook was not usable because I could not connect to the HDMI –use old technology less problematic.

Regarding food provided by the school cafeteria:

  • I enjoyed the food; I never left the table hungry. There was no chance of me losing weight.
  • I enjoyed the dumplings and the shredded eggplant dish.
  • I would have preferred tea with our meals as opposed to the soda. I didn’t care for the duck.

Regarding the accommodation:

  • Overall the rooms were fine. Had mosquitoes in my room in Xian.
  • Hangzhou was the most appealing to the eye.
  • Xian had the best dumplings and noodles.

Regarding the tour guides:

  • JJ was incredible -so knowledgeable and personable. He had such a great sense of humor.
  • Waigh was also knowledgeable and she went above and beyond by writing out places to visit, using the subway system, in Chinese and in English so we could investigate Beijing on our free day.
  • The Xian tour guide was also knowledgeable and helpful.

Constructive suggestions for future teachers:

  • Come with a theme in mind of what you would like to teach. The students are sponges eager to absorb anything about American culture.
  • Try to bring food, such as candy, that they can’t get in China- they are still children.
  • Bring Lysol to use in your hotel rooms.
  • Be open to having a life altering experience shared by incredible people who love teaching and exploring new places.
  • This was one of the best experiences I have ever had. The people I met from America and China only enhanced the beauty of the country and its amazing culture. I would definitely participate in this program again.

Leslie T.

Nanjing 2013

School Site management: If you need Jim, be at the workroom at morning fruit break/delivery time. The management was great! It was comparable to any school program I have experienced in 29 years of teaching and as always in education our favorite words are “we have to be flexible”.

Food at school: More steamed vegetables/salad possibly would be nice. I liked the chicken with peanuts dish best and the eggplant. When there was cucumber there was not always enough for everyone at our table.

Accommodations: Remind teachers that are used to “posturepedic” beds to bring an air mattress. I had read that beds were hard, but my roomie did not get it ‘til she experienced it. It was tough not having a working refrigerator in Nanjing (I had medicine that should have been kept cool and the power in our rooms was turned off during the day). They replaced our refrigerator 2 times as the original one didn’t work, but none of them worked. I read that somewhere on the website also, but didn’t get it ‘til I lived it.

Favorite City(-ies): Hangzhou and Nanjing

Service of Tour Guides: J.J. and Wei were the BEST!!! They were so helpful (kept us safe/well on our independent journeys with directions, maps, suggestions, notes in Chinese for cab trips) and very knowledgeable with interesting stories to share!

Suggestions for participants: Reading/viewing ALL the information, preparation/lesson plans and materials ready/adaptable for various levels, and COLLABORATION made the teaching program almost stress free.

Lynn B.

Nanjing 2013

Thank you again for allowing me the opportunity to participate in the China Summer Program for the 2nd time. The more I go to China the more the people and culture are really making an impact on me. For me this year it was the Lake. To go there every morning and see the older generation exercising, walking, dancing to music with fans, with swords, tai chi, it was so motivating and inspiring. In the evening the music, instruments and dancing with different generations was so energizing and wonderful. This year everything was so exceptional.

Everything at the school site was very nice. My 2 Chinese teachers were so personable, friendly and very interactive with me. My 6th grade students were well behaved, fun, energetic, participatory and helpful. One day one of the boys came up to me and asked, "Do you want me to teach you how to do numbers in Chinese? This was great because I did not know the number signs for 6 thru 10 were different than how we show those numbers. It was very cute. We all had fun sharing cultural differences.

The food at the school was quite adequate. I enjoyed all of the vegetable dishes and chicken dishes. I did not care for the Tofu servings. I loved the ice cream snack in the afternoon. It was refreshing.

All of the accommodations were very good. Loved the hotel next to the Lake, great location also next to the Metro. I loved Hangzhou again. Tour guides were great. We love Wey (sp?) in Beijing.

Constructive suggestions for future teachers:

  • I really feel lesson planning before the trip is crucial in order to be prepared and organized. At least, have a list of thematical topics you may want to cover with a few basic communicative activities per theme. Again, there were teachers who came with very little and were scrambling for ideas. I shared a lot of what I had and brought with me, but what I brought I wanted to give to the Chinese teachers I was working with. One of my favorite quotes, " Prior Preparation Promotes Proper Preparedness"
  • Really focus on teaching and giving strategies and communicative fun to the students. We go to China to teach first and foremost. Go prepared with topics and a plan. Bring games, songs, play money in all the denominations (enough for samples for all the students), bring lots of stickers, postcards, candies. Give these items out daily for prizes.
  • Choose songs that go with the topics at hand. The middle school students actually like kids songs (Old MacDonald had a Farm, etc.). These are all children. They aren't 16 and 17 year olds. It is not about Justin Beiber, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. The students love doing skits and role plays. They love competitions. The students love puzzles. I got a bunch of USA puzzles at the Dollar Store, enough for groups of 3-4. They raced putting them together, then I asked them questions about the States.
  • We are only with the students for 12 days so start the activities the minute you get into the classroom. I see no need on going over arbitrary classroom rules like we do the 1st day with our classes in the States. If you just start the communicative activities you will not have discipline problems. Walk around the room, get close to the students. Rotate their seating daily so they sit in different areas of the classroom.
  • Teach them English expressions and slang and practice daily (ie. woke up on the wrong side of the bed, up a creek, awesome, etc). The students and Chinese teachers loved the game Apples to Apples and there is a Junior version.
  • There is not a lot of time to read books, but maybe bring one short novel that could be read a little everyday.
  • Tell a short story and have students draw as you tell, then have them retell the story to their partner only using their pictures. Do a lot of the activities presented by Louie Johnson from TPRS and you can't go wrong with these interactive strategies.
  • Thanks again Sally and it was a pleasure to work with you.

Robin U.

Nanjing 2013

I found the management of the school site to be very good. I had no problems. My classroom teachers were 100% supportive and helped both when I asked and when they saw a need, every time. They never left the room. I felt a little uncomfortable signing their paper to verify they were there since they had been there every day anyways. It felt like it put us in a supervisory position to the classroom teachers, when partnership was what I wanted. Maggie was wonderful to meet us and escort us to the culture classes and the students were well behaved (excited, happy to be there and energetic – like middle schoolers) sweet and well intentioned.

I loved the food at the school. I follow a vegan diet, so many of the dishes were off limits, but I still was able to find a good variety most days. My favorites were – tomatoes with SUGAR, mao pao tofu, the shedded tofu salad, the eggplant, those little sesame bread muffins (not sure what they are called) and any dark green vegetable that was served. There were many other dishes that I loved, but I can’t remember them now.

The accommodations were top notch. All the hotels were comfortable, without being over the top luxurious. I was still too delirious in Shanghai to remember much about the hotel – it was close to a subway stop, which was nice. In Hangzhou, it was about a 1 mile walk to the lake from the hotel, so if anything, it would be nice to be closer to the lake. My favorite was the hotel in Nanjing. From the outside it looks to be in a little disrepair, and on the inside, the room carpets were quite dirty, but the comfort of the beds, the clean sheets and pillows, the spacious bathroom and the LOCATION near the park made it my favorite. I would go back there in a heartbeat. I liked that the other guests were mostly Chinese tourist, not foreigners. It made the experience feel more authentic. The hotels in Xi’an and Beijing were both so lovely.

Nanjing was my favorite. The subways were so clean and easy, the park so beautiful and it felt “small” even though it is a city of 23 million. This might be simply because we stayed there the longest. Of the cities we toured, if I could only pick one to visit again upon return to China, it would be Hangzhou. I loved the history, West Lake, the tea plantations and the temples. If I go back I would spend more time exploring the lake, look for hiking trails in the hills and explore the downtown area (which we did not see on this trip), but I assume there is one.

The tour guides were all AMAZING. JJ, of course, as everyone has written in the past, is fabulous. Warm, knowledgeable, funny, helpful but firm....he’s so good at what he does. Our tour guide in Xi’an (whose name I did not write down) and Wei in Beijing were also wonderful. So knowledgeable, personable, joyful....they made the experience very special.

My constructive suggestions for future teachers:

  • This trip is 28 days of non-stop action. It is flawlessly organized. It is a perfect mix of work and fun...and I should add, the work was great fun too.
  • In the weeks before departure I found myself nervous about the trip, wondering if I had made to right decision to go so far away from home, for so long, to something so unknown. But, literally, from the moment I met Sally and the rest of the teachers in LAX, to the moment I was back on the ground in LAX 28-days later, I was thrilled to be part of the adventure – not once did I have a regret for joining this trip. Every moment was special and wonderful.
  • The flawless organization of the tours and teaching, of course, were the most important reasons that this trip was so good. Sally truly has it planned to perfection. But also, for myself, thanks to the advice of previous participants, going in holding a group mentality helped me get the most out of this trip. I knew that this would be 28 days of a group experience and therefore not everything we did would be something I would choose to do alone. I appreciated the diversity of the activities and enjoyed seeing members of our group get so excited about things that I really didn’t have much interest in. I leaned about things I would not have learned about on my own. And there was time during the two weeks in Nanjing to get some alone and down time if you need that.
  • Sally also has a gift for selecting a varied group of teachers. I was glad it was not n entire group of twenty-somethings or fourthy-somethings (my age), but was a mix across a age range of probably twenty-two to fifties. This made for healthy group dynamics and interesting experiences for everyone.
  • Be ready for heat and humidity. While we had a fairly good weather year – the heat didn’t get much higher than 95 F on most days (which was better than last year I heard) - you just need to be ok with sweating pretty much all day. Wear clothes that you are ok sweating in. Thin and loose are the best. Wear shoes that you are ok getting wet (there is lots of rain too). I wore Crocs sandals the entire time - which were PERFECT. A shower at night washes it all away and you go to bed, clean and dry in an air-conditioned room.
  • Be ready for 28 days of action. You will be on the go the entire time. Wake up calls at 7 on tour days, and at 6 on teaching days, departures at 8:30 and 7:30 respectively. On our one day off, we ended up hiking Purple Mountain for many hours, so the “rest” day was even more tiring than the workdays.
  • For the teaching – bring visuals for at least 6 different themes to use with Lewie’s flyswatter activity (if you don’t know what that is, ask Sally or Lewie). I will do this next time (I hope to go again next year).
  • Figure out how to store video from YouTube on your computer. There is no Internet in the classroom, so if you want to show video, it has to be saved to your device.
  • I chose to bring an ipad and not a laptop for this trip. It worked perfectly (as long as you bring the right connector for the LCD projectors...these were like gold so make SURE TO BRING ONE). The only problem I encountered due to having an ipad instead of a computer was file sharing. We had a massive collaboration thing going on in which lessons were swapped, but not having a way to download files from a thumb drive made it hard (many were too big to email).

Julie S.

Nanjing 2013

I had an amazing experience and as a program leader, I know how valuable feedback is for making a program even better. I am sorry to respond so late. As soon as I returned from China I had to report back to school and have now been with children for 2 weeks. Thank you so much for the opportunity to participate in the summer program. It was an experience I shall never forget and one that I will continue to promote to anyone who asks. You have a lovely family and I am grateful for the kindness and support provided by your father and son. I would love to do this again.

The management on site was handled well. Mr. Mao and Jason did an excellent job to ensure that our teaching and the children’s learning were supported. The schedule, meals, partner teachers, were all fine. I loved meeting the Chinese teachers and interacting with them. I would particularly like to thank Eileen, Craig, Angel, and the others for their friendship and support. They made our stay so enjoyable. I think an area of improvement would be in regards to the responsibilities of the lead teacher. I would recommend that the lead teacher give a brief morning announcement time about daily schedules, teachers’ input, any changes in schedules (of which there were a few). We were all pretty good about being flexible but there were times when we found out important information through our fellow teachers just by chance or it had been assumed that we had all heard the news.

I loved the food!! I loved the noodles, cabbage, and the eggplant the best. I don’t eat much meat or seafood, but I found the vegetables and rice, and fruit in such abundance that I didn’t go hungry. I appreciated the water bottles and would request if possible Sprite or diet soda available at times instead of Coke always (but that’s just me). I miss the food.

The hotels were great in all the cities. The one in Beijing was a bit out of the way, and I didn’t always feel very safe in that area (perhaps it’s just because it’s such a large city?). The others, however, were terrific. It was easy to get around town from them and especially in Suzhou, I loved the feeling of independence and empowerment to know that I could get around town with my colleagues. I truly appreciate all of your efforts.

Suzhou was top for me probably because I spent the most time there. I also enjoyed Hangzhou. These two cities had great people to talk to and dance with at the parks in the evening; the food was wonderful at the small restaurants we found; transportation was easy to get if desired; we could walk anywhere. I loved seeing the sites in each location and was most excited to visit the Terra Cotta Warriors and the Great Wall.

The tour guide’s service was ok. Faye was my favorite. She really knew her history as well as contemporary information. She spoke well and was friendly. Faye was able to accommodate our needs and wishes with a smile. If there was something that we showed an extra interest in, she would adjust the schedule to allow more time in one area or another and still manage to meet appointment times. In Beijing, our guide was nice but perhaps not as well organized as Faye.

Constructive suggestions for future teachers:

  • The trip overall is an opportunity of a lifetime. We all enjoyed the extra excursions and the cultural lessons at school. I would recommend that the customs chat given by Mr. Mao and Jason be given at the beginning of the trip so we will know what is culturally appropriate or not. We need to learn chopstick etiquette, greetings and toasting etiquette, and what we can expect when out among the people. Some of this we learned a little too late. Otherwise, your advice about expectations, travel, teaching, accommodations were right on the mark.
  • Regarding the teaching, I would say that children are pretty much the same all around the world. They love to play, they are sweet, challenging, eager. The students did have a lot of vocabulary, but they really need to learn to use it outside of their ‘book learning’-this would be the 4th/ 5th graders I’m referring to. You are right that they do need the oral practice.
  • In the hotels, we did have hair dryers, so I could have left mine at home. I followed your advice about watching out for certain food vendors, plus I took a multivitamin daily, along with Airborne and never got sick once. I have told many colleagues about my experience and would definitely love to go back if possible.

Thank you, again, Sally for a most wonderful time!!

Cristina H.

Suzhou 2013

I was very pleased with the management. I realize it was very difficult having the elementary separate, but I think it went very well. I was glad when Lewie stepped in to clarify departure time as 7:30am, as we were really rushed on more than 1 occasion to get to our am class, set up, and get going. Jim was an awesome asset to troubleshoot any computer glitches. I was fortunate not to have any. I was really happy with the technology in the classrooms. The projector screen and all hook-ups went very smoothly, and really helped make my teaching go well. I would make sure that future teachers know that copies should be kept at a minimum. I made most of mine in the US before departure.

I thought the food was good. I did notice the food at the main campus was a step up from the elementary. I really liked the “won tons” that were stuffed with spinach. And no meal was complete without the watermelon.

I was happy with the hotels we stayed at. Locations were really good in Nanjng, Xi’an, and Bejing. The breakfasts were above average in Bejing and Shanghai. I would suggest that future teachers who might have issues with hard beds bring an air mattress (like for a pool). I had a hard time sleeping-no pun intended- particularly in Hangzhou and X’ian. I have a temperpedic mattress at home.

This is a hard one, as all the cities had certain excellent qualities. However, I really would have liked more time in Hangzhou. Didn’t have time to walk and see as much as I would have liked.

The tour guides were beyond excellent. They took such good care, and went above and beyond to help us, explain things, and keep the “herd” under control. Both women-I don’t want to mess up the spelling of their names- were also very good. So informed and ready to share everything about their respective cities.

My constructive suggestions for future teachers:

  • Come prepared! It was really nice to have 3 of us from the same district. It really helped to divide and conquer our preparation. We made our GLAD charts ahead of time, made copies of all books we thought we’d use, had copies of blacklines, and pre-made craft ideas (like the paper hats for the 4th, Pete the cat shapes). Lewie’s presentation was very helpful to refresh game ideas. Since we from Texas were prepared, it gave us more leisure time during our break between the 2 sessions. I didn’t feel stressed at all. It made teaching run smoothly. The kids particularly liked slap-it, music and movement. The teachers liked getting my back-up flash drives with the activities I used. They could use them in the future that way.
  • As for preparing for the trip-you DO need to be capable of walking, climbing for extended periods. You DO need to be able to handle heat and humidity (wasn’t so bad for me being from a humid city) I wore sandals that were conducive to this, as well as crocs. It rained a lot, and these shoes had no problems-easily rinsed. Bring sunscreen, wipes (bathroom), and a light backpack. Bring a good, compact umbrella-for rain or shine.
  • I highly suggest wearing a skirt/sundress- makes using the restroom much easier if there are no western toilets.
  • A battery hand-held fan, and one you can hook into your laptop will help with the heat. I brought both- but they are available for a reasonable price in China.
  • I bought my adaptor in China- and it was better/cheaper than the ones from here. We bought cute chopsticks from the Confucius market at a very reasonable price-10 sets in a packet… and gave them to the members of our faculty. We also showed a ppt of the highlights of our trip. Now EVERYONE wants to go! Go with the flow-this was a trip of a lifetime!!!!!

Thank you SO MUCH Sally for all the dedication and hard work you put into this opportunity… I hope to go again!


Laura S.

Nanjing 2013

First of all, let me say that your program was an absolutely amazing introduction to a country I knew almost nothing about, and I feel incredibly privileged to have been able to take part in it. Everyone we dealt with -- starting with you -- was wonderful.

The management of the program at the Nanjing school was outstanding. I honestly can't think of anything that needs to be improved, and on the rare occasions when anything was mentioned (a request for tea at lunch, for example), the response was immediate. I particularly enjoyed the camaraderie and idea-sharing in the teacher workroom, and was touched that a western-style toilet had apparently been installed just for us. And I had never, ever seen fireworks that were put on just for me/us.

The food at the middle school was excellent. I really liked the little shrimp, but I think my favorite dish of all was the fish we had the last day. It was a whole fish with a light, kind of lemony sauce and a few sprigs of greenery on top.

No complaints about the accommodations either. I particularly like the hotel in Nanjing. The rooms were large enough and had enough storage space for us to be comfortable for an extended stay, and we definitely took advantage of the location -- the park on one side and the shopping on the other. The location of the Xi'an hotel was also perfect. We could walk to the Bell & Drum Towers and the Muslin Market, and bike riding around the city on the wall was a highlight of the trip for me.

I think my favorite city was Hangzhou. The lake was beautiful in the mist, as were the Buddhist and Daoist temples/parks we visited.

JJ gave us a fascinating mini-course in Chinese culture, ably assisted by our Beijing and Xi'an guides. Having him with us the whole time was a huge benefit.

As for suggestions, if future teachers could talk to past participants who had taught their expected grade level, I think that would be helpful. My eighth-grade students were much more advanced in English than I'd been led to expect. A 5-minute conversation with Robin, who had had 7th graders the previous year, was more useful to me than everything I'd read before leaving.

Again, Sally, thank you so much for all you do to make this program all that it is.

Chris L.

Nanjing 2013

I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for this wonderful experience. I know it takes a lot out of you to do this program every year but I am so glad you do it! I still look at my pictures and it feels like a wonderful dream. I never thought I would have visited China and now I have these wonderful experiences that I will always carry in my heart and share with my students.

I believe the program was very well managed. I was able to work well with another teacher and collaborate which truly helped with planning of the activities. I liked how the periods were organized and how we were able to see the students in the morning and the second week see them in the afternoon. One area of improvement would be role of the Chinese teacher. I had one experience where my teacher wanted to translate in Chinese for my students. I explained to her that with the appropriate sequence of activities the students would get it, and they did! It would also be a good idea for grade level teachers at the school to get together and organize certain themes for the kids. For example holiday for second grade, geography for third grade etc.

The food at the school was what I expected. They did their best to suit our needs but the food was cooked with more oil than I think we are used to. I believe more raw fruits and vegetables could be provided. My favorite was the fried chicken.

The accommodations at all the places were great! The a/c was always fully functional. I loved the little slippers and water always provided. When our room was placed near a construction zone it was fixed immediately. We always had a prime and safe location and were able to go out in large groups and walk around the beautiful cities.

By far my favorite city was Hangzhou. It was peaceful, calming, and relaxing especially after the long travel and fast pace cities like Shanghai. I enjoyed a relaxing time at the lake with our tour guide. I wish we could have stayed there longer. Like J J said “it is like a relaxing lady” and I agree!

Our tour guides were amazing. JJ always made us laugh and kept us moving. Our tour guide in Beijing was great! She knew a lot of information and was very considerate about everyone’s different needs.

My constructive suggestions for future teachers:

  • Be flexible. It is difficult to plan specific lesson plans until you arrive in China and look through materials and speak to the teachers. The students know many words at grades 3 and above but providing context is important. Scaffold the students to think creatively and use the vocabulary they know with the grammar structures they need to learn. Make it fun! It is a summer camp and the students to do respond well to worksheets or powerpoints. They work well in organized class activities like introducing vocabulary through TPR and playing Simon says.
  • If you are traveling by yourself do not worry, Sally does an amazing job of partnering you up with an amazing roommate. Everyone in the group was friendly, supportive, and helpful at all times.
  • Materials that I would suggest (in addition to the list) would be flashcards/cardstock (will come in handy for vocabulary games), bring extra gifts, baggies for your gifts, thin rain jacket, comfortable rain proof sandals, insect repellent, and hand sanitizer. When we first arrived I felt a little dizzy from the humidity and jetlag (probably) and drinking Gatorade really helped.

Rosa M.

Nanjing 2013

I thought the management of the program on the school site was extremely well run and organized. There were virtually no surprises and we almost always knew what was expected.

Food at the school site was pretty good. Unfortunately most dishes were always fried and even the lovely green vegetables seemed to be doused in lots of oil. If there was any way to get more green or assorted veggies that were simply steamed that would be wonderful. I do know it was a challenge for the vegetarians, but since there is such a wide variety of wonderful vegetables in China, it would be nice to have more. My favorite dishes most likely included diced chicken with various sauces and vegetables.

I loved the accommodation in all the places we stayed. I really enjoyed our hotel in Nanjing, especially the location. It was perfect for my daily walks/workouts in the lovely and peaceful lake area. I also loved its proximity to the metro for getting around to other parts of the city. The other hotel in Beijing was great for its access to a washer/dryer for washing the last night.

My favorite cities were Hangzhou and Shanghai- I would have liked a bit more time in each for free time and exploring. So lovely and so much history. I also loved living in Nanjing- what a wonderful and vibrant city with lots of beautiful nature as well. Great varieties of cities and things to see and experience!

Excellent tour guides who were extremely knowledgeable as well as super fun and friendly. I am usually not a tour guide type of traveler, but I loved having them and they were so eager to share the history and their unique perspectives. Great, great quality in tour guides!!

Overall the program was incredibly well run, very organized and we fully took advantage of every minute/hour there. We saw so much, did so much and the teachers that were chosen were so wonderful and enjoyable to be with. I made lifelong friends and learned so much about this amazing country of China. Thanks also for the great pairing of roommates. You did a fabulous job. I will always praise this program to the highest, as it was such an incredible way to experience a new culture.

Thank you so much!

Kelly M.

Nanjing 2013

Sally, teaching for those two weeks was a greatest pleasure, saying goodbye to those little faces on my last day was very heavy on my heart. My goal was to reach the students that struggled and who were afraid to make errors with speaking in English, I wanted the students to feel comfortable enough to try. With the help of my Chinese teacher I believe I reached my goal. With in a few days I saw kids slowly raise their hands or yell out answers, I knew I was on the right track. I wanted to say something about my link teacher Lillian, I was the luckiest of our bunch to have such a wonderful teacher to share a class with, we both learned from each other. She always had a smile on her face and was in there teaching with me each day, learning Chinese and English together. I know we both benefited from this exchange tremendously.

During my stay in Suzhou, two of my Chinese exchange students from Canada (that also went to our school in Suzhou) spent five days touring me around Suzhou and showing me their city, and introducing me to their family and friends. I have spent the last two years in Canada with Vivian and Teddy, and they have become family. Now I have experienced Chinese schools and cultures and I can only help my exchange students adjust to a new culture. ( living with host families and western schools)

Mr. Mao and Jason, had were on top of everything, I only things that I saw us struggling with was finding markers/crayons for the students, and extra rewards to hand out daily to our students. But that is something we will know better for next time (Diane brought tons of candy from home because she knew it was very expensive in China and lots of photos she could hold up ) . In my case I really didn't know what to expect from the students and school and I will be better prepared for my next exchange... more pictures and treats and a better lesson plan. I really enjoy the art lessons, and would love to do more of that during our lunch, I know a bunch of us bought paint and brushes to take home.

Food was good, but as a group during our second week at school and third week in China, I think we were just tired of buffet style and needed a change ... there was a muslin noodle restaurant close to the school that changed things up a bit for us and Craig (one of the teachers) was able to show us what was around the school, and that we were very safe to explore. (there are 3 building full of markets, he took us over and showed us around )

Accommodations were great ... the locations of the hotel were perfect. It allowed us to go out and explore on our own and a experience different the non tourist areas (my favourite ). The hotel in Beijing was great, but the location was poor ... nothing to do around the hotel and subway and buses where 45 min walk away and taxis where too scary to travel on at night.

My favorite places in China: WEST LAKE ..... SUZHOU the history, walking the streets near the hotel, and the subway and bus system here easy .... XI,AN the muslin market and biking around the city wall, and of course the Soldiers. The Great Wall of China, was breath taking, and a worth the trip alone. My favourite part of each city was getting up early and joining TI CHE and walking around and taking it all in ... see people start their days.

I wish I had of know ... or had it stressed enough to us that the Silk Market in Beijing has where I was going to find all the knock offs and great selections at incredible prices ... then I would have spent more of my time exploring.

The Webinars we had before leaving were very useful, but I think more detail to the classrooms and schools are needed maybe a small video would be very helpful. I think adding a teacher who maybe it was their first or second year would be extremely useful, because they know what they would have done differently and how all the first year teachers struggled, because it is new to us and I know how I would have been better prepared for another year (how being a beginner is still fresh ) I know we were all very nervous about what to expect. By our second week we were exchanging each other teaching material because we didn't bring the right things. I wanted to say that the teachers I worked with were incredible. You picked such a incredible diverse group of teachers .... each one brought something new to the table, they had such unique backgrounds and ideas .... we worked extremely well together, when one need a boost or unstressing, we grouped together and help each other out ....

I feel every honoured to have been chosen to experience and be part of such an incredible program. I know it has impacted my life and I will take what I have learned and use it to teach other ESL teachers and it will only aid me with in my job as an ESL instructor at school.

Sally Thanks for everything, and thanks to your Dad ..... I'm sorry we didn't meet.

Alison S.

Suzhou 2013

The program management on site was good, without problems. I appreciated that Jason was able to coordinate photocopying for me. I had prepared lesson material before I came to give to the students, more than they could assimilate during the 12 days of instruction but which they could use in their future English studies. Jason was able to arrange to have the photocopies made.

Mr. Mao did all that he could to make our work trouble free. His orientation was very interesting and informative and helpful personally to me as I was going to a Chinese wedding after teaching and he explained some of the culture around weddings which I was able to apply immediately.

I would love to have more Tai Chi at lunch breaks as the time between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. is long. Many of us did not need so much time to rest so doing Tai Chi or playing ping pong was a welcome activity. Going shopping at the centre close to the school in Suzhou was something to do once or twice – good location for sure.

I would also welcome more discussion with more of the teachers, to learn what challenges they have and more importantly, how we might help them in the short time we are there, either with questions of culture or questions of ESL teaching.

I am not sure that I had any favourites. I do not eat pork so my selection some days was very limited. Also, I ended up having a sick stomach for many days so I was reluctant to eat much at the school after that. I did like watermelon and bananas. And very much appreciated the water which was available for us to drink.

Accommodation was fine. The last hotel in Beijing was a bit out of the way but it was fine. Its breakfasts were good.

I liked Hangzhou because of West Lake. We went for walks early in the morning and watched the people doing Tai Chi and other exercises. That being said, all cities had something great to offer – the architecture, world heritage sites, old quarters, urban organization. Of course Suzhou was good because we got to stay there for an extended period of time. Craig was very nice and showed us around a lot. Angel also helped us with shopping. As did Maggie’s assistant. Everyone was very welcoming and helpful. Of course Xian – the Muslim market and the terracotta warriors – was a highlight as well. I met Chinese friends there so got a local tour.

Sandra Z.

Suzhou 2013

I was really impressed by everything and how well organized, how well cared for we were, how fun china is, how sweet the Chinese are, how aggressive the salespeople are, how crazy our students were, how beautiful the place is, how ugly the place is, how historic it is, how modern it is, how rich it is, how poor it is and how active and crowded it was an amazing experience for me that I will never forget!

Melissa M.

Nanjing 2013

The hotel in Beijing was phenomenal..... the hotel was beautiful.... Very clean & new ...the rooms were very nice... spread out, good closet.... (in fact big enough we surprised Edie with a little birthday party)...beds softer (hahaha) ..... they had safes in the room... the staff was wonderful (I think they all spoke English) ... friendly, helpful with all our subway/map questions.. & there were a lot of them!!

The most fabulous part was a LAUNDROMAT ... yep washers & dryers!!... I didn't need it as I was going home, but it sure helped the ones traveling on.... like Cory washed everything, so had all clean clothes to start her trek with hubby... needless to say she was beaming!!

The breakfast was the very best... scrambled eggs & real orange juice..... lots of choices (definitely lots of Western choices)... dining room ... big, modern, very pretty ... good restaurants nearby... (walking distance) in fact we even went back to the "duck" restaurant for a farewell dinner on our own the last night... most of the whole group... it was fun. There was a gift shop with great snacks, cold drinks, open late ..... a coffee shop, internet station, a bar .... with ICE .... it was all very nice .....

There was a little mini-market right outside the hotel and There was a Wu Mart on the corner... so that thrilled lots too!! ...and an awesome foot massage (had just opened) down the street!! It was a great place!! hard hard massage... they really worked your legs (which we needed after the WALL).. no cupping, but did a saran wrap with a heat tingling on your knees... clean & nice.

The only negatives for the hotel..... there was no fridge in the room .... but we just put ice(which they had) in the sink for cold water and it was not located near the subway... the subway was about a 15-20 min walk ... which was not bad, but late at night you would want to be with a few people walking back as the neighborhood was a little shady... but you could always take a cab.

The wifi was a little rough... but I think they just need to update their server ... they said everyone in the hotel was using... haaha

Brandi B.

Nanjing 2013