School Daze(d) and Confused...
We have discovered the two crucial rules to volunteering:
Rule #1: Make sure the place you volunteer is actually interested in having you there.
Rule #2: Make sure the people you want to volunteer to are actually available to be volunteered to...
So we began our "Project Goodwill" wanting to spread our goodwill and mix it with their goodwill to make the world feel well... good, you know?
Off we went to Shuhe to teach and hopefully add some value by giving something back.
Unfortunately there was a holiday we didn't know about which meant we started teaching on a Sunday - which was fine by us as the names of days have kind of lost meaning. Being Sunday, there was only half day school, so after one lesson we went home.
Shuhe (where the school is located) is a beautiful town about 15km from Lijiang. It's a bit smaller, and seems to be a smaller version of Lijiang, but still remains a working town whereas Lijiang is more of a tourist town while the people working there live in Lijiang New Town.
So being a holiday Monday and Tuesday were not teaching days and off we went to Tiger Leaping Gorge for a two day trek (different blog).
Back to school early on the Wednesday. Lessons were due to start at 10h30, but we showed up at 08h00 in the hopes of doing anything they might need us to do. Apparently they needed to dance…
This was then the main theme that followed for the remainder of our stay at the school. We would show up, ask about lessons, be told there are no lessons. We would show the schedule they gave us indicating a lesson, they would say no, we would say yes, they would check, they would come and get us for the lesson as per the schedule…
About 2 minutes into the lesson the teacher would leave and there we would be (separately in our "own" classrooms) with 30 kids with limited vocab. I'm OK as per my 3 years teaching in Hong Kong, but Mary was given Grade 2 (the school starts English in Grade 3). She was left for 1.5 hours on her own, as was I. In itself this is fine as long as the teachers were out saving the world, or even just Shuhe town. Unfortunately they were out dancing with most of the students. Seems there was a "children's day" coming up in June and the students needed to practice. It must be a very important day as the practice sessions were on for pretty much all our scheduled lessons.
So as ½ of our classrooms were out dancing, the teachers were out in force during breaktimes, lunchtimes (2 hours each day) and before school practicing their moves.
This is sounding like a bit of a moan, and yes it probably is. Our gripe was that no one told us that this would be dancing season and we spent hours waiting for lessons that never happened while the teachers who could have utilized us (if only to make us feel better for sitting there while they watched us wait in between their practice sessions) were more interested in the next dance session on the football pitch.
So, lesson(s) learnt before our next round of volunteering and we'll be on the lookout for something that adds value where it's needed - even if that is on a dance floor somewhere ; )