William Underwood joined our projects in Xiangyu School Wenzhou
Please you us about some of your most enjoyable moments of the trip?
The best moments were where I set up class games, and had the whole class participating in activities such as Hangman, 20 Questions etc. Seeing how proud students were when they answered questions correctly was truly rewarding. Further, witnessing the students' language ability improve through activities which they clearly enjoyed was particularly significant, as it indicated that my teaching methods were having a positive effect.
Which were the highlights of the lessons, cultural excursions and outdoor activities?
The highlight was watching the students perform a drama production which they had worked on for two weeks. They were able to incorporate lots of the English that I had taught them, and I could see the improvement that they had made due to repeated practice and their own resilience. I also enjoyed being able to do practical lessons outdoors, and see the students being very innovative in such lessons. This made a great change from the normal rote learning that they were used to.
How would you say the overall experience has benefited you?
I am now more competent at adapting to situations, and being able to think quickly and coherently when problems arise. For example, when students finished work early, or lesson tasks were proving to be ineffective, I could come up with spontaneous solutions in order to remedy this. The experience has also broadened by cultural awareness, and has taught me how to change the way I interact with others in certain scenarios depending on their cultural values. Knowing someone's values makes it much easier to determine how best to motivate them.
What was the best thing about your experience in China?
The best thing was seeing the students having fun, but improving their English at the same time. This was exemplified by the group activities that I set up, where students showed great cooperation with one another, and motivated their peers, helping each other to benefit. Seeing how they could contribute as individuals to the progression of others' capabilities was gratifying.
Would you recommend participating to a friend and if so why?
Yes and no. Yes, because the students are wonderful to work with, and are very receptive to what you want to teach. Therefore, it is easy to see progression. Also, overall the schemes are organised very well, and the coordination with the Chinese school is very effective.
No, because I discovered that out of the 6 of us teaching in Wenzhou, only 2 were not being paid and had not had their travel expenses paid for. I was one of those 2, and we both went through Gotoco, whereas the others went through a different company. I do not mind that I was not paid-I taught on a voluntary basis. However, to not even pay for travel expenses (flights to China cost a lot!) was in my opinion highly questionable. There was clearly money set aside to pay for teachers' wages and expenses, yet it seems that you took all of this money yourself. I understand that you need to make a profit, and again I was not expecting to be paid, so I'm very comfortable with you taking that money. However, to not pay for travel when you easily could have done is unacceptable. As a result, I have spoken about you to my friends in fairly pejorative terms, and have been hesitant to recommend using you. There are similar companies that they could use who would not cause them to needlessly incur travel expenditure, and it would naturally make sense to use them instead. There is an easy solution to this: pay for travel. Until you implement this, I am concerned that the more people find out about the unfairness of your system, the more potential customers you will lose.