Tuesday, October 10, 2006


The night before camp, our team headed to a middle school on the outskirts of the city to complete our first assignment--evalutating the children's English levels.

When I say "middle school," there are a few things I need to clarify. For starters, Chinese middle schools don't encompass the exact same age groups as the ones here. For example, some of the kids in our classes were 15 years old. If I'm not mistaken, these kids' American grade levels would be anywhere from seventh to tenth rather than the sixth through eighth.

Also, don't think of this middle school as one building with a few wings. As I mentioned in the last post, dorms, cafeterias, outhouses, dancehalls and instructional buildings are all spread out. It's like a miniature college campus where students from poorer families will be housed until they return to their fields and villages. Some of the more wealthy students found lodging in the city.

I'm not one who likes to sit through meetings. That's partly a bad thing, because it sometimes leaves me disorganized and out of sync with the way a certain operation is supposed to run. At other times, though, I feel like restlessness is a good thing, a way of never becoming so settled that I can't stir anything up or so idle that I can't get running again.

That said, the day before camp had been a dreary one, and although we'd had some rest time and a good lunch, the rain and the planning sessions had sapped most of our strength. But then we crossed the threshold into the auditorium where all the kids had assembled.

Seeing their smiling faces triggered an amazing response from our team. It felt like either pure adrenaline or the Holy Spirit, or a combination of the two. Whatever it was, God controlled it and used it to give us fuel for the rest of the evening.

With well over a hundred students, the task of evaluating each one's English level looked daunting. But with 24 people and a little organization, we were able to tackle it. Using ESL curriculum, we tested students on vocabulary, speaking and comprehension. We used pictures that forced them to distinguish between similar items and sentences. We also asked simple questions like, "What time is it?" and "What day is today?" If they got 6-9 right on the first part, they moved on to the second, which could have been easier or harder depending on which vocabulary had stuck in their heads.

Each teacher evaluated about six students, and instead of leaving the school exhausted, we felt refreshed and excited. Tomorrow--the first day of camp--couldn't come soon enough.

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