A creative way to learn English at EFZ/Shanghai

The next entry from Mr. Gustavson in Shanghai.

Thursday, we spent almost entirely at EFZ.  In the morning, tired, we slept past breakfast and so had to forage on our own and found a local eatery called Starbucks where we had coffee, tea, and muffins.  Afterwards, we attended a sixth-grade English class in the international division.  In the normal high school, as I understand it, students range from ninth grade to twelfth, but in the international division, they have much younger students, some of whom are native English speakers or have grown up in English-speaking countries.  As a result, the level of discussion was quite high.  The class revolved around a discussion of bullying, its causes and consequences, and also internal and external conflicts.  The teacher was born in China but grew up in the San Francisco Bay area and is now an American citizen.  He did a nice job of getting the students to speak, and their English was quite strong.  In the afternoon, we all went to an English class and helped judge a contest in which groups of students acted out scenes from Phantom of the Opera and The Sound of Music. 

The students had not done this kind of activity often before and so have some things to learn about how to stage a scene, but they were impressive in many ways, most notably for their ability to sing in tune.  Most students chose scenes that required a lot of singing, and, boys and girls, they all sang quite well.  It’s fun to see how well these students work together and how willing they are to step on to center stage.  The stereotype of Chinese schools is that the system requires mostly rote learning, but at EFZ they are clearly trying to move beyond this approach to include many creative elements within the program.  I will be teaching this class next Thursday.

After the school day was over, I went out and shot some hoops with a group of students at one of the baskets.  Meanwhile, there were full-court games with officials on two of the other courts, as well as many half-court games at other baskets.  There were easily a hundred kids overall playing basketball and others were on the track or kicking a soccer ball or skate-boarding.  One couple was even throwing a baseball around.  Later that evening as we walked to dinner, a modest affair this time, we saw a crowd of basketball players going at it under the lights in another playground.

This morning, Anne-Marie and I headed to the French Consulate to try to find out more about her grandfather’s life in Shanghai.  We were not sure how the consulate would receive us, but they were charming and laid out a plan to try to find addresses where we could get further information.  They should e-mail us at some point today with their findings.  Afterwards, Anne-Marie and I sat in People’s Square and took in the city and then walked around the area.  We then made a quick jump to Lujiazui and then to school in time for an afternoon French class, an elective. Anne-Marie will be teaching this class next Friday.  There, once again, the students impressed us with their ears and how good their pronunciation is.  When we returned to our room, we could look out the window to the North Gate of the school and see cars lined up to take students home for the weekend.  Many more headed to the subway, and there was a long line of students pulling a suitcase behind them as they took laundry home to mom.  Because the day was so beautiful, it felt like the last day of school and the beginning of summer vacation.  I almost felt a touch of sadness.  Because school essentially shuts down for the weekend, we will head to Hangzhou early tomorrow morning for the weekend.  We will spend Saturday night there.