Former Extension Educator, Local Food Systems and Small Farms
Richard W. Clark
Former Visiting Associate Professor, Human & Community Development
Former Extension Educator, 4-H Youth Development
Phyllis A. Herring
Former Extension Educator, SNAP-Ed Region 3
Former Extension Educator, 4-H Youth Development and 4-H Youth Development - Metro
Former Outreach Initiative Specialist
Former Director of Web Development
Former Extension Educator, Youth Development
JoAn C. Todd
Former Extension Educator, Nutrition and Wellness
Former Extension Educator, 4-H Youth Development - Metro
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Sunday, April 20, 2008
So much has happened on my trip so far--it is hard to pick the topic upon which I want to reflect in my first blog entry. One of the highlights, though, that I am never forgetting is how it was to teach my workshop and think about the educational process in China.
The topics requested of me by Sanda University were leadership, youth and adult relationships, and coalitions and collaborations--all to be taught in 80 minutes. To kick off my morning, I arrived to the workshop room early and ready to go. I was a little nervous--mostly about whether participants would be able to understand me and relate to the concepts I was planning to share. I had to ask a man in the hallway to help me turn the lights on in the room and to configure my PowerPoint flash drive, but with hand signals and smiles, we were able to communicate. Students were asked to be present in my workshop ten minutes early, and at 9:20 a.m., I had 51 students seated. I brought handouts as instructed for 60 so I breathed a sigh of relief. Then, just before I started, 43 more Sanda students entered the room. (I am thankful Virgina told us in the January orientation to be relaxed and flexible during our teaching sessions--those two tips were EXTREMELY useful as I said good morning to the group of 94!)
It took only a few minutes after starting to teach, though, for me to feel welcome. The students were extremely respectful, attentive, and anxious to learn. We quickly engaged in a comparative discussion about definitions of leadership and how our respective contries view that term relative to teenagers. The students in my session used words like "organized," "communicative," "power," and "strong" when definining leadership. When I mentioned phrases like "cooperative spirit," "strong energy," and "collective group work," students nodded they understood the concepts I was describing. We connected around personal leadership for the good of the group and agreed that a person does not have to be the "leader" to "lead!"
When we discussed youth and adult relationships, students mentioned parents, teachers, and adult friends as types of adults most influential in their lives. That seemed pretty similar to what 4-H members say all of the time back home!
The third topic was the one most concerning to me--as I wasn't sure whether the word "collaboration" translated into Chinese. I tested the water by asking for someone to explain the term, and an extremely bright young man in the back of the room raised his hand and said "a group of people with common interests who come together to do work." It was clear they definitely knew about coalitions and collaborations as many students visibly shook their heads in agreement when he gave his definition.
Since I was extremely relaxed by now and able to operate in my normal interactive teaching mode, I recruited two students in the front of the room who had been very participatory up to this point to be my "helpers" for the next activity. I asked the students to work in small groups of four or five and come up with a list of their common interests. My helpers visited the groups, gathered their responses, delivered them to me, and then I wrote them on the board. (The students got a kick out of me writing their interests on the blackboard for all to see.) Once listed, I asked the students to vote for the one response they liked the most. Music was the most popular interest area. Other popular interests among the group included photography, technology, geography, and fashion design. Boxing made the list followed by lots of laughs--it was fun to see that humor expressed by the group!
Once the voting process was complete, I pointed out that collaborations in the United States discuss interests among group members and choose work based on the most popular interests, the most pressing need, resources available, etc. Decisions are made by the group voting, reaching agreement through consensus, etc. It worked really well to simulate the process prior to explaining it and brought vague concepts to life for them.
When I talked about evaluation of leadership programs, youth and adult relationships, and coalitions and collaborations, the bright young man emerged again and asked me what criteria I would use to evaluate the job I did in my workshop with them. I listed criteria such as speaking in a way they could understand, asking them to help me clarify when needed to improve that understanding, fostering interaction and discussion with them, and sharing our joint perspectives on the three topics included in the workshop. It was a perfect segway to discuss with them how it went, and according to participants who spoke up, my criteria were met.
In general, I found the teaching experience in China extremely enjoyable, gratifying, and personally rewarding. Given I had nobody helping me teach a room full of 94 Sanda University students--all strangers to me at the begininning of my workshop and friends at the end, I was deeply impressed with their warmth, receptiveness, patience, respectful learning attitude, willingness to participate and work at it until we understood each other, and sense of humor. Together, we were all able to practice leadership, build a relationship, and collaborate!