Thursday, September 2, 2010

July 21st Parent Update, by Jason Patent

Hello, Everyone,

This is Jason, aka Pei Laoshi, with another condensed YingHua update. Moving so fast these days there are very few chances for any of the teachers to sit down and send a truly thorough update!

Tuesday, July 20th dawned cool, but sunny, so the cool part didn't last. After a quick breakfast everyone reported to the paved area outside the "hotel" building for a full day of hot, sunny team-building activities. The mountaineering training center dispatched several coaches to lead the activities.

The clear highlight of the day from the kids' standpoint was the "Wheel of Wind and Fire." The 52 students were divided into two teams, each with an equal balance of Dongdong and YingHua students. Each team was given a big stack of newspapers and a roll of packing tape. The task was to tape newspapers together into one long strip that was to be joined into a loop, inside of which the students would stand like the wheels of a tank, inching forward as they moved the loop around them, like the track that goes around the wheels of the tank. There were many challenges: building a strip that would withstand the strains of being walked on and pulled; everyone walking at the same speed; everyone walking gingerly enough to keep the strip from ripping. And of course the newest challenge of cross-linguistic and cross-cultural communication throughout the entire process, from concept to construction to execution.

The two teams took different approaches. One team put the bulk of their tape to use in creating a strong "spine" to the strip; the other team emphasized uniformity throughout the width of the strip. While the strip with the strong spine was decidedly less pretty, it did the job, as did the students "driving" it, and they won the race going away. A lot of smiles and laughter!

An activity in the morning was "Treasurer Hunt" - seeking several targets at the center through the effort and determination of five teams. The students did another activity in the morning blind-folded using non-verbal communications to divide themselves into two teams and then each team using a long rope to form a square.

In the afternoon, they also did a suite of shorter activities requiring group coordination and team spirit.

After dinner the students first did a group reflection and all shared something special in the day. Then they split into Dongdong and YingHua groups. The topic of the evening was exploring the value of mature, responsible "venting" in intercultural relations. I led the conversation with the YingHua students, and Liao Laoshi led the Dongdong conversation. The context was set very carefully and precisely, in order to avoid venting for venting's sake, which could take on a life of its own and lead to more negativity. One key aspect of the conversation was emphasizing that it is human nature to react defensively when confronted with "different" people. It is built into our survival instinct. Thankfully, though, we are human beings, and we have the capacity to rise above our "animal" reactions and strive for genuine cooperation. First, though, we have to deal with the "automatic" reactions, whatever they are, and that beings with identifying what the reactions are. This helped to foster and maintain a spirit of "venting" for the sake of getting along better. It worked very well in both cases, with students offering up not only "complaints," but many heartfelt compliments of the other group.

All the best,

Jason Patent

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