"The three-week UVa Startalk Chinese teacher academy has been my best three weeks in the US so far ... Rarely have I seen such a well-organized and implemented course."
The three-week UVA STARTALK Chinese teacher academy has been my best three weeks in the States so far. It was very intense. It requires all the teachers to study hard and work hard. Most teachers participated in late night studying or group discussions in the hotel lobby. We learned the latest theories and teaching strategies in the first week, and then we were able to apply what we had just learned to the two-week practicum. Before teaching in the classroom, we had rehearsal every afternoon. Dr. Tseng and other teachers gave me valuable suggestions and pointed out my blind spots. After rehearsal, I spent a long time making adjustments to my lesson plan, asking questions like: How do I best apply the communicative context? Is there a way for me to change teacher-centered activities to student-centered activities? Is it possible to use more authentic materials in this scenario? Is there a better way to do a comprehension check? Are there any best practices adopted in the lesson? I can feel that the program has gradually changed my mind-set. During the course, Dr. Tseng and two practicum facilitators were observing the class closely. Soon after each class, they would give us feedback. Plus, teachers were able to see their teaching video clips. It really helped teachers find out their weaknesses. I attributed my personal growth to this very-well organized system. Thus, you can see why it has been the most productive three weeks I have had in the US. Rarely have I seen such a well-organized and implemented course.
As a novice teacher, I got to hear from all the other experienced teachers; they not only taught me how to be a better teacher, but also how to be a better person. I made friends here, and I felt a connection with other teachers. I saw how great a Chinese class could be. I was inspired to attend more professional development trainings, conferences, and workshops, or even graduate school to further improve my teaching. I will miss all the great people I met here at UVA STARTALK, teachers as well as students.