Please read on to see what other volunteers and schools have to say about Stepping Stones' English teaching volunteer programs!
- Feature Story：Zou Hao's Story
- Partners Testimonials
- Children Testimonials
- Individual Volunteers Testimonials
- Corporate & University Volunteers Testimonials
When he first came to Shanghai from Anhui Province to live with his mother, Zou Hao got enrolled in a migrant school located in a remote area of Shanghai. Like many other migrant children, this 6-year-old boy was not even confident in his Mandarin, let alone having any interest in learning English. Scoring less than 40 points in his English exams, Hao did not see any point in learning the foreign language until his fourth summer in Shanghai, when Hao’s mother, Li Zhengfang, picked up a flyer from the village committee about Stepping Stones’ summer program and decided to sign him up. On the first day, Hao refused to go to the class, but eventually gave in under the condition that his Mom would stay with him in the classroom for the whole time. By the end of the very first class, he was absolutely amazed and dashed to his mom cheering,“Mom, this class is so different! They did not speak a SINGLE Chinese word and it is super fun!”
Inspired by the distinctive study experience, his initial curiosity turned into an unprecedented learning passion. After completing the 2012 summer program, from September onwards, he commuted by himself to the community center every Saturday to attend Stepping Stone’s newly launched After-school Tuition Program. Encouraged by Stepping Stones’ volunteers, he was able to step outside of his comfort zone to communicate in English. His Mom even sectioned out a small space at home for him to practice his spoken English. By the time he graduated from primary school, he was able to score 85+ in his English tests. Although he had to return to his hometown to continue his middle school education, he is currently ranking top 3 in his class and just scored 96 points in his English mid-term exam this semester! Witnessing the dramatic effect on her own son, Li Zhengfang volunteered to help support Stepping Stones’ classes, and has recently become a full-time staff in the village committee to coordinate the English program, which helps migrant children like her son to gain valuable experiences that they would not likely get elsewhere.
"The current English curriculum in China emphasizes writing and reading but pays little attention to listening and speaking. Stepping Stones provides the service that we most need help with. I think Stepping Stones’ volunteers enjoy the interaction with our teachers. We started a program called Discussion Time last semester, in which our teachers practice oral English with Stepping Stones’ volunteers for about 20-30 minutes per week. The program has greatly helped the teachers." - Pang Yuyi, Hua Hong School, Minhang, Shanghai.
"Stepping Stones is a great project. It offers our students the opportunity to experience western culture and to improve their oral skills. Stepping Stones’ impact on the students is that they have become braver and more confident to speak, and more open. When I have doubts about pronunciation or grammar, I also ask for help from the volunteers." - Zuo Yan, Teacher, Hua Hong School, Minhang, Shanghai.
"Stepping Stones’ program’s impact on me is that I have the opportunity to communicate face to face with foreigners. In this way, my oral English has improved; it has made me braver to communicate in English. The impact on the students is that students have become more active, because the classes are very lively." - Guo Jia, Teacher, Tangsi School, Pudong New Area, Shanghai.
"Stepping Stones has been teaching the children at our centre ever since the first day that we opened in July 2009. In those years, the students attending Stepping Stones classes have made such a marked improvement in English that the English teachers in their schools have noticed and have told them all to join the English programme at our centre!" -Yi Liying, Center Manager, New Citizen Life Center, Guijing Village, Pudong Sanlin, Shanghai
"On behalf of these children, I would like to thank you for all you've done for them. Though they are not rich, with the care of the leaders and the society, I believe they will grow up healthily, and will repay the society with more love." - Hao Lingyu, Math Teacher, Tangsi Primary School, Pudong New Area, Shanghai.
“Volunteer teachers encourage students to speak and express themselves, so the classes with a volunteer teacher are more active in the English lessons than those without.”- Local English teacher, primary school in Minhang, Shanghai.
"Volunteering broadens students’ vision. Volunteers bring fresh knowledge from the outside world and bring it to the students. This is what is lacking in our regular school classes. The volunteers raise students’ interest in English and make them like the subject more." - Liu Jing, Teacher, Hua Bo Li Xing Hang, Minhang, Shanghai.
“On behalf of the school, we need to send a big thank you to the volunteers of the Stepping Stones program for all the excellent impact they have on our students in the field of English learning.” - Principal, primary school in Pudong, Shanghai.
“We really like the Stepping Stones voluntary English teaching programme at our school. Students who join the programme become more interested in learning English. They like your programme and the volunteers that come to our school. We hope to see you again next school term.”- Director of Studies, primary school in Putuo, Shanghai.
“Stepping Stones’ volunteers are very good to us. They are very kind, friendly, and “tender” when they teach us. If we make a mistake, they immediately correct us. The teachers also have very special ways to teach. I like to answer questions. If we get the answer right, they will give us sweets, or they smile and say : you’re great. [...] The foreign teachers do not teach us like adults normally teach children. Instead, they communicate with us like other children do. They are very nice to us. They play with us, and while we are playing, we are also learning a lot. [...] My grade used to be just average. After taking the English program, I have a new understanding of English. Now my English grade is top-3 in class. I also help others if they do not understand a question." - Zhu Xiaohui, student, Hua Hong School, Minhang, Shanghai.
"These English courses correct my pronunciation, create a relaxed studying atmosphere, and make English easier. I have improved my English grade from 80 to 90. My greatest improvements are in listening and writing." - Wang Jiayu, student, Tangsi Primary School, Pudong New Area, Shanghai.
"English has become easier after taking the oral classes. We now find it is not so hard to communicate with foreigners, and they are actually easy to get along with. The impact on me is that I would like to study abroad if it is possible. My dream countries are the US and the UK, because they speak English, and the US has the most advanced technology."- Jiang Rong, student, Tangsi Primary School, Pudong New Area, Shanghai.
"I really like when the teacher comes. I feel very happy. Because they are foreigners…I have not seen foreigners in China. The teacher taught us new words and sentences, I learned a lot ." - Tian Xiaoxue, student, Xixiang Guangyuan School, Zhejiang.
"It took quite a bit of encouragement from friends to get me to the volunteer orientation session at Stepping Stones two years ago. I do not have children, it has been a long time since I was in a classroom and I was terrified of the mischief that 50 children might get up to. [...] The orientation session convinced me that there is an urgent need for english speakers in migrant schools and that I could positively impact the children's results at school. Stepping Stones provide a lot of very practical resources to develop a lesson plan and prepare for the classes. I have been very impressed with the quality of support and professionalism of all the staff at Stepping Stones. The children were in fact very well behaved, they were very excited to see us each week and I saw improvements in all their abilities over the course of each term. I usually left class smiling and made lots of new friends with co-teachers from many different countries. [...] Most importantly I felt like I was actually making a contribution to local peoples lives. It is easy to get caught up in an expat bubble in Shanghai. Stepping Stones provided a link for me to understand a little more about what life is really like for many local people." - Claire, volunteer, Nanshu School, Zhejiang.
"When I was approached to be part of this new, innovative scheme to provide children in more remote parts of China with English lessons taught by native speakers, I didn’t hesitate. I had loved teaching with Stepping Stones when I lived in China and now my week would provide me with forty minutes where I felt like I was back there. [...] I knew teaching via videolink would be challenging at times but any problems that arose were not insurmountable. The biggest challenges were the variable Internet speed and not being physically present in the classroom to move amongst the students. The Internet speed varied from week to week. Some weeks there were no problems, whilst at other times there was a sound delay, which meant I needed to adapt my teaching to allow for this. Like all classrooms where I have taught in China, the students were eager to learn and well behaved. They sat in the same seat each week, so by having a seating plan on the wall above my computer, I was able to get the attention of any students I felt were becoming distracted. [...] Each week, Ross at Stepping Stones provided me with a PowerPoint lesson. This formed the basis of my lesson. I found the student’s attention was highest when I was on full screen, so I added real objects to illustrate teaching points and used a small white board for incidental teaching or to play games. My lessons were revision of work already taught by the school’s English teacher. I found the students knew the content well but needed practice with pronunciation. This improved greatly over time along with the student’s confidence in participating and interacting with me. [...] I have enjoyed this experience very much. It can be challenging, and you need to be adaptable, as you don’t have the same control over all the variables as you do in the classroom. It has been wonderful seeing the beaming smiles of the students as they arrive and leave our virtual classroom." - Nola Clark, videolink volunteer, Fengxian, Shanghai.
"These kids really make my day! Since I’m not a native speaker , I wasn’t sure if I could teach the Chinese students, but I must say I’m so glad that I started doing this. I feel my English level is good enough and these kids give me so much back every week. I’m always happy after spending the time with them all." -Randi Lur, volunteer, Shanghai.
“I didn't have a chance to say thank you for the opportunity to enjoy this marvellous experience at the school. I enjoyed and learned a lot this year with my colleagues and my students. I miss them already.”- Claudia Souza, volunteer, Shanghai.
"Good luck with Stepping Stones. We really loved working with those kids. It's a great organization." - Kellie & Greg Schmitt, volunteers, Shanghai.
"I was volunteering at Aixin School in Minhang before it closed. Unfortunately my involvement was short-lived as I left Shanghai very unexpectedly for personal reasons. My experience with migrant schools inspired me to make a career change and I am now back in school to get properly certified as a ESL teacher. You are doing excellent work and have my utmost admiration."- Marianne Rowland, volunteer, Aixin School, Minhang, Shanghai.
“It has always been difficult for me to say, whether I have encouraged interest for the language or they have encouraged me to teach better. Ideas don't come around in vacuum unless we have purpose to meet. So are these children being purposeful for our interests. Hats off to Stepping Stones for the initiative. It is so much pleasure to work with you all.”- Vimala, volunteer, Tangsi Primary School, Shanghai.
"I'm one of the volunteers from New York University Shanghai and I wanted to write and tell you what a rewarding experience working with your organization has been for me. The first day teaching, I was terrified that I wouldn't be able to keep control of the children, let alone teach them anything worthwhile. But I found that they were just as eager to learn as I was to teach, and that overcame any language barrier we had. Coming back week after week and seeing more students repeat and understand the phrases we taught them was truly inspiring."
- Becca Mondshein, volunteer & study abroad student
"Having a chance to volunteer was one of the major highlights of my time in China."- Loran Brooks, volunteer
“The interns at KPMG would like to express our sincerest gratitude for allowing us to partake in the activities and celebrations on your last day at the school. The effort and commitment that you have put into this school is evident from the children's faces and their interaction with the teachers. From the degree to which this experience has touched us, we can only imagine how deeply you have touched these children and given them the will to strive for a better, more prosperous future. We hope we were able to contribute in a meaningful way to the festivities and leave our own imprint on the children as well.”- Laurel, KPMG volunteer
“Nobody likes getting up early on Saturday And I was no different but sometimes you feel the effort you put in is worth it and this was the same day. Earlier I thought why there are four people for class of just 20 kids. I found out very soon the kids were full of energy almost none of them wanted to sit quite and each of them wanted to grab your attention. The apple car was really great imagination. Justin told us he need to think of new ways every time to keep them involved, and this time he came up with the idea of drawing. And it worked wonder everybody liked drawing so much that even some of them didn’t want to go outside to play during break time. I have gone back to my childhood once again, full of energy running everywhere :). A great beginning for weekend in the end...”- Abhishek Verma, volunteering at the New Citizen Life Center in Sanlin, Pudong with Infosys
“Being with 20 children who are 7 -8 years old is really warm, some of them are active, some are really quiet. Yesterday they drew some pictures, one boy draw a apple car! Imagination... A cute girl was showing me her new shoes and Barbie doll bag ,and then she told me I have 4 big Barbie dolls and 2 small ones...haha... They just remind me my own childhood, 'was I looking like this?' I think I will miss these little people...”- Sally Xu, volunteering at the New Citizen Life Center in Sanlin, Pudong with Infosys
“As a secondary education major, I wasn't sure how teaching small children was going to work, but I decided to give it a shot anyway. I'm glad I did. On the whole, the kids seem enthusiastic and eager to prove themselves. Retention is pretty good. They absorb new ideas quickly. And sure, there are some bumpy days, but I know the place isn't Bel-Air Academy. My partner and I always tell each other if we can impart a little English on a couple dozen Chinese kids - even if it's just "I'm from Anhui!" or "Can I sit down?" - then it's a good day. It's also so entertaining to be around these kids who are full of energy, from different backgrounds, with different stories and different personalities... one kid tells me his dog's name, another kid has both pinkies up his nose all the time and another one attacks "347 + 492" when I write it on the board, as his classmates shout corrections at him. We take in so much in the space of ninety minutes. It's pretty awesome.”- Jason Wang, NYU Volunteer, Huabolixinghang Primary School
I have enjoyed very much being part of the Migrant Education Program and this is something I would recommend to people who are interested in making a contribution to the community. Kids regardless of their background deserve the right to a proper education to help them prepare for the future. This activity as an Assistant English Teacher has made it meaningful for the students as well as a rewarding experience for me. From their active participation and smiles on their faces, we can tell that they have enjoyed having the opportunity to learn in a way that they rarely have in their regular curriculum. – Belinda Sun, Walmart volunteer
Being part of this volunteer project was a very rewarding experience for me. It touches my heart to know that we have the ability to help those in need and make a difference in this world. From my interaction with the children in the school, I could really feel the enthusiasm from these kids in class and I could feel their eagerness to learn from us. Their smiles are genuine and are worth a thousand words. I would encourage everyone to participate in this kind of volunteering event as it brings more joy than money can buy. – Julie Hwang, Walmart volunteer
Volunteering as an Assistant English Teacher is one of the greatest moments ever. It helps people to appreciate life more when there are many poor out there that are not getting proper education. In a long run, lack of good education will make them less competitive in the future. I feel it is my greatest honor to be part of it; especially after knowing there is a 9% improvement in their class average score with the help from Stepping Stones. I strongly suggest people to be part of this meaningful activity, for it is fun and our little contribution means a lot to these kids. - Lisa Wang, Walmart volunteer
I’m very glad to have the opportunity to help these migrant kids to learn English. My 5-year old girl can speak much better English than these kids, because she has more opportunities in her kindergarten. Although each of us just contribute a little in providing these kids with a better English learning opportunity, I believe a group of volunteers will definitely impact on the kids’ learning experience. – Carol Yuan, Walmart volunteer