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Julia talks about life & teaching

Julia Shew, from Boston, Massachusetts, is teaching a Creative Writing course for junior students at Jinling College, Nanjing Normal University. She came to teach in China through a cooperative project with her alma mater Wellesley College--one of the most prestigious Women’s Colleges in the United States.

For Shew, there seems to be an invisible thread connecting her with China because she is half Chinese. She seized the opportunity of teaching in China after she found teaching interesting and meaningful.

Living in China has been an unforgettable experience full of both barriers and sweetness. When people move to somewhere new, it is always difficult to settle in. This is no exception for her. “I think the biggest difficulty is probably the language barrier. I took some Chinese classes and stopped. Now I’ve started again. So, hopefully I will be getting better at Chinese. It is a long process for me”, said Shew.

However, the fun she has had living in Nanjing counteracts the difficulties she has encountered. The contrast between the old and the new of this city especially entrances her. She appreciates, in particular, the numerous historic buildings in the downtown areas. She has also developed many new hobbies during her stay in China, such as shopping at the market with the other two foreign teachers and cooking a little bit of Chinese food. Meanwhile, taking Salsa dancing classes, a western style of dancing but very popular in China, has become one of her favorite entertainments. During her stay of about one and a half years, Shewhas gradually adapted herself well to life here. “Our English Department at Jinling College has been very supportive and helps us get settled downand get oriented, very helpful with orientation.” She said. Beyond that, she is not afraid of making some mistakes in China.“If you get lost, you can take a taxi,” she said, “it is not like other places. If you are lost, you cannot get home.”

To Shew, NNU is more like a home than a working place. The inspiring students in her classroom are dedicatedand very interested in learning. The enthusiasm of her students is her best motivation.On the first day of her class, her junior students drew a beautiful design on the board where Happy Teacher’s Day was written and very delicate pictures were painted. In the face ofall the flowers, cards and their sincere smiles, Shew felt deeply touched.

As the teacher of a Creative Writing course, Shew's “ambition” is just to teach her students how to have fun writing and express their ideas in English. “The course is really meant to be more of a fun class and awakening to creativity and hopefully an interest, not only in writing, but also in reading and all sorts of creative projects.” She said.

Students who take her course are required to create multifarious works independently like short stories, memoirs and essays by stretching their imaginations.  She hoped that her students could thereby observe the world in a new and exciting way. Some of the exercises she has chosen are from a text book called “Imaginative Writing” written by Janet Burroway. Other supplementary materials have been handpicked by her from the Internet.

During her class, she analyzes the vital elements of Creative Writing such as setting, the five senses, dialogue, characterization, voice and style in order to help her students learn in a more structured way. Additionally, she organizes some effective practice lessons to help her students “tone their creative muscles”. For example, she once asked her students to write a paragraph using five words randomly selected from the text book. “Creative ideas really matter.” she asserted.

(Reported by Siqi Xie, Mengqi Zhang, Xingying Dong; Reprinted from NNU Frontpage.)