Online Annual Conference interview with Paul Edwards

Paul Edwards photo

As part of this year’s Online Annual Conference we are pleased to announce the workshop ‘The Mandarin classroom. Combining student engagement and parent power’. The workshop is presented by Paul Edwards, Head of Mandarin at Cowley International College. Paul kindly answered a few questions about his workshop which will take place on Tuesday 16th June from 13:00-14:00. For more information, please visit our Conference webpage.

Hi Paul! Can you tell us a bit more about your workshop?

My workshop is ideal for any new teachers of Mandarin or those who are looking for new ideas. I went from being a nervous non-native speaker to winning a regional award in the space of just over two years. I will demonstrate many different teaching techniques and fun activities. My students learn best when they are enjoying the lessons and often forget that they are actually mastering a complex new language.

Do you have any words of wisdom for Chinese teachers who have issues with indifferent students?

I constantly remind my students that they are in a unique position. Very few British students have the opportunity to learn Mandarin. I also remind them that they can feel proud of themselves for accepting this challenge. From the very first lesson, they are encouraged to be brave and to try their best. They are doing something that nobody else in their community can do, including their parents.

What is the importance of parental interest and support in Chinese language learning?

I find that the parents are naturally interested and indeed often keener than their children are. The parents play a vital role as they see the importance of learning Chinese in both an educational and economic setting. The parents understand how the strength of the Chinese economy may lead to future career prospects. In this session I will explain how I set up a parent’s class and why it was so important in supporting the Mandarin teaching.

How have you found student engagement and parental power has been impacted in the current learning situation?

The current COVID-19 crisis has given me the biggest challenge to date. Many students need pushing to learn Mandarin. Ideally, they are normally encouraged by me at school and then by their parents at home. My impact has been severely reduced by the crisis. I now rely on the self-motivation of the students and the support of their parents. I have found that continued, regular contact with the parents has proved vital. When parents are alerted to the fact that work is not being completed, they quickly support me. We know that learning Mandarin is time consuming. The students now have more time to learn it.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to expand their knowledge in terms of Chinese development and delivery in their schools?

Self-publicity is a very important tool. Mandarin has been very prominent on my school’s website. There are many video and photographic opportunities as Chinese characters are so unique. In this session I will also outline the substantial media interest that we have received.

Thank you Paul! 

We look forward to welcoming ticket-holders to Paul’s session on 16th June. To see the full programme for this year’s Online Annual Conference, click here.