Editor: The graduation season is coming again, this time, not only the students will leave GDUFS, but also some teachers will bid farewell to this campus. This series focuses on three foreign teachers — Richard Johnson, Matthew Horn and Kuwabara Hideya — who are about to leave China. The three respectable teachers have been at GDUFS for more than ten years, devoted themselves to the educational cause and achieved lots of honors, making them a favorite with their students. Before their departure, they would like to relate to us their stories at GDUFS and also in China in this series.
Since 1995, Richard Johnson has stayed at GDUFS teaching Writing, Skills of Debating and Speech, Contemporary British Society and Culture, etc. He has lived in Guangzhou for such a long time, for “I don’t very much like changing my life; besides, the atmosphere and the environment here make me feel comfortable”. But his journey in China is coming to an end. Time flows away like streams while experiences remain like beautiful stones. During his time in Guangzhou, especially at GDUFS, Richard had lots of memories to share with us.
During the years of teaching in the university, Richard had won a lot of titles of honors for excellent teaching performance. Students benefited from the wide range of courses he had offered, and he had gained great popularity among students. Talking about the students, he said “Students at GDUFS are always diligent, no matter whether years ago or now.” But there are still some differences between the past and today. “With the popularization of the Internet, students nowadays embrace colorful information, thus they develop all kinds of hobbies and activities. The time they spend out of the classes is much more than decades ago. ” Apart from the changes he has observed, Richard also had some advice to students at GDUFS. “We have a Three P’s principle, that is, practice, practice and practice. After all, practice is one of the vital methods in learning languages. As for studying abroad, I notice that more and more students prefer to study overseas, but I should say Chinese education nowadays is virtually as excellent as some developed countries and you could get almost equal education without going abroad. So study abroad only when you really need and want it, not just blindly follow the trend.”
Richard had devoted himself to the university.He had kept being an active participant in the faculty events, such as being the judge for the speech contests, the drama contests, the pronunciation contests and the interpreting contests. When it comes to the Drama Night, he mentioned that students had their own ideas about how to arrange the events while teachers always took a small part in instructing them. “Sometimes the result of the event seems a bit frustrating because there are some avoidable mistakes. So I propose that students should not just stick to their own ideas; instead, turn to teachers for suggestion, take their advice seriously and together make the performance flawless.”
Richard Johnson together with students
As the outstanding teacher, Richard has his own teaching philosophy. He usually communicated with younger teachers and shared his professional teaching skills, “Knowing your students is important; I will try my best to remember each student’s name and understand their personalities. As a foreign teacher in China, learning the differences between western students and Chinese students helps us get along well with them. Also, my teaching style varies based on the type of the course. If it is a foundational course like oral English, students are the main roles; discussions and practice cover most of the class time. But if it is the cultural course, I will speak much more than students because my experience and knowledge are richer than them.” Teaching is not just about personal behavior but also relates to the whole environment. “In the past, teachers always sat behind the desk far away from students. They sat down, spoke, the bell rang, and then they left. They had no communication with students. Luckily, our university had noticed this problem and the teaching atmosphere gradually changed — more interactions were seen in classes. And that’s what teaching should be, it is about communication: not just telling and listening.”
About Travelling and Leaving
Richard has been to many cities in China during these years such as Xi’an, Nanjing, Shanxi, and Beijing… “I am the Great Man because I have been to the Great Wall! And I always want to share my stories in China with my friends living in America, but they can’t feel those experiences as strongly as I do because I touch China personally while they don’t… I have traveled around China and I have spent so many years here, it seems that China has become my hometown.” Talking about leaving for America, Richard told us:” Actually I think half of me is Chinese. When I first arrived in China, I didn’t feel the surge of culture shock and adapted to this country quickly. Besides, I am a sensitive person, so sometimes it is not difficult for me to understand the implicit Chinese. And during these years, I have been getting more and more used to the life in China, making me feel like living in my own country. That’s why I told my friends ‘I am going to a foreign country’.”