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Shandan News – November, 2013


This is a series of quick emails from Brendan Corbett, our teacher at the Shandan Bailie (Peili) school, in order to keep the Society up-to-date on the school and endeavouring to provide an insight into the problems the teachers encounter as well as their solutions, e.g: videoing the students and teachers.

“Xie wu hao ,

Greetings from sunny and cold Shandan.  Another month, or is it 2, I am losing count, has rolled by?  [Brendan arrived in Shandan in September, 2013.]

Here is my latest video offering for the NZCFS:

Making the video was really valuable from a language point of view.  The magical effect of pointing a camera and holding a microphone gets kids and teachers talking.  When they watch and listen to themselves speak, they begin to self- critique – (usually out loud), as they mimic pronunciation.  

I hope this video will answer some questions from prospective teachers and just help everyone else “see” a bit of what Shandan Peili School is about.  The principal, Mr Peng, who features in a courtside interview helped immensely and thought it was a great idea.

 I think it is a good compromise with lots of additional material ‘lying on the cutting room floor’. “

 Music credit: Click here

 The school spells its name: ‘Shandan Peili’ (which is emblazoned on the students’ track-suit tops).  This puzzled your editor as it differs from the name as known in general Society circles : ‘Shandan Bailie’.  

Brendan suggests the following:  

“I THINK the difference may be that the school is using the official pinyin, whereas perhaps  ‘Shandan Bailie’ is based on the Wade Giles romanisation, or ‘Bailie’ is the nearest sounding well-known English name.”  

More of this later.

“The first frame of the video is of the sun rising over the back of the Dragon Head Mountain range on the Autumn Equinox.  This was an artistic take on the meaning of ‘Peili ‘- a new dawn.”

The next email relates to Brendan’s successful production of the video and eventual dispatch to NZ.

“There is a bit of a story in getting the video back to NZ. 

First I tried posting it onto Youtube,  but that site is not accessible from here.  I then bought  a VPN subscription that promised to unlock YouTube, but the $8 credit card payment triggered a (can you believe this)  ‘money laundering alert‘ at Kiwibank and they blocked my card!!!!!! The VPN still couldn’t get through the blockage, hence my final approach to get it posted onto the Society website – which worked a treat.”

Then he sent the video via the ‘Cloud’ and our website administrator succeeded in loading it into the website data-bank.

Brendan’s next e-mail:

“The 9-minute video/newsletter was recorded for both Darfield College and NZCFS.  The ‘production company’ is entitled ‘Mianbao Productions’ in honour of Mr Xie’s wonderful class.

Incidentally, my Chinese name, given to me by Mr Xie Mianbao [one of the Chinese English teachers] , is now Brendan Baozi!!”

More of this later.

“Repeated requests from students and teachers up here are for more exposure to spoken English as I mentioned in an earlier newsletter.  So developing video production, video conferencing, with the whole class skyping, etc. will go some way to meeting that need.  The boss up here, Mr Peng, really appreciated taking a step towards better contact with Darfield High School.  He is also quite happy for other NZ schools to join in conversations with Shandan Peili.

So between myself, Mr Ma Guohua and the incoming teacher, Natalie Bowie, we have decided to make the video newsletter (or whatever it morphs into) part of the foreign teacher’s job description.  

I am just off to visit some co-ops with the Gung He training seminar group.”

 Brendan’s latest offer is about the origin of Baili (Peili) school and traumas suffered by the staff!!!

 “The story of the Baillie/Peili name is explained in an article written by Ye Junjian ‘In Memory of Rewi Alley‘,  (Rewi Alley, A Collection in Memory, New World Press 1997).

The school was named after his late friend Bailie, who had come to China at the end of the 19th century.  He established several technical training schools and trained a large contingent of technical personnel, but these young technicians could not do their jobs because of the political situation at the time.

Rewi named the school after Bailie for a more interesting reason too.  Bailie’s Chinese name (Peili) means “training for the dawn” which was the purpose of the school.  He had realised that the dark period would soon end and that the dawn was coming.

A lovely use of language and motivational imagery, I think.”

Your editor asked for more information on the following people with whom Brendan works, and this was his amusing reply.

“Mr Xie Wen Jiang is the student affairs director.  I have his English class for oral English. We have tried to co-ordinate the teaching between the two of us so I have got to know him well and what a great man he is.  I learnt from another teacher that his nickname was ‘a big round loaf of Chinese bread – mianbao‘.  Mr Xie is not unlike mianbao!  I made the mistake of sharing this with our joint class and the students, of course, rolled around on the floor in fits of laughter. The next day he tracked me down and said that he would be off work for 2 weeks suffering emotional trauma. Every student appeared to have learnt of the nickname and his life was now hell!!  So he retaliated by sharing with the students my new love of steamed buns (baozi) and for a while we have both been suffering emotional trauma at the hands of the students.  (Luckily it was just him playing around but he had me going for a couple of days!!!).  Hence ‘Mianbao Productions’ and ‘Brendan Baozi’ as a tribute to Mr Xie’s class who did most of the video work and his great sense of the dramatic.

Natalie Bowie starts in February after the winter holiday.   She is brilliant and we have been talking lots about what could be done up here, etc.   A rural kiwi lady from Masterton, she has given blanket permission to say whatever you like about Masterton!!!!!  Everyone has apparently “been throwing the town under a bus”.  Wait till you start getting her posts from Shandan!!

Picture coming separately, dropbox won’t open!!!” [Editior’s note:  Dropbox is a ‘cloud’ data repository and a useful way to transmit large files.]


So there you have it.  No doubt we will hear more from Brendan before his time is up.

Teri France, December 2013