Reflections from our students – Fu Jingze & Yuan Tianhao

The Shanghai English Teaching Progam has impacted thousands of students in China. We are fortunate to have invited two students, Fu Jingze, who was involved in the program’s courses in the past, and Yuan Tianhao, who is currently participating in the courses. They will share their experiences in learning English with Stepping Stones and how it has influenced their academic and personal lives. Let’s read about their stories together!

Fu Jingze

Hello everyone! I’m 21 years old and I come from Xi’an, Shaanxi Province. I participated in Stepping Stones’ Shanghai English Program’s courses as a student in its partner Shanghai Young Bakers’ (SYB) project.

Yuan Tianhao

I’m a 15-year-old high school student from Jiangsu Province, currently studying in Shanghai. I really enjoy taking English classes at Stepping Stones!

My Unexplainable Connection with English – Fu Jingze

“Before taking English classes at Stepping Stones, I used to be quite sensitive and lacked confidence. I felt that I wasn’t good at anything.”

“In the classes at SYB, my head was always down and I didn’t speak much, which made me seem introverted. One of the teachers said, ‘Fu Jingze is introverted and doesn’t talk much.’ But in Stepping Stone’s English classes, I was excited and energetic. Every time the teacher asked a question, I eagerly raised my hand to answer. It was quite different.” 

Fu Jingze (right) listened carefully in class. 

“During one English class at Stepping Stones, we played a really fun game. The rules were that each person had an English word tagged on their forehead with an action they couldn’t do. For instance, the word on the tag is ‘smile’, so that person won’t be allowed to smile, or he/she will be out. In the first round, the word on my tag was ‘smile,’ and I didn’t realize it. I smiled at everyone when my classmate put that tag on my forehead, unfortunately I got eliminated immediately. At that moment, I was very confused, wondering what had happened. Now, I’m looking back, it was incredibly interesting, and that moment is still vivid in my mind.”

“For teenagers, English is a necessary subject because learning an extra language in today’s society is always beneficial for better communication. After learning English with Stepping Stones’ teachers, my English, especially my oral English, improved significantly.”

“On my first day of internship at JW Marriott Hotel, I was stationed on the 38th-floor buffet as a baking assistant. The hotel had many foreign guests, and I was nervous because I had to make pancakes for them. Truth be told, I wasn’t very skilled, and the pastry chef showed me how to make pancakes only twice before leaving. I was left alone and didn’t know what to do. A foreign guest approached me, and I panicked because I was worried that I wouldn’t understand him. However, when he started talking, I realized I could communicate well with him. In that moment, my confidence skyrocketed. I surely believe it wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Stepping Stones’ teachers!” 

Fu Jingze (right) was deeply emotional while he was talking about the embarrassing happened during his first internship.

“There was another awkward situation. I made a mistake when I was flipping the pancake. I felt bad and began to cry, it was my first official workday. Luckily, the foreign guest was kind, he noticed my nervousness and didn’t scold me. Instead, he patted my shoulder and said, ‘Come on, you can do it!’ The encouragement from him, a stranger, really touched me!

Fu Jingze (right) could not helping giving a thumbs-up while he was talking about the English learning experience in Stepping Stones.

“I did live broadcasts on TikTok for a short period, and some foreigner watched my livestreaming. Thanks to Stepping Stones’ training, my spoken English improved a lot, allowing me to better introduce my live broadcasts to them. Once, a foreign watcher asked me to sing the song ‘My Heart Will Go On’ from Titanic. Coincidentally, I knew its lyrics, and the performance went smoothly. He sent me many appreciative emojis which boosted my confidence immensely.”

From Unfamiliarity to Familiarity  – Yuan Tianhao

“I used to think that foreign teachers were somewhat unfriendly or intimidating, and this stereotype lingered in my mind for a long time.”

“I believe that English is a very important subject as its influence can be seen everywhere in daily life, and that’s why I love English classes. I enjoy attending all the English classes because it allows me not only to read words and texts aloud but also to gain insights into foreign cultures.”

“However, there was a particular concern that troubled me. Before Stepping Stones, I never participated in any foreign teachers’ classes and thought that English classes in China were exclusively taught by Chinese educators. Consequently, I felt more at ease communicating with Chinese teachers. In school, I often approached my English teacher with questions, and this strong rapport led to harmonious interactions. My teacher also told us some English jokes in class, infusing the atmosphere with liveliness. I paid full attention to the English classes which helped me improve my English rapidly. I was always looking forward to having English classes taught by Chinese teachers. On the other hand, I harbored a certain apprehension towards classes taught by foreign teachers.”

“One day, I found myself in a Stepping Stones’ class, and to my astonishment, the teacher was a foreigner! I was initially quite anxious, fidgeting restlessly during the entire lesson, and harboring worries about comprehending her words or the possibility of receiving harsh criticism for any errors.”

Yuan Tianhao was active during the class of Shanghai English Teaching Program. (the person in the middle against the wall)

“However, this sense of fear was rapidly dispelled. There was one particularly long and difficult word, ‘phenomenon.’ Without hesitation, I raised my hand and inquired, ‘Teacher, may I ask what the word’s meaning is?’ In that fleeting moment, I held my breath, my face flushing as red as a ripened apple. Unexpectedly, the foreign teacher responded with a warm and sweet smile. She explained in Chinese, ‘The word means xianxiang (Chinese pinyin). For example, the growing number of foreign teachers instructing Chinese students is a phenomenon.’ In an instant, my heart soared, and I felt deeply appreciative of her thoughtful response. Her image in my mind also became better.

“Afterwards, I entered each English class with full of energy, and proactively answered questions without no fear. I grew increasingly close to this endearing foreign teacher. She guided me through the transition from an unfamiliar and chilly path to a familiar and heartwarming avenue. This remarkable mentor significantly bolstered my confidence in speaking English, contributing substantially to my marked improvement in English performance.”

“At Stepping Stones, I have acquired a wealth of knowledge. The curriculum extended beyond the acquisition of vocabulary and essay-writing skills; it encompasses the application of this knowledge in both exams and real-life situations.”

“During class, I listened attentively, always striving to acquire as much knowledge as possible. Even the acquisition of a single new word felt valuable, as one could never predict when it might become useful. Embracing this mindset, I took part in my first Stepping Stones’ exam. Prior to the test, I had entertained the fanciful notion that I might miraculously guess all the correct answers. However, the test proved to be far from challenging. Many of the questions closely resembled those covered by Stepping Stones’ teachers, and a significant portion of the words were those I had diligently practiced in my assignments. Once I comprehended the meanings of these words and sentences, the exam no longer seemed daunting. As anticipated, my score was great! Stepping Stones’ education has been substantially enhancing my English proficiency and intellectual breadth. My heartfelt gratitude extends to the teachers at Stepping Stones!”

Yuan Tianhao was in the chorus performance. (He stood in the third row, the first from the right.)

“I profoundly appreciate that Stepping Stones’ offering me the opportunity to elevate my English listening and speaking skills. These experiences are unparalleled, introducing me to a realm I’ve never encountered before. Nowadays, I can fearlessly talk to foreigners and confidently respond to English exams.”

“In the future, I want to…”

Fu Jingze:

“I would love to become a volunteer for Stepping Stones to let more people and more children learn about Stepping Stones’ programs and experience its courses. I want everyone to feel the joy of learning English in the classroom and understand its significance. This is a very meaningful thing.”

“I’m currently residing in Suzhou, where there is a considerable population of migrant workers. They bring their children to the city to work, and their lives are quite challenging. The education these children receive is not very good. I really want to bring Stepping Stones’ courses to them. Additionally, I believe Stepping Stones could also offer drama classes. Many children these days are afraid to show their true selves outside, and drama classes might help them with that. I’m really looking forward to Stepping Stones opening a project site in Suzhou. When that happens, I will definitely sign up as an offline volunteer!”

Yuan Tianhao:

“If one day Stepping Stones needs my help, I won’t hesitate to lend a hand.”

“I think Stepping Stones’s curriculum could expand further. For example, subjects like Chinese, math, and physics are considered challenging but essential for students. If Stepping Stones can better understand the current needs of students and provide a more proactive response, I’m sure it will become better and better in the future.”

Both Fu Jingze and Yuan Tianhao expressed their fondness for Stepping Stones’ English classes and their willingness to become “little stones” to help other students. We look forward to seeing them appear at the project sites in another role in the future, and we hope to have more and more children benefit from our programs. Let’s continue to spread the love!

The Shanghai English Teaching Program 

is still on-going …

Join us! 

Explore the fun of teaching English with children!

Experience pure and genuine love!