Interview Jane Marie Kennedy
ZZ Connect: You’ve put great effort on setting up the ‘Mercury Rising’ Toastmasters Gavel Club at No.47 Middle School of Zhengzhou. Please introduce this club and share some stories related to it.
Jane Marie: I got the idea from Sally and Tegory’s Youth Leadership Program and Fred Cheng, a Hong Kong Toastmaster and public high school principal, who uses both YLP and Gavel to teach communication and leadership skills to teenagers. The school, in our case the Sino-US Program pays a one-time charter fee of $50 and $48 a year thereafter. The students needn’t pay any dues but collect monies for any group activities.
ZZ Connect: What do you think of these students’ speaking level at Gavel club?
Which aspect have they gained after a span of practice at Mercury Rising, comparing with peers?
Jane Marie: Their caliber of English is very, very good, better than that of an adult Toastmasters club. The students quickly adopted the Toastmasters meeting format of Table Topics, Prepared Speeches and Evaluations, as their own and eagerly began learning by doing. I see the biggest benefit as structure, communicating with the group in a structured and organized manner.
ZZ Connect: Which part do you think they need to improve in the future?
Jane Marie: Giving manual speeches. Each one of the ten Competent Communication manual speeches is a lesson about a different aspect of public speaking, how to organize, vocal variety, visual aids, body language. We need at least one, preferably two adult Toastmasters mentors at each meeting to guide the youngsters, who have no idea first-hand knowledge of how Toastmasters works.
ZZ Connect: As the Sino-US Program Director of Foreign Studies at No.47 middle school, please give your suggestions for those who plan to study abroad soon?
Jane Marie: Integrate! Participate! Circulate! Example:
Michigan State University had 43 Chinese students in 2005 But a whopping 2,845 last year. The Chinese students tend to isolate, self-segregate and not participate. As Gaigui’s, returning sea turtles, their English is better than those that stay behind but they have no Guanxi…
Joining a Toastmasters club on campus helps the Chinese ‘laowai’ integrate into his peer community. Equally important it gives them the confidence to participate in class which is critical in the western style education system. If they also join an off campus community Toastmasters club they can begin learning how to network, circulate, in the real world!
ZZ Connect: What’s your personal story of coming to China?
I know you like traveling a lot. How many places have you visited across China?
Jane Marie: I am re-parenting myself working with the students going abroad because at the age of sixteen I had back to back exchange scholarships to Norway and the Netherlands. I enjoyed this so much I spent the next seven years living in London getting my first university degree. As the saying goes, "it’s déjà vu all over again.”
Teg and I would like to retire in Asia because it is the land of the future. Where we haven’t been but want to go in China is Chengdu and Kunming.
ZZ Connect: How long have you been in Zhengzhou?
How do you think of Zhengzhou, people, food, culture etc?
Jane Marie: Teg and I both grew up in the mid-west, the agricultural heartland of the US much like Henan and Zhengzhou only with a knife and fork and no chopsticks. My youngest daughter, Tamara, has been here 18 months, teaches kindergarten and her Chinese is good enough to make this video with Henan TV’s food reporter.
Tamara's Cooking Show http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AhKmpFxt_GU
The owner of the Ocean Palace has been very good to all three of us and very inspirational to Tamara, giving her advice that she accepts because he is not her parent. We’re all not going back to the US – too boring – China’s where it’s at.