Kelsey: TEFL Classroom in China

Kelsey by a river

For everyone reading my blog, I am going to be mainly posting “reports” about my lessons here in the TEFL classroom in China that I really hope will help anyone who is thinking about doing a similar thing but is just unsure about the teaching aspect. I aim to also update you on my experiences, day to day or otherwise! Enjoy, and get yourself to China!

Before I started my “Class Journal” I made it clear to myself that I would be completely honest about the classes that didn’t go so well too, because they’re just as important and useful as the lessons that go perfectly to plan. You learn from them and pick up on students’ learning needs in order to adapt your lesson the next time you see them. Because I teach so many different classes and only see each class once every two weeks it would be impossible to remember how each class went, so by writing after each class I can refer back and it will help me whilst lesson planning.

beds at the school

Bonus: for any “nap lovers”, at the school we get a 2 hour nap time with beds provided in the office! Get yourself over here…

Bonus: Taking part in this experience with other people in the same boat as you is definitely a huge bonus. I am living with a Danish girl called Frekerikke and two South African boys called Josh and Greg. We didn’t know each other until maybe a day before we came to Changsha in the Hunan province in China but now it feels like I haven’t lived without them. We all get along really well. Although I have experience teaching, each class you teach is completely different; let alone when you are teaching in a whole new continent: Ghana VS China = T-shirt VS Coat.  Anyway, it’s really great being able to compare classes with the other guys as it helps to know that your class isn’t the only one that didn’t go to plan.



Grade One – Class Five

Fancy was my teaching assistant and was really helpful. I really enjoyed the class, and the students responded well to the content of the lesson and most of all, at the end of the class they remembered my name. It was really fun and I made sure I was energetic throughout the class and got the students to the front to demonstrate. I then took a different approach to “drilling”: I did a robot act to match each of the syllables in the word so it made it easier for them to pronounce. Overall, they were incredibly adorable and I think I am going to thoroughly enjoy teaching them. Not to forget the little boy called Tony. China and their English names hey. Their behaviour was great. They got really excited when I came into the classroom but I feel that is normal as they’re only six and I do look completely different. They were loud at times, but the activities I was doing meant that would happen anyway, so I was prepared for that.

Grade One – Class Eight

The names in this class really made me laugh, as they’re all aged between five and six and had names like Mike, Martin, Jeff, Eric and Vivian. It’s crazy really that so many English learners here have English names that they give to themselves so it is easier for us to remember. Although working on a two week rota is going to make it really difficult to remember any names, and not to forget the fact there are around 50 students in each class. I had Daisy as my assistant in this class and she really did shout at them at times which I felt wasn’t necessary, they were just excited, as were G1C5. You have to allow young children to release their energy otherwise they will become “rowdy”. I also got a gift from Mike too, he came to show me a notebook which was London themed and I of course said how amazing it was and then he told me that the book was actually for me. Either it’s true or he now has no paper to write on. But hey, now I have a “teacher” gift on my first day. Another reason I did take it is because of “losing face”, Mike may have took offence if I didn’t and then he wouldn’t have enjoyed my lessons. During this class I also realised how many more boys there are to girls… it’s shocking and as I know about the One Child policy it has moved me quite a lot. There are horrific stories as to why this is the case but of course my journal isn’t the place for that. I felt at one point that I was choosing boys to answer questions far too much so then I made the effort to ask girls, but then I ran out because there are so few of them compared to boys.

Kelsey TEFLing

Grade Three – Class Six

My first grade three class, my teaching assistant for that class is Martin. Before the class I was asking him about his teaching career and if he enjoyed it. His response was “a little, it’s a job”. I understand that it’s a job but I mean, surely to be a teacher you have to want to be there to some extent. He told me to wait outside of the class at first so he could “quieten” them down so I did and I just heard him yelling at them. They were the toughest class out of all of them today but they were still a pleasure. I was expecting them to be at a higher level than they were but that doesn’t matter as I am here to help them. It’s always tough planning a lesson for a class you have no idea about, apart from their age because as you will find out, with regards to TEFL, age doesn’t matter. You could have a 28 year old who can’t say “my name is” but a 5 year old who can count to 100. I was introducing myself today and I had some pictures of my family up on a PowerPoint and when I was pointing to my parents they were saying ‘grandma’ and ‘grandpa’…  I guess I won’t tell my mum about that one.

11/03/2015 – XIN SHIBO SCHOOL

Grade Three – Class Six

The level of this class was really hard to tell, as at the beginning of the class they were very responsive to everything I was saying and understood, but then throughout the lesson I asked concept checking questions and they looked confused. Compared to Tian Hua Grade 3 classes, I think these students are at a lower level. Jodie, the teaching assistant was really helpful and after the class I asked her for some feedback. She told me that they class is quite a low level and that they can speak English “well” but they cannot write. There were some more interesting English names, including Jerry, Annie and Angel. They seemed a lot younger than the grade 3 at the other campus, but of course, they weren’t. I think it may be down to different teaching styles because I had to use techniques that I was using for my Grade One students yesterday. I need to think of some more activities that involved every student at once because when there are a few at the front demonstrating the others get bored but at the same time, it would get really noisy and hard to control if all 40 + students were talking. That was also the first class I have had to teach wearing my coat: it’s so cold here and they leave windows open all over… all of the buildings are huge too so I guess that means they’re hard to heat. Maybe a onesie tomorrow? Probably should also invest in one of these headset/microphones that most teachers wear whilst teaching. That shows how loud they can be.

Kelsey teaching English

Grade Three – Class One

Toughest. Class. So Far. Wow, at one point I think a student wet themselves as my teaching assistant took the student out and then came back in with a mop… I am trying to make my students laugh but that seems a little bit too far. The teaching assistants are definitely beneficial.  Before this lesson I always wanted to be in the class by myself but with their presence, the students are slightly less rowdy. It is becoming clear to me that they are only quiet when they’re watching a video so I am going to try and get my hands on some more helpful videos for my classes. It gives them something to concentrate on at the beginning or end of the lesson. I believe the students in this class are capable of more than they are letting on, they just got really shy when I was asking them to talk in front of the class. So much giggling going on but that’s a good thing, if the kids are laughing then you’re doing something right. A huge piece of advice I would give to anyone doing TEFL is not to take yourself seriously. Because of the language barrier, gestures/miming and acting are a huge part of the class.  This often ends up with me looking like a complete clown but who’s judging!?

Grade One – Class Six

Another tough class today at the other campus (Xin Shibo). I bet you’re wondering why I keep referring to different campuses… so, in China, there are many educational groups and I am working for one of them. There are 9 primary schools within the group and I teach at 3 of them, the total number of students between the different campuses is 8,000. Most of them board at the schools too. Like I said earlier, the students in this class are at a very low level compared to the other school and what I was expecting so I think that’s why it seemed harder to control the class, they were probably just lost and couldn’t understand what I was saying. Again I was introducing myself to the class, I had some pictures of my dogs and then asked them if they knew any other animals and they knew some harder ones such as ‘elephant’ and ‘wolf’; when considering they were struggling to tell me their names, I was really impressed!  What I loved even more was their interpretation of how these animals sound, very entertaining! The ratio of boys to girls in this class was insane, probably 8 boys to 1 girl. Seriously.

Grade Three – Class Three

The best class of today, a great way to end the day. They were at the level I expect grade three to be at, they knew numbers up to around one hundred as they were guessing my age and began to get cheeky; but then found it hilarious when telling me their ages, I had a 99 year old in my grade three class… cultural differences hey?  I used one of the microphones for this class and it really helped me a lot. When I saw the teachers using them I thought they were just a novelty but they’re actually a great piece of teaching equipment. I hardly had to stop to tell them to be quiet. If they got too loud I just did the gesture for hands up and they all went quiet and raised their hands. Perfect!! I have played the song Children of the Universe which was last year’s Eurovision entry for England. It fits in quite well I guess considering I’m teaching children from the other side of the globe – and I was caught singing along by one of the students but his comment was “very good” so I guess I can’t complain!

TEFL teacher Kelsey

Feeling inspired, hearing about the TEFL classroom?  You can start your own adventure with just a TEFL course, or even TEFL in China by booking yourself a space onto the China internship.

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