Teaching English on the China Internship

The lovely Denise McLeary, who is currently living it up on the China internship, was kind enough to share her experiences on the China internship and what her thoughts are on teaching English overseas!

Teaching English on the China internship

Why did you decide to join the China internship?

My original intent was to go to Borneo as it is where my mother came from.  Having done a lot of research I found this was going to be quite difficult due to lack of experience etc, so when the China internship came up I decided that was a fantastic alternative for me as some of my ancestors came from central China. I would get the opportunity to learn a little of my heritage; but little did I realise at the time, that I was going to be placed in central China so I see this as kismet!

Where are you originally from?

I am from Sunderland in north of England, although I was born in Singapore.

What age kids/adults are you teaching?

I am teaching middle school students, so 13-14 year olds – I had hoped for university students but as I didn’t actually specify this I don’t mind. The middle school students are a mixed bag: some have done English in primary school and have basic speaking ability but some have not done any English before middle school and have difficulty understanding the most basic of instructions.  Each class is made up of varying levels of ability so it can be challenging.  Some of the older students also have some behavioural issues but it’s all in a day’s work.  Apparently the teachers think I am one of the most patient teachers they have seen so I must be doing something right!  I am hoping my experience of working in a special school for naughty children in the UK will help me here.

How are you finding the experience of teaching English in China?

I love teaching here!  We have much more freedom to use our imaginations in order to get the students to speak the language.  Sometimes I will try things that work really well with 99% of the classes and have learned not to get down about the fact they might not work with the other 1%.  Can’t win ‘em all.  I have also learned to be really flexible – thinking on your feet is a great asset when teaching here. I always make sure I have enough with me to change an activity at the last minute. Sometimes you can judge the mood of the class when you walk in and you know that your prepared lesson just isn’t going to work, so you have to pull another one out of your bag.

How would you rate the experience out of 10 and why?

Out of 10 I would rate this experience a 10/10, because where else would you get the opportunity to have fun, be creative and inventive, see another country and get paid a decent living wage for it?  On the whole, the kids are fantastic too. Sometimes I think my hand will drop off at the number of times I have to wave at students who are shouting ‘Hello Teacher’, and that’s just walking to class. Or walking into a classroom two weeks after teaching them ‘Yellow Submarine’ and have them sing it as you walk in? Or have students laugh so much because your drawing of a panda is so bad? I love these kids.

Denise with a Chinese student

What would your advice be someone thinking of taking part on the China internship?

My advice for someone coming to do the China internship is to just do it and enjoy it. Have fun and let it happen. Whatever preconceptions you have about China, whatever you have read or think you know; when you get here it will all be so different from everything you could ever imagine. It’s a country of extreme contradictions – there will be things you will never understand, don’t try to, just accept them, and there will be things that will amaze and inspire you, learn from these and eventually China will be somewhere you will never want to leave.


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