Kelsey: Teaching in China

The past two weeks have been crazily busy, time just seems to disappear and before you know it another week has passed.  I can’t believe this is now my sixth week of teaching here in Changsha, it feels like only yesterday I was stepping of the sleeper train, (more than) slightly dishevelled.  I have to make sure I am making every moment matter, I feel as though I am of course.  I’ve had a few conversations with my friends about choosing teaching as a career or not and my opinion is that I love teaching and really enjoy it but I think my drive would be lost if I did teaching as my full-time job because when you have to do something to keep a roof over your head, you forget the real reason why you started doing it in the first place.  Teaching will always be a part of my life, most likely informally and not my career.  I want it to always be something that I can do because I love and not because I have to.

This month we are teaching the environment.  The whole recycling thing.  My lessons so far this week haven’t been great, although they have been getting better as the week has progressed because I have learnt from each lesson.  I had a class with grade one and they just didn’t really get it at all, and I’m not surprised to be honest.  I don’t think teaching 5/6 year olds about protecting the environment is going to work.  I tried my best to keep it as simple as possible and the lesson was fun for them but after the class my teaching assistant told me that I should have made them more aware of what the topic is exactly.  Yeah, because they are going to understand ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION when some of them can’t even tell me their age.  There is no educational logic here, I don’t think they understand the phrase “you can’t build a house without foundations”.

If you ever decide to start teaching in China, be prepared for how pushy parents can be.  Since being here I have been asked to write scripts for many speaking competitions for students as young as 5 years old.  But the worst part is that, the children only learn the script off by heart and recite it; they don’t actually understand what it is their saying.  I guess that here, it’s just because most parents only have one child so they really want them to be the best they can possibly be, but this also leads to students becoming very hard on themselves when they grow up.  I have a friend here; she is 17 and studying for her TOEFL exam and has a very good level of English but she constantly beats herself up about how much better she could do and I believe that it’s because she has been subjected to the “pushy parent culture” here in China.

Participating in Chinese culture

Our school (Tianhua) has been really good to us since we got here and as part of that, they have provided us with cultural lessons/activities on Thursday afternoons.  Up until now we have done Kung Fu, Chinese tea tasting and paper cutting.  My favourite so far has to be the tea tasting, it’s incredible!  One of the teachers at the school is a tea expert apparently, so he agreed to give us a tasting session.  We had traditional Chinese music playing too – I don’t think I’ve ever been so chilled!  It was so interesting to see how much effort goes into serving tea here too, not just a tea bag like at home.  It reminded me of what we have to do in restaurants here, you get served a “cup” of green or barley tea but you can’t drink the first cup, you have to wash your cup, bowl and chopsticks with it.

Here are a few entries from my class journal of teaching in China over the past two weeks:

27/03/15 (WANBOHUI SCHOOL)

Grade One – Class Twelve

As I was walking into the classroom, one of the children passed me a plastic heart – it was so sweet, and then I got given a carton of milk at the end by another!  I have gotten quite a few “teachers gifts” now actually.  I had so much fun with this class.  I am really glad I had the idea to get them to perform the song at the front of the class at the end because they’re so proud of themselves, it makes them feel really good!  As I was drilling prepositions with them too at the start of the lesson, I came up with some random clapping patterns (I already use different ways of drilling instead of just repetition, but of course I don’t want my classes to get bored).  They really had to concentrate and watch/listen to me when I was showing them the patterns, but they had a lot of fun!  I was able to praise them so much, which always makes the class so much better for me and the students.  My teaching assistant was lovely again and I gave her the resources that she asked me to find for her.  It’s hard for teachers here – because the internet is censored, they don’t have the same access to what they need.  She was so grateful and another teacher has also asked me for some more things for next week.  I really enjoy helping them!

Grade One – Class Eight (TIAN HUA)

Well… one little girl started crying in my class, real tears too! All because I didn’t choose her to perform the song at the front of the class, but of course because she cried I made an exception and she went to the front.  They were so proud of themselves whilst performing.  I stood at the back of the classroom so they could follow me with the actions, but so they could still show off to their classmates, and they loved it!  Daisy was my assistant and again shouted at them quite a lot.  Another gift from Mike too… 100 kuai … well, it was written on a piece of paper.

Chinese student

Grade Five – Class Six (XIN SHIBO)

There was a young girl called Bella in this class, so I told her that I have an auntie called Bella, and they all found it really funny that I was now calling her my auntie hahaha!  What was even stranger was that there was another girl was called Milly and that’s the name of my auntie’s late dog that she had for such a long time.  Mia – the teaching assistant – asked me at the end of the class “are you a professional teacher?”  I don’t know what the definition of professional teacher is, but I guess I have experience.  She said I was a very good teacher, which is always a lovely thing to hear, and very encouraging.  They were a great class though – they didn’t test me in any way, so I guess it was easy for me to deliver a good lesson to them.

Kelsey in the classroom

Feeling inspired to start your own adventure?  There’s nothing stopping you – get started with just a TEFL course, or even TEFL in China by booking yourself a space onto the China internship.

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