English Teacher in China : Days 1-3

What better sentence to start describing my teaching experience in China than the following:  Today is Saturday and we have class.  Yes! Class was cancelled today!  (I wrote this post this morning, got to class this afternoon only to find out they only had class for the high schoolers instead) Oh and also to add to that, they didn’t tell us that we would have class until last night.  Hilariously the girl who told us had known for three days but “didn’t want to make our day sad”…so she waited till the absolutely last minute to tell us.  We very politely told her to please let us know right away in the future (she took us to an awesome Cantonese restaurant last night [it had tea that literally tasted like Grape Nuts!] and then to get our nails done though so we couldn’t really be mad at her).

Us getting our nails done:

The technicians took about a gazillion pictures of us on their cellphones too

Anyhow, back to classes:

I’m a little bummed out that a lot of the kids have been laughing at my boot….granted, it does look rather ridiculous, especially since I have worn a dress every day so far, but even after I explain that I broke my foot in both Chinese and English, they still point and laugh.  Hooray for elementary teasing.

Sadly I do not have any students named Skywalker.  At orientation, one of the teachers who was giving us lectures said that he had one with that name and it was probably the best I’d heard.  So far the most interesting names I have in my classes are:

  • Power, which was interesting since he was one of the bossiest in the class
  • Claoten…really….I can’t even guess where he got that…Maybe Clayton?  But he and everyone around him even pronounced it like Clow-ten and spelled it Claoten
  • Dabby, were they maybe going for Dobby from Harry Potter?  Or maybe Debby?
  • I also have a Rooky, I even spelled out Rookie and Rockie to see if that’s what he meant, but no, he meant Rooky…
  • One of my older Korean students also changed his name to Victory (he was initially Sam)
  • The final puzzler was Racr, which both she and everyone around her kept pronouncing like “rice” but that she insisted was spelled Racr and even when I asked her in Chinese she said it wasn’t rice…Baffling…
  • Oh and also Stone…and one of the other English teachers said she had a Stone in her class as well.  Naturally.

So my first day of classes were as follows:

  1. Korean school:  2 students age 10 and 11.  I had to give them English names and gave them a list to pick from…they picked Josh and Nancy…and then practically stopped speaking for the rest of the class.  Very cute, very polite, but so very shy and it was hard to tell whether they couldn’t understand what I was saying or if they could, but were just too shy or didn’t know how to answer.
  2. Korean school:  2 students, both 16.  They are probably my favorite class because their English is the best and I didn’t have to struggle getting them to speak as much.  Still very shy, but they told me all of their hobbies, who they like to listen to (Lady Gaga and Beyonce:  “Their music if very special”), what they like to watch (Prison Break is super super popular here), where they would like to go in the world (Thailand and the Grand Canyon) and a bunch of other things (one of them loves Mila Jovovich, the other likes female vampires).   When I asked if they wanted to know anything about me, they asked if I was married, if I liked jogging (“It’s good if you’re fat”), and if I liked makeup (I really didn’t have a lot of makeup on, but I did have a frilly dress on…when I asked him why he thought I might like makeup he said because I was pretty though so I was far less offended after that)
  3. Chinese school:  34 fourth graders.  AHH!  It was hard to come up with lesson plans because they didn’t tell us the ages or levels of English we had until the day before and even then, nothing can really prepare you for 34 Chinese elementary school kids.  This class was pretttty disciplined and fairly good at English, but it was hard going from teaching just two students to 34.  Think: having some activities planned and then watching as each one explodes in your face because either their understanding is not high enough, the activity takes too long with that many kids for their attention span to be held or else it’s an activity where you want to go around the classroom and talk to each kid but either the other half of the class comes over to your side of the room to talk for whatever kid you’re talking to, or they just explode with noise on their side of the room so that you couldn’t hear who you’re talking to if you tried.
  4. Chinese school:  26 third graders.  This class was the best of the three I had at the Chinese school the first day, maybe because there were a few less kids, or because I had the class before them as prep, but either way, they were quieter and more helpful than the other classes.
  5. Chinese school:  34 second graders.  Heavens.  By the end of the class I was practically shouting over them.  It was kind of like being in a younger Irish dance hardshoe class when they’re all pounding on the floor with their shoes at the same cacophonous time, except that they didn’t stop making noise when you told them to.  Clapping rhythms seemed to quiet them the most completely, but the silence would always literally last for about 30 seconds before I was shout-talking again.  I threatened to tell their teacher about a gazillion times but they seemed rather unfazed by it.  One of the other English teachers in my group said she literally ended up going and getting their Chinese teacher in the middle of class though and that the minute the Chinese teacher walked in, they were dead silent.  This will be a challenge.

I only see the students at the Chinese school once a week and the Korean students we see every day, so that makes it a little easier.  I’m excited though, and actually had a lot of fun even though it was a bit rough!

My second day was farrrrr better.  Probably because I had a better idea of what NOT to do and it also helped that I didn’t have any second graders.  My last class of fourth graders was by far the most fluent and most well behaved.  I have been writing a mark up on the board for every time a class won’t quiet down (with the threat of telling their regular teacher if they get too many marks), and all of the classes got at least 5 marks but my last class only got one!

Also, for whatever reason, maybe I was just noticing because they were the calmest so I had a clear enough head to notice, but this seemed to be the most diverse looking class.  One little guy actually was the first I’d seen with really curly hair and freckles and how cute is this: his name is seriously Lucky.  So adorable.

I really am having a good time and think I’m going to like teaching a lot.  One of the harder things with the littler classes is actually for me not to speak Chinese.  I’ve actually made up a rule in my head that I am allowed to talk to them in Chinese before and after their classes start because it’s so hard to tell them to use English when I’m totally loving being able to understand them discuss everything and help each other in Chinese!  I even had a dream last night where I thought the kids had woke me up because I had a late class and were all standing in my room speaking to me in Chinese…it was kind of annoying because I seriously thought they were there and just wanted to sleep, but interesting too.

To end on, I had one of the classes make name tags (then promptly ran out of paper), here is one little guy’s:

Who will now be known as Simon the Samurai in my head because that sword is kind of epic

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5 responses to “English Teacher in China : Days 1-3

  1. Yay for Peeper the Teacher!!!! I can’t imagine trying to teach that many kids ANYTHING!!!! 15 should be the limit in any class anywhere. But your humor will get you through it.
    Have you tried the Girl Scout method for silence? (raising your arm and not saying anything until everyone else has raised their arm and closed theri mouth) When the hand goes up the mouth goes shut. It worked for me in Girl Scouts. The kids finally learned to be quiet quickly or they missed out on things.
    love you Peeper!! from Aunt booby

    • I actually have used the Girl Scout method! Only one class actually understood that they had to put their arms up too, but the other classes at least understood that if my hand was raised, they had better be quiet and I tried to stare down anyone still talking. They respond fairly well to angry looks haha. Love you!!

  2. Jesse, my suggestion. Idol threats do not work. Threaten them on, then get the teacher. They will know you are serious.
    For the one where you put down marks. Got to 3 marks and your out. Why go through the pain.

    Love You, Dad

    • It actually never occurred to me that I could leave the class to go get their teacher until I heard that the other girl had done it. I think I might have to do that if I have a class as bad as my first class of second graders again, but one problem is that we only met one of the primary school teachers, so I wouldn’t know how to find that particular classes’ teacher. Probably any teacher would do though. The other thing is, with 34 kids, even if they are trying to be quiet and whisper, if all 34 whisper it’s still really loud!
      Love you!

  3. Jesse – I hope I am doing this right. This is all too amazing for words. I will email you as soon as I finish with your blog. I am so excited to keep up with your adventure. Love ya! Len

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