Category Archives: Teaching English

Three quick notes

  1. Soooo, happy Teachers’ Day: today I had to take a box of live snails away from one of my students.
  2. In response to “write an entry about three things you like about yourself”, one of my Korean students said the following:  “I like my toes because they are cute.  They have hair growing out of them like insect antennae.”  It’s amazing the things that they can articulate when just the other day he was trying to figure out how to describe a hippo to me and said that it was a giant rodent that runs through the jungle…
  3. Oh and also, my younger Korean boy totally calls Elephants “ele-pants”, I keep correcting his pronunciation, but secretly wish every child called them that ’cause it’s super adorable
Suzhou this weekend, so more pictures to come next week!



English Teacher in China : Days 4-6

Things are a bit better and a bit worse.  I have now met all of my students/classes from both schools.  In total, I teach 21 classes.  2 at the Korean school every day but Friday, and 3 different classes each day at the Chinese school.  Added to my list of names are:  Magic, QQ (I actually have two QQs) and Honey (a boy).  Just in terms of generally cool names that aren’t super popular in the states, I also have a Benson, a Rex and Felix.  Oh and Racr answered when I said “Racer” today so, well, so that…Here is the breakdown of the most popular names from my classes:

  • 10 Erics
  • 9 Lilys
  • 8 Tonys
  • 7 Marys and 7 Lucys
  • 5 Jackies, 5 Candys, 5 Wendys and 5 Cicis
  • 4 Julies, 4 Julias, 4 Robins, 4 Cindys, 4 Cherrys and 4 Leos
  • 3 Sunnys
  • 2 Bruces, 2 Kittys, 2 Gretas and 2 Angels

Chinese School:

On the whole, all of my 4th grade classes have been fairly good, even the worst one.  But the second and third graders seem to be a mixed bag.  Today I had a perfectly lovely second grade class, yesterday I had a perfectly miserable one.

And I mean, second graders are still second graders…in my “perfectly lovely class”, one boy kept crawling under his chair to wear it as a hat, even when I swapped it out for a smaller stool, one boy kept trying to kiss the girl sitting next to him, and another had a pen explode in his mouth and also managed to get ink all over his friend’s face as well.  So I mean, lovely has become relative.

There also seems to be a huge range of understanding between the classes.  Almost all of my 4th grade classes are at about the same level, but my third and second graders keep surprising me with what they know or don’t know.  It makes it hard to come up with lessons because you’re really not sure what’s going to work until you start teaching it.  So you pretty much have to have a million different things prepared and hope that enough of them work to fill 40 minutes.

Sadly, I made my first kid cry today.  Whenever kids start playing with something at their desk, I might give them one warning if they put it away immediately, but usually I will just take whatever they were playing with.  Well this kid had a whole pile of origami that he kept pulling out, and finally I took all of it.  He immediately burst into tears, then promptly began to ignore me and moments later was back to making mischievous faces so I didn’t feel sooo bad.

My Korean kids are kind of hilarious.

  • What kind of animal would you be if you could pick one?  “Cat, I love this animal because cat is very cute and lovely.  But she doesn’t love me so I’m sad.”
  • Who would you like to meet if you could meet anyone?  “Angelina Jolie, She’s big lips and powerful body.  I love her but she love Pitt.  I’m sad.”  and “Lady Gaga, she’s fashionable and a few crazy.  Her face very special.”
  • What would you bring with you on vacation?  “Girlfriend, very very useful.  When I bored she will talk with me.”  and the other one said “Girlfriend, She is very lovely, I love her.  I will marrie my girlfriend but I don’t have girlfriend so I’m sad.”

If only they weren’t sad after everything they write!  They also when I asked their favorite seasons today said “I’m Fallman and he’s coolboy”  sooo now I can never uninvision them as superheroes.

To end on, my roomie friend Ashley likes to play tennis and wanted to join the club down the road from us but they never called her back.  So tonight I walked over to the club and played with her until these two sisters came and I asked the one to fill in for me.  It was really fun because they were both Ashley and the one sister were pretty good at tennis and they played under the lights with bats flyin around and whatnot, pretty cool!  Also cool because I got to speak some Chinese with the other sister (Named Rainbow)!

Aaaand of course, some photos:

I got a raid plug-in. This is a pile of dead bugs. I am less itchy.

Giant "smoothie" from the school cafe

I forgot to add this script from the Shanghai Museum and it's beautiful so I had to add it now!

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