have been an ESL/EFL teacher for many years and have
lived in a number of countries. This background helped
me adjust fairly easily to living in China two different
times, each for about 4-1/2 months.
first time I taught part of the time at a middle school
out in the countryside of Hunan; the other half of my
stay I spent teaching in a big city, Nanning. This was
good for me because it gave me the chance to see both
rural and urban life in China, which are very different.
In both places I was treated very graciously by my hosts--they
appreciated what I was doing and made me feel welcome.
No one made unreasonable demands and everything was
done to make me feel satisfied. I found many students
eager to learn English, though their speaking and listening
skills were not strong. Fortunately I am an experienced
teacher, for no teaching materials were given to me
to use in classes. There were only two problems I faced
at the countryside school: first, the
eating situation was not good--the eating area was not
clean by any standards. (However, I am told that the
school is now building a new eating place.) The other
problem was that the school was excessively worried
about my safety. I appreciated their concern, but at
one point in my stay they would not let me out of the
school without someone else who spoke English, and I
thought this was much too restrictive.
second stay in China has been on the island of Hainan.
The people here, too, have been most gracious and helpful
to me and appreciative of what I was doing. Once again
I found students eager to improve their English. The
school where I taught most of the time, a private school,
had financial difficulties resulting in my not getting
paid on time, which of course makes life hard, especially
for a foreigner.
middle school where I spent the last few weeks of my
stay went out of its way to make me feel comfortable
and welcome, though once again the students' English
skills were very low. However, the school showed a real
desire to improve the quality of English teaching, so
I was happy to help them.
I have enjoyed living and working in China and would
not hesitate to come back again to do the same.
classes, students and books:
I teach 15 periods a week (each period is 40 minutes).
I see a total of 20 different classes; some classes
I see once or twice a week, others only every other
week. Classes are large by Western standards: usually
50 or more in a class. However, the students are responsive
and enthusiastic and easy to deal with, though once
in a while I have to tell an individual student to stop
doing other work and pay attention to me. I do not use
a textbook; the school apparently wants the regular
Chinese teachers of English to use the text. Therefore,
I am free to do what I want in class, and for this reason
I am glad that I brought teaching materials such as
pictures and flashcards from the US. I concentrate mainly
on vocabulary and listening/speaking activities. Because
classes are large I can't give personal attention to
students, but I divide them into smaller groups and
have each group repeat after me--at least they are hearing
native English, getting some practice with pronunciation
and learning new words. Classrooms don't have facilities
such as bulletin boards, maps, globes or charts, but
I often bring in real objects (umbrella, scarf, sunglasses,
etc.) for vocabulary work. Since I see classes only
a maximum of twice a week, I always start the class
by quickly reviewing what we did the last time. I have
no bureaucratic duties: no meetings to attend, no grades,
exams or quizzes to give, and no homework to correct.
So far, after three weeks of teaching, I feel satisfied
that I am helping the students and that at least some
of them are learning from me. (As in any large group,
some students are eager to learn and others couldn't
care less.) Occasionally regular Chinese teachers of
English come in to observe my classes; maybe they feel
they can learn something this way. Of course, I am happy
to help them in any possible way. Also, outside of class
some students approach me in order to talk, and unless
I am very busy, which is rare, I give them time to stop