--From David Papier

I 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.

The 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.

My 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.

The 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.

Overall, I have enjoyed living and working in China and would not hesitate to come back again to do the same.

--David Papier

About 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 and chat.

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