1st September, my first day in Biancheng high school. I woke up in the morning, very excited to meet the staff. Firstly, I took a part in an official teachers’ meeting where I met all my co-workers, English teachers from my office and other teachers from different school departments. They all warmly welcomed me to the school, smiled a lot and tried to speak English to me. I was also asked to make a speech in front of all teachers and the principal to introduce myself (I had a go and spoke in Chinese, everyone was cheering and clapping their hands). Secondly, after the meeting we went out for a dinner. It was a great opportunity to get to know all teachers, especially the ones who teach English. Most of the English teachers can speak good English, but I guess they are sometimes too shy to express themselves. At that moment, I got an impression that they were afraid of talking to me but now they are more open and seem to be more talkative. I got my own desk in the office, some English books, printer and a calendar. Since that moment, I felt like a member of Biancheng high school staff!
I teach Junior 1 (5 classes), Junior 2 (4 classes) and Junior 3 (5 classes) students from Monday to Friday, so I have 3 classes a day, 45 minutes each. My students are 13-18 years old and since my first class I call them my “little monsters”. Why? There are very active, speak a lot (in Chinese during my English classes), fight with each other and mess around all the time. Sometimes they make me mad and I go crazy, but in general they are very hardworking and adorable kids:-). They all wear the same uniforms and look the same for me, but I try my best to remember their names (Chinese names). There are more or less 75 students in the classroom (I know that’s a lot! I have a headache after my each class). After my first class, when my students left me voiceless, I was given a microphone to be able to be heard in the classroom. The problem is that my students don’t want to speak English. They are afraid of grammar mistakes they might make or the fact they might not be understood properly. I have noticed that they can write English stories (I have seen some impressive works) but when it comes to speaking English they are blocked. Therefore, we practice an oral English all the time. Every lesson I bring them some chocolate and sweets. The more they speak, the more chocolate they get and… it works! No doubt, my main goal here is to make them open their mouth and speak, express themselves. I was very impressed when I found out that the first lesson in the school starts at 6.30 am and the last one finishes at 9.30 pm. Oh my God, these kids work a lot every day. Of course, they have a lunch and a dinner break so they can have fun but in general they study very hard and I really appreciate it.
After each class I get ready for my class next day. I spend about 1 hour a day to prepare my teaching materials, mainly oral exercises as speaking is the main problem here. I try to keep my students active and busy, give them a lot of different tasks to do and of course homework! After each class, the most active students are given some certificates or some sweets so they know that if they work very hard they will get a prize. Now, after 4 weeks working here, me and my students have a special relationship, we are like friends. They know that if they need to talk about something what bothers them, I’m here to listen. Moreover, I’m so happy to see the progress they make every day.
I’m a foreign teacher here so nobody says anything about my teaching methods. They just let me do my work and don’t ask about anything. I can plan my own lessons, use school textbooks or my own materials, it’s all up to me. However, I can see the school puts Chinese teachers under such a great pressure. The teachers need to be in their offices from 6 am till 12 pm, then 2pm till 5pm and 7pm till 9 pm every day no matter how many classes they have (there usually have no more than 3 classes a day). They need to prepare their lessons, make some statements and do paper work, check all homework (minimum 80 a day) and participate in all staff meetings (30 minutes every day). I know, it’s their duty but let’s say I have only one class a day at 10.00-10.45 and I have prepared my class a day before. Instead of getting up at 9 am and going home at 11 am I need to be in my office at 6 am and leave at 12 pm. For me it’s pointless but that’s the main rule in the school. All teachers need to put their fingers on a special machine to clock in so the school controls their working hours.
The Teachers’ Day in China was celebrated on 10th of September. I must admit that all students did their best to make this day our special day. Every teacher, including me, got a bunch of beautiful flowers and a card saying “Happy Teachers’ Day”. I also got an invitation from my students to participate in their class parties where we sang karaoke songs, had some snacks and watched Chinese movies. I came back home at 11 pm with 3 bags full of presents and cards. I love this job!
I know that most of people think that Chinese education system is very strict and therefore students are very disciplined. I wouldn’t agree with that. I have noticed that students are not afraid of their teachers at all. They treat them like friends and respect them a lot but threatening them by saying “I will speak to your class master tomorrow if you don’t stop talking” doesn’t work at all. I have never seen a teacher shout at students either.
There are some pictures of my school and my students available to see in the gallery.
See you soon!