Originally published: 22 June 2013
Travelling vs. Teaching
I mentioned before that travelling has always been in my blood. Well, so was the teaching. I discovered my teaching passion when I was in at secondary school. As a geek (yes, I used to be a typical grade-grubber), I found helping others with their homework very enjoyable and rewarding. I was always around when someone needed my help with Polish, English, Chemistry or even Maths. My mom, my aunty and most of my cousins have been or still are working in education in some way. If you asked me what was first – teaching or travelling – the answer is Teaching.
Why Teaching in China?
My decision to teach English in China was not completely random. I did my Bachelor degree in Education at the university, worked as a teaching assistant (voluntary service) in a primary school for two years during my study and I always enjoyed working with kids. The last year of my study was crucial and at some point I had to decide what I was going to do once I graduate. I knew two things: I was the happiest person in the whole world when I was either travelling or teaching. One day, one of my Chinese friends advised me to go ahead and travel to China where I could develop both of my passions and skills. I asked Cez what he thought about it and he was like “Just go for it!” That was it. I sent my CV to a few Chinese schools located all over China (which you can find too in here), got my first interview, got the job on the spot, booked my flight ticket and I was off to go to China!
My First and Second Impressions
I firstly came to China in August 2011 where I worked in a high school in Huayuan (a small town located in picturesque Hunan province) and private learning center in Xiushan (a small city in Chongqing province). At first, I was a little bit scared, but I quickly adapted to a new teaching environment. I enjoyed my teaching job more and more each day.
After my 10-month contract expired, I left China for 8 months. I thought I would never come back. In the meantime, I was teaching English in Siem Reap, Cambodia and would never think of moving to China for another year. Why? I needed new adventures and fresh start. I felt like I knew China well, actually too wall. It was no longer a challenge for me.
As it turned out, I should have never said never. I’m back in China right now teaching 2-6 years old adorable kids in Bowen Kindergarten in Dalang district, Dongguan. After spending some time in Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand or Sri Lanka I started missing China. I was missing Chinese schools, students, morning breakfasts, Chinese culture and my stress free lifestyle. I booked my tickets, flew to Hong Kong and took a train to my former workplace – Huayuan. I was teaching during winter camp, but after a month Cez got a job in Dongguan and we moved here together. I was overwhelmed with the city – its huge shopping mall, supermarkets with plenty of foreign foods available, cinemas and theaters around, a huge train station and bus station. Something I didn’t have living in rural Huayuan.
I got a job immediately and started right away. It was a little bit different experience to me. I worked with high school students and primary students before, but never with kindergarten kids… The real adventure was just about to begin…
Teaching Kindergarten Students
It is, above all, a lot of fun. Fun, fun, fun. These little Chinese “monsters” want to play, dance, mess around and laugh a lot. They are extremely active and amusing. There is no way you can enter the classroom without being noticed by them. Once they see me, they touch and kiss my legs, grab my hands and twist them, scream “Hello teacher!”, give me some candies and chocolates and send me some kisses. That always makes my day.
Being around little kids makes me feel much younger and more energetic. My English classes look like fitness classes. We jump, we scream, we sing songs, we nod our heads, we tap our knees and we can’t stop it! The more fun they have, the more happy I am. This is the only one way to keep them focused and involved into the lesson – through games and exercises. Surprisingly, although they are so little and don’t speak proper Chinese yet, their English is impressive and I don’t struggle much with attracting their attention.
Meet My Students
Although they don’t understand everything I say to them, smile speaks all languages. I smile when I’m pleased with them and make an angry face when they get naughty. They perfectly understand my gestures and tones of my voice.
I know I keep saying that, but my students are like little angels. They are adorable, cute and innocent. You simply can’t be angry with them for longer than 5 minutes. If you see them cry, it breaks your heart to little peaces. When you see them smile, you can’t stop smiling with them.
They all were given English names I still try to remember. It’s difficult though when you work with more than 120 students every day. The good news is… they all know my name!
In total, I teach 6 classes:f N1 (nursery students) and K1 A and B, K2 A and K3 A and B. N1 students are the youngest, while K3 students are the oldest and they surprise me with their high level of spoken English every day. I spend most of my teaching time with N1 and K1 (younger students) and Cez with K2 and K3 (older kids).
My Teaching Tactics
I prepare my classes according to the book I was given on my first day of work. Different book is used for different level. I mainly follow the book plan adding my own ideas to make the classes more interesting.
Each of my class is divided into 6 different stages:
- Greetings (saying hello to my students, asking how they are).
- Warm up (singing songs, dancing to get them back on the track of using English again).
- Teaching (introducing new vocabulary, teaching them how to pronounce new words).
- Interactions (role plays, partner information share, memory games to make them use new vocabulary as much as possible) and Activate stage (drawing or colouring the pictures, doing some tasks in student book).
- Follow up (review of everything we have learnt during the class).
- Saying goodbye (saying goodbye to my students).
My lesson plan is prepared a week in advance and then approved by Belinda – the principal of the kindergarten and Jeff – the owner. I have plenty of CDs and DVDs in my office so I never run out of songs or movies. When my students do well in the classroom I prize them with stickers. I often stick them to their foreheads or noses.
With my K3 students the job is much easier as they speak basic English. Students are 5-6 years old. I warm them up by playing various games (partner information share, sevens), having discussions with them (what did you do last weekend? information research, finding out information) and sharing with them some interesting pictures and histories which makes them back on the track of using English again. Afterwards, I go from engage to study stage where I explain the language, teach them new vocabulary, language constructions (drilling in pronunciation, spelling, word order, analysis of the word, tongue twisters, hangman, word search, filling in gaps and crosswords).
The class finishes with activate stage where I encourage students to use any or all of the language they know and they’ve learnt, they should use it as freely as possible (role play, surveys, drawing pictures or producing materials (leaflets), debates, discussions, story building, interviews). So far, my students seem to be enjoying my classes, we crack jokes together, I always keep them updated on how my family and friends are doing and what places I have been to or I’m going to visit next. My lessons go smoothly!
The job suits me perfectly with my blogging and travelling schedule. I have 4-6 x 30-minute classes every day from Monday to Friday. Tuesdays and Thursdays are my favourite days as I am off work at 12:00. I stay till 17:00 for the rest of the days having an extra English afternoon classes. I have 10-minute break between my classes and there is an afternoon nap break which lasts 3 hours (12:00-15:00). Every class lasts 30 minutes for K1,2 and 3 students and 15 minutes for nursery students.
I still manage to travel at the weekends and blog during my breaks at the kindergarten. I try to keep the balance between both – my job and passion. Teaching is the main focus at the moment as I want to get good references and I’ve been really enjoying myself here.
Why Teach English in China?
There is our first China guidebook coming out very soon, where together with Sarah of thefurtheradventuresofbennett, we share our teaching, living and travelling experiences in China where you can find plenty of valuable reasons and tips why you should try to spend a year in the Land of the Dragon and the Rising Sun teaching English to Chinese.
Let me share my personal reasons. First of all, it was a great opportunity for me (I want to be a professional teacher) to figure out whether this is what I wanted to do in the future or not. I got a lot of teaching experience, learnt a lot from my colleagues and tried out new teaching tactics in the classroom. For the first time in my life I was in charge of my class, my students, my schedule, my lesson plan and my teaching materials. I got more mature and confident as a mentor.
Secondly, the job is stress free. Nobody puts any pressure on you, there is no competition between teachers, everyone is loving, caring and helpful. You are surrounded by people who truly care about you and they are ready to give you a hand when you need it. Thirdly, the working hours are short and you get a decent salary. Most of schools provide teachers with free food and accommodation so you can save up a lot of money for your travels.
The last, but not the least reason is to be able to live like a local. Working in China gives me an incredible opportunity to learn Chinese language, get familiar with the local community, culture and traditions. I spend every Chinese holiday here with a bunch of Chinese friends, picked up some Chinese, understood their way of thinking and living. I made new friends with locals and seen the incredible places (Avatar Mountains, Fenghuang Town, Yangshuo River) I would never see if I hadn’t come to China to teach in the first place.
To sum up, China feels like home right now. I feel fulfilled as a teacher and a traveller. There are ups and downs, but at the end of day I smile and this is what really matters, right?