Updated on September 30, 2017
Teaching English in China
“Teacher, Why you black?” This was the first question that I was asked on my first day as an English Teacher in China. I have been teaching China for a few weeks and I am thrilled. I am back in the environment that I enjoy so much. American parents and teachers get all bent out of shape over class size. Here, the average class size is 50! I can hardly believe that I am teaching 600 students!
Growing up, adults always asked if I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up. I always said no. That was not exciting! I loved school. I loved the smell of the halls, sitting in class, the activities, the kids running around, discussions and learning. In time, I discovered I am a teacher.
There is so much to love and I am constantly challenged. I was not expecting to have an assistant to help teach my classes. In every class, there is another teacher, acting as an assistant, who translates what I am saying to the children. I stand there telling the students what to do and the assistant is saying something else in Chinese. Depending on which class I am teaching and who is helping me, she may continue talking for a while after I have finished speaking. I know she isn’t saying everything that I have said. Sometimes, I stand there for a few minutes waiting until she stops talking. If she is telling them they better be good and listen to me, I certainly don’t want to interrupt!!
I feel very blessed to have my job. As a westerner, I am treated with respect by the staff and the students. I do not speak the language yet, but even so, it is not something that is treated with derision. I have not had anyone refuse to help me because I can not speak Chinese. In fact, they will go out of their way to find someone who can be of assistance. I am given liberty in what I do in the classroom, as long as I get the kids speaking English.
As a westerner, I am paid as much as a teacher who has been on the job for 15 years or more. For me, that is humbling. I know that if these teachers were to come to America and teach the same subjects in our schools, they would not be rewarded with higher salaries. It makes me want to do a good job designing and delivering a good lesson.
The main challenge that I face as a teacher is my expectations versus the school’s. The parents and the children just want to say a few words in English. That is progress. I really want to get the students talking and having conversations. For me that is progress. I am a language learner myself, so I know that it is possible to speak well in a short amount of time. However, the difference is the school setting versus being in an independent setting. Somehow, we will reach a compromise and find the right road together.
While there are some similarities between western and eastern schools, there is a lot of differences. Next week, I will discuss them. Right now, I better go plan a lesson!