A learning experience

April 5, 2012

The thing that makes teaching here so hard is that the Chinese English teachers don’t speak the language very well. At our school in Mianyang, it seems that 1 teacher per grade level speaks the language well enough to have a conversation with, but most of the others I can’t really talk to. And I think that’s really sad because these kids don’t know they are learning improper language. I think that every school that has foreign teachers should provide a class where the native English speaker teaches the Chinese teachers of English proper pronunciation. There are many, many mistakes. I think these mistakes could be corrected if the teachers could speak better English themselves.

Across the board, I’ve heard from other teachers around the country that the students are out of control/undisciplined. I have trouble controlling my classes, and the attitude that our classes aren’t important because there is no grade or formal test at the end is very widespread. That attitude– and learning how to have good classroom management with large classes of undisciplined students–is something that foreign teachers need to be better prepared for. There is a school in Chengdu where my friend works where the Chinese teachers told her not to take her job too seriously and to let the kids play. Another school in Chengdu doesn’t have a Foreign Affairs Officer (FAO), so that teacher is left on her own to solve all of her own problems. My current situation is just fine, but I know it’s because Ping at Buckland really wanted to make sure that the Seattle Community Colleges people got taken care of really well. Some teachers from outside of our District didn’t get ideal situations.

If I could do this whole program over again, I would prepare myself better for being here. I did a lot of good preparation on things like what to bring with me, but I did not prepare well for how I would interact with the Chinese people. I did not study much about Chinese culture and how the people are different from Americans, and I think it would’ve been really helpful if I had. It’s not enough to know that the kids may behave differently in the classrooms – to exist and live in China you have to know things. For example, most Chinese people will stare at you and make comments about you and point at you and laugh. People will call you “fat” to your face over and over again. They will laugh at you when you don’t understand something or if you pronounce things wrong. The kids will be brutally honest about what they think about your appearance. And you will not understand why people treat you so differently. As a white person living in big city like Seattle, I can’t really speak much to racism, but if I had to guess, this might be what it feels like, at least a little bit. Most people aren’t hostile–there’s not a hatred or anything. People are what we would consider very rude, but to them they are just acting like they would normally. They call each other fat, and laugh at each other, make fun of them, and think nothing of it. But I wasn’t prepared for this at all, and it ruined my first couple of weeks here until I realized how much that “rudeness” is just a part of their culture.

The best part for me is that in Sichuan Province there is so much to do, and it’s all only a couple hours from my school where I am teaching. I spend my weekends going on trips and seeing sites. Wandering around as a tourist is when I’m having the most fun. Teaching stresses me out, and I think that is because I have no formal teaching experience. I’ve figured it out, but I still spend many hours making lesson plans. When the contract says that we teach 15 hours a week, that only counts for the actual minutes of class time we are teaching. That doesn’t count the hours of lesson planning, or the hours I spend sitting around at school because on some days my schedule is very spread out during the day. It’s still less work than I do at home and I’m not complaining, but I found the 15 hours per week to be a little misleading. I am compensated for my extra lessons though (I teach 21 lessons per week) so that’s not a problem.

Honestly I’ve struggled a lot here. The amount of personal growth I’m experiencing is phenomenal and it will pay off in the end. At this point, I would definitely sign up to do this again, but it is a lot harder to be here than I was expecting.

Reiny Cohen



April 15, 2012

Everything is going great in China. The school that I work at is really cool. I’m very happy that I came to China. I am working with kids from the ages of 12-15. I have junior 1, junior 2, and senior 1. Lesson planning for my 15 teaching hours isn’t too overwhelming. It’s pretty easy if you just follow what’s in the book they give you, but it gets hard at times when the kids don’t understand half of the content in the book and you have to take out and add stuff to it so that they can understand it. But… I guess that’s the way it’s supposed to be! Things aren’t meant to be easy, there’s always going to be somewhat of a challenge. I don’t have to grade for any of my classes, so I probably spend about 30 minutes in preparation for each lesson and I only need to plan 3 lessons per day. It’s not bad!

I think that expanding the Teach in China program to other students or colleges in Seattle would be a great idea. Coming to China really helped open my eyes to a lot of things.

Crystal Hernandez



April 17, 2012

Here’s some feedback:

What is the school like? The school I am currently teaching at is quite large with around 1200 students from grades 1-6. The school has another campus within walking distance of my home that has another 800 or so students. My first month and a half in this city was spent going to multiple schools; I taught at 7 schools throughout the city.

How are you adapting to teaching? Adapting was pretty easy for me, but going to new school every week was definitely trying. The teachers are nice and the students are excited to learn and generally well behaved. The schools will throw in a couple welcome ceremonies where a teacher introduces you to the school asks you a few questions about where you’re from and how you feel about China.

How is the food in the town/city or at school? The food served at school is okay, but it isn’t anything I’ll miss. Lunch and breakfast are free, although only a couple schools offer breakfast. There are plenty of restaurants around including Pizza Huts, KFCs, and some Chinese chain restaurants. The American chains are nice if you need a break from the local food, but I generally stick to food on carts since it’s cheaper and easier to point at.

What is your housing like? The house is very nice, I will attach some photos to this email. Heat, AC, washer, shower, TV, etc. were all here upon my arrival.

What are you doing in your free time? I am in Chengdu, which is a huge city, so there is plenty to do in my free time. I generally go for walks around town and go to the gym, occasionally I stumble into a bootleg DVD shop or a pool hall on the weekend. There are numerous tourist attractions in and around the city (Leshan Buddha, Wuhou Temple, etc.) that I have been slowly checking off on my to do lists. Nightclubs are everywhere throughout the town, as is plenty of shopping, and gaming cafes near the college.

Jackson Hardin



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