Let's recap a bit. I first arrived in Shenzhen in November 2015, so I have experience teaching here for almost 3 years so I'd like to think that I am able to give you a pretty informative, accurate and unbiased account of what it's like being a foreign English teacher here in China.
Firstly I would like to start off with some advice on what to expect when teaching at a public school in China. Now Chinese schools are somewhat different to schools back in the UK. Here are some of the big differences:
1. 50 kids per class
If you are teaching in a public school, there will be almost 50 children in each class. Now I know that this sounds pretty crazy and overwhelming, however due to the classroom layout, you don't realise how many kids there are.
2. Learning names can be a nightmare
Don't try to learn every single students name because more than likely you will only teach each class once a week and you may have to teach anything from 8-16 different classes per week.
Usually every student is given an English name by their local (Chinese) English teacher, but a lot of students prefer not to use them. So then imagine having to remember that many Chinese names, and being unable to pronounce them right. Chinese has several different tones so if you said the word in a different tone then you may have just given their name a whole new obscure meaning... but we will talk about language another time.
I found that I had a tendency to remember the really bright students names, as well as the trouble makers names. But the one time that I would ALWAYS remember a kids name was when it was something strange. I swear, one of my students was called "Colour-mix". It was as if their local English teacher had opened a dictionary, thrown a couple of words together and then decided to name the student after it.
Sometimes they would directly translate their Chinese names into English. That really vwork well either. One of my students was called "Little White". In Chinese that would be Xiao Bai, which sounds pretty nice but in English....nahhhh. Another student was called "Golden fish" and there was a "Golden baby" too. I can't think of any more off the top of my head right now but if i remember I will update you guys in later posts 😜
My advice, especially if you are teaching these students from grade 1, is on your first lesson with them create name cards and maybe choose a good English name for them yourself, or if they prefer to use their Chinese name, then have them write that on the card in pinyin.
3. Free breakfast and lunch
Yes you read correctly, FREE!!!!
Usually public schools will provide their teachers with free breakfast and Lunch, both served in the school canteen.
Generally school breakfast consists of noodles, fried rice, boiled eggs, mantou (steamed bun), congee (a porridge made with rice) and soy milk.
Lunch can vary on different days usually you can find rice, steamed vegetables, soup, congee, steamed egg, egg and tomato, fish (usually full of tiny bones so be careful), and some sort of meat (pork, beef, chicken etc).
If you have any allergies or strict dietary requirements (vegetarian, vegan etc) I would avoid eating in the cafeteria because even the vegetable dishes are often cooked in the fat from the meat, or may contain bit of meat with them.
On the plus side, it's great if you are on a budget, or wanting to save money and want to try a variety local dishes.
3. Eye exercise
It is exactly what it sounds like. Usually straight after 2nd period, and then again in the afternoon after the 4th period, students are required to stand at the end of their lesson and do eye exercise. You will hear an announcement (all in mandarin Chinese) followed by music and counting. The students will do a series of motions, specifically designed to exercise their eyes. There are usually 4 different parts and it usually takes around 5 minutes after the lesson has ended.
4. Actual exercise
The time that this takes place can vary depending on the season. In the winter it is usually done after third lesson has ended, whereas in the summer it is done first thing in the morning before lessons begin, in order to avoid the hot midday sun.
During this exercise all students are called to the field and line up with their form class teachers. The students then have to do a series of exercises, kind of like an army drill. They are then required to also run around the track several times. They do this Monday - Friday unless it's raining.
5. Flag raising
This was a really interesting thing for me, because in England we do no such thing. Every Monday morning before school (so you're required to come earlier specifically for this) the whole school will assemble on the field. Firstly you will notice that the students aren't wearing their usual uniform, the head teacher will be on stage giving announcements etc, occasionally there is a performance, or a poem read, and then the Chinese flag will be raised. The students also sing the national anthem in unison, it's very patriotic and teaches students to love their country.
So those were a few of the major differences you will encounter during your first week teaching English in China. I will continue this series about my experiences teaching English in China, covering different aspects in different posts. If you have any questions or any suggestions on what you'd like me to write about please feel free to comment. Also if you are already in China, was your experience different to mine? Let me know.