Teaching Week 1: Survived.

14:30 Paul Robinson 0 Comments

Whilst I was stuck behind my desk in Leeds, I felt the grind of life in the UK might go on forever. Now, students call me teacher, I've got tonnes of lesson plans to do and I feel naked without a board marker. I'm finally teaching English in China.

Looking back, I really enjoyed it. However I was shocked by how demanding the job was physically and mentally. After teaching constantly between 8am and 6.30pm (minus the 45 minutes for lunch) I could barely form a coherent sentence. My speaking patterns are changing too because I spend so much time simplifying my language so I can be understood, that when I talk to another westerner I sound like a bit of div. And my smiling muscles are aching.

It's a good sign that I'm looking forward to seeing some of the kids again. I'm particularly looking forward to a class called Jungle Gym, which is for children aged between 3 and 4. when I found out I was going to be teaching toddlers, it was nearly bicycle-clip time. Aside from not knowing how to handle a kid, there is extra pressure because the students parents are present in the classroom. You have to perform; and I use the word 'perform' intentionally.

The children have no experience of English what-so-ever. In the class, I only used the kids names and the phrases "jump", "stand up", "sit down" and "hello". I was sick of repeating myself. I was also sweating through my shirt because I was constantly jumping, standing up and sitting down. I felt like a proper prat. Thankfully, toddlers are easy to please and pretending your hand hurts after a high-5 has them in hysterics. Seeing them  laugh was motivational and by the end of the 30 minute class, two of the three kids were responding to their English names. I really felt like I'd achieved something. Afterwards I was buzzing and my Chinese Co-Teacher (CT) later told me that the parents were really happy and that the class went well because the children see me as a big brother. In three and a half years work as a transport consultant, I didn't have a feeling even remotely close to that.

Unfortunately it's not all high-5s and shoe protectors. I have a few really difficult classes around the 12-14 age level. The kids really don't want to be there and they are really shy. When they don't talk the class really drags. I did manage to get some of the classes on my side by the end of the two hour sessions, but there are two classes that are going to be a challenge.

The children in Jinan do not have much exposure to foreigners and the little ones are very curious. They are particularly amazed by my left handed writing and by my blue eyes. I had one student call me over to just stare right into my eyes and another student told the CT that my eyes were beautiful.

It is safe to say that their curiosity and amazement is reciprocated. I'm learning so much about China's culture and about people in general that every day has been totally fulfilling. If I can get a hang of the language and inkling into how the Chinese think, moving to China might just be one of the most rewarding decisions I've ever made.

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