I'm employed here as a teacher, and yet I've never really posted anything about that aspect of living here. So I figured this is a good time to do that. My teaching schedule consists of 9 classes, 3 each on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. Each class is two 50-minute periods split by a 10-minute break. I see a different group of students in each class. The classes vary in size from 14 to 27. This school is only a 2 1/2 year program. All but two of my classes are 3rd year students, so they'll be gone after this semester. The other two classes are 2nd year students.

This schedule has some advantages and disadvantages. On the good side, since it's a different group of students for each class during the week, I only have to create 1 lesson plan per week. This makes lesson planning a piece of cake. I don't assign any homework (none of the other oral English teachers do, either), so I really don't have any "work" outside my teaching schedule besides the 1 hour or so that I spend planning my lesson every week. On the bad side, I only have 1 lesson plan per week, and it sure gets old when Friday afternoon rolls around and I've done it 9 times. Having 9 different classes of students is a good way to meet lots of different students (I have almost 200 students!). But that also means that learning names is real difficult. I've got all the names down in several of my classes, but there's a couple where I still forget their names--especially the Friday afternoon class. There's something about it being the last class of the week (and the 9th time on that same lesson) that makes it extremely difficult to really care about the class, pay attention, and remember their names.

The only teaching supplies we've been given are a blackboard, chalk, and pretty basic textbook that occasionally has some useful activities but usually isn't worth using. Most of the classes have been made up of activities I've thought up or gotten from others. I try to base each class around a common theme or topic rather than just simply jumping from one random activity to another. Also, each class begins with two students giving presentations on a topic of their choice, just to give them some practice speaking in front of people. So how do I fill the rest of the time? Here are some things I've done so far:
  • One of my lessons was a music lesson. First, we went over a bunch of music vocabulary--genres of music, musical instruments, and a bunch of other musical terms like tempo, rhythm, melody, etc. Then we split into groups and played "Name that Genre." Each group was given a set of cards with names of genres on them (like Rock, Blues, Jazz, Folk, Bluegrass, Flamenco, Celtic, Electronic, Classical, etc). I brought in my mp3 player and some computer speakers and would play about 30 secs of a song of a particular genre that matched one of the genres on their cards. Each group tried to pick the card with correct name of the genre of the music I had just played. Ideally, they would use the music vocabulary we had just gone over as they discuss the genres in their groups. Finally, I'd keep score to see which group got the most right. Usually I would ask a group to explain why they chose a particular genre when a group got it right.
  • I based another one of my lessons around famous people. We first played a game I've previously played on a couple of occasions. I created cards with names of famous people, each name having a matching partner (for example, Isaac Newton & Albert Einstein; Mickey & Minnie Mouse; Beethoven & Mozart). Using tape, I put a card on each student's back, so they the student doesn't know which card they got, but everyone else can see it. The goal was for the students to figure out who they were by mingling with everyone else and asking yes & no questions about their person. After that, they needed to find their partner. After the game, the students stayed in their pairs and prepared a TV Interview. One of each pair was a TV reporter and had to think of 5 questions to ask the famous person; the other person pretended they were the famous person on their card and answered the questions. Then the students had to come do the TV interview in front of the class.
  • This past week I did a travel lesson. Since my parents are probably coming to visit during winter break, I had the students get in groups and plan us a tour of China. They had to pick where we should visit, how long to stay there, what to see while we're there, decide how to travel to the next location (bus, train or airplane), and come up with a cost estimate of the whole trip. Most of the trips the students came up with weren't very feasible, but they did give me some good ideas of places to visit as I try to plan the travelling my parents and I will do.

Overall, I'd say teaching has been a good experience. Before coming to China, teaching was the single thing I was most nervous about since I've never taught before and I've never been good at public speaking. But it's turned out to be very easy and now I'm not nervous at all. I still don't particularly enjoy teaching. I'm enjoying living in China and spending time with the students, and I try my best to be a good teacher, but I just kinda view it as a means to an end--the end being having a chance to live here and invest in the lives of the students. It seems like I'm doing a decent job of it, though--I've got lots of good comments from students about my teaching.
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About Me

Husband and father, lapsed musician, software engineer at Square, open source developer, world traveler and Christian.