When I first came to Beijing on the 1st of August I did not know what to expect. I knew I was going to teach English in a school, but I did not know the age of the students or what part of China I would end up with. Further on, I did not know what other foreign teachers I would be in the same school as.
I remember that when I first came, I thought: “how can I teach English. I know nothing about kids, grammar, discipline or teaching”. What I did know, was that I did this to challenge myself and get out of my comfort zone. And I really hoped that the training course in Beijing would be good.
The next thing I remember clearly is that after only two days of training we had already learned so much! Among our first topics were classroom management, how to control the class and keep them quiet and interested. We learned so many smart things! From then on, I believed that this was something I could be able to handle. I remember that I also thought I would be really nervous in the whole of September since this was my first month of teaching. I was looking forward to October!
We focused a lot on grammar in the training course
When we got to know our placements, two things were going through my head. I was very happy that I got a school in the south, and after doing some research about this city called Foshan that I had never heard about, I thought it would be a cool place to live. The other thing was the feeling of despair that I got kindergarten and primary school. Teach English to kids that young? When I speak no Chinese? I honestly thought this would make my time in China a lot harder than if I had gotten Middle School or High School like I wanted.
The list with all the placements
Then we came to Foshan, and Nanguang International School, and got thrown into it. We arrived on midday one day, and were teaching the next day. I remember I was very focused but not really nervous. The kids were quiet, and listened to what I said. In the first lesson we just had some name games and activities to get to know each other a bit. Then I started my first self-chosen topic, which was “Food around the world”. I quickly understood that the kids knew quite a bit of English, and they were able to communicate what they wanted for most of the time. My first topic worked well, and I got good feedback from the teachers. The nervousness that I had expected was not at all there. I enjoyed every lesson with all the classes! But it should be said that I was dependent on having their real English teachers in the classroom in the beginning, or else I would not have been able to keep them quiet. Anyways, this was Primary School with my 5th and 6th graders.
In kindergarten, I struggled a lot in the beginning. How do you teach English to 2-year olds? I googled a lot, but try for yourself, there is not much on teaching English as a second language to that young learners. I asked my mom, and she gave me some ideas (she is a kindergarten teacher). I’d say I did not look forward to kindergarten lessons in the whole of September. But in the beginning of October I finally found some toy animals in a shop, and built a jungle out of paper. After this I think the kids had more fun in the lessons, I for sure had more fun, and it got more dynamic. And by mid-November my favorite class had totally changed and was now the baby class. And I have loved that class so much ever since. I even did extra lessons with all my kindergarten classes the last couple of weeks, just because I wanted to!
We (Louisa, Jayna and me) were really lucky to end up in Nanguang International School. Many teachers speak English and I got to know quite a few of them well. Everyone was so friendly, and helped us with everything we needed as fast as they could. The kids are so well disciplined and eager to learn, that most of the time it was pure joy to stand in front of a class. Since I was teaching 5th and 6th graders I could also have real conversations with them outside of the classroom, and ask them about their life. And all the little things in the everyday life. Like my kindergarten students Ella coming in to my office to have a little chat and play with me, my toy animals and jungle for five minutes before her mom came to get her every day. All the 1st graders that Jayne were teaching that were constantly yelling “Jayne! Jayne” with a big grin on their faces when they saw her. And her student Sunny that always came in to steal her scissors and ask, “what is it?” about everything on our desks. And just looking out the window with Louisa for an hour before we could leave the office on Friday afternoon because we had nothing more to do and had more fun waving to the kindergarten kids outside than surfing the internet.
Sometimes, if I saw my baby class outside, I just had to go and play with them for a little while. Here we're going for a walk!
After work I loved hanging out in the baby class and play
My 5th graders in the dorm building
Foshan was a good place to live. We lived near loads of restaurants, shopping malls, nice parks and even a gym. We could were shorts and t-shirts until the end of November, something at least I appreciated. We had our own apartments with private bathrooms and even our own washing machines. We could easily travel in to Guangzhou in the weekends.
I thought a lot about staying longer in China, but I have decided to go back and get a relevant job for my education. After all I want that too, and we’re lucky in Norway that we can actually get a job. I have met many fellow Europeans that came to China due to the hopeless times back in Europe. If I was younger I would have stayed longer I think. But I guess the longer you stay, the harder it is to leave too. After all you start to care about those kids when you get to know them!
Playing pictionary; two boys were drawing "panda" and their teams were guessing what it was. Took forever before they got it! Haha, cool drawings or what!
Last, I want to say that teaching English in China is a real job, and the schools expect you to be professional and hardworking. If you don’t meet their expectations it is easy to get fired. But with a little effort and the right attitude it will be an awesome experience where you will learn a lot about China and yourself! I am so happy that I took this opportunity when I had it, and the memories will be with me for the rest of my life ☺
K1D, my baby class <3
P5D, a very fun class to teach!
P6B, also a very fun class to teach. Very interested students, and their English was SO good. They asked so many questions!