What I Learned About Guangzhou

What I Learned About Guangzhou

Before arriving in Guangzhou, I didn’t really have an idea of what to expect. I knew it would be more western and there would be more foreign people living there, but here are a few things I noticed while I was there.

  1. Chinese people still stared at me.

I was surprised by the amount of Chinese people that stared at me while I was there! Because it’s very close to Hong Kong, I presumed that they would be used to seeing foreign people in the city. But that didn’t deter the older Chinese people from having a good look at me.

2. No tissues in restaurants.

In every restaurant in Chengdu, you will always find a box of tissues at your table. In Guangzhou however, we found tissues in only one noodle restaurant we ate at. Sichuan food is quite oily, so most people need to use tissues while eating. In Guangzhou, their food isn’t as oily, so maybe they feel that they don’t need them. I’ve gotten used to having tissues at hand while eating now, so we always needed to make sure we brought some with us!

3. A mix of Cantonese and Mandarin

With Guangzhou being in southern China and the fact that they speak Cantonese, both myself and my fiancé were surprised that we heard quite a bit of Mandarin being spoken! I’m guessing these people were Chinese tourists, but I thought that I would only hear Cantonese being spoken. I’d say we heard 50% Mandarin being spoken and 50% Cantonese.

4. Quite dirty

Like our visit to the city of Xiamen, which you can check out here;  Chengdu Vs Xiamen     we noticed that Guangzhou is also quite a dirty city.  I’ve said it before, but Chengdu is the cleanest city in China that I’ve been to so far. You will see a road sweeper on every road here, but in Guangzhou, it was a struggle to find any. Rubbish would pile up beside bins that were full to the brim, and it’s such a shame because it’s a nice city.

5. Cyclists on the footpaths.

One thing that really annoyed us in Guangzhou was the amount of people cycling on the footpaths. We kept wondering why this was, and we realised that it was because many roads in Guangzhou are one way. Obviously the cyclists can’t cycle down the wrong way, so they go on the footpaths instead. Many footpaths in the city are narrow, so that makes it even worse. So when you’re constantly hearing a bell ringing behind you to move, it does get quite annoying after a while.

6. Small portions

We’re not sure if this is really true, but on two occasions we went for noodles or wontons, asked for a big portions, but they brought out a bowl which to me is only a small portion. In Chengdu a big portion is BIG. We thought we ordered the small by accident, but no, they were big.. So we were still quite hungry after our big noodles and wontons.

So they are a few things that I noticed about the city. I know every city has it’s charms and it’s negative things, but overall I really liked the city!

Aisling

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A Gift From Work

As I’m living in China, I’ve unfortunately had to work on Christmas day. Because I’m working in a University, there’s no hope in hell that I’d be able to take it off. It’s just a normal day for the students and other teachers! However If I was working in a private English company, they would (usually) allow every foreign teacher a day off.

So to make it at least a little more Christmassy, I decided that for this week we would watch the film ‘Elf’ in class together. I needed to talk to students one on one, so the others watched the film while I talked to each student. So it was an easy class for them!
I’ve now watched the second half of ‘Elf’ 10 times…… so I don’t want to see that film for another 5/6 years!!! That’s one problem of watching a film; you have to watch it 10 more times for every class!

During Monday I received a message from the school asking me to go and pick up my Christmas gift. Gift?? I’m actually getting a gift from the school!!! God that’s nice of them! They still haven’t given us a hoover that we’ve needed since we started in September, so I was surprised I actually received 500yuan/ €65 in a hongbao (red envelope)!

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STILL no hoover though!

But anyway, it was a nice surprise to receive! In my old company I’d most likely get a small flower with a greeting attached to it…. so my hongbao is way better!

So next week we all have a week off from uni and then we only have 3 more weeks left until the semester is over! I’ve been complaining that it’s going too slow, but now I’m nearing the finish line at last!

Now I need to think about what I’ll spend my 500yuan on! Definitely not a hoover anyway! I’ll keep badgering the school about that.

Aisling

Exams….. some just don’t care.

So for the past 2 weeks my students have been preparing to do a 4-5 minute role-play for me as part of their exams. The first week was to think up their idea and start writing their script. They then came in groups and they practiced in front of me and I made adjustments with their scripts in the second week. For the third week they could practice for the first 45 minutes and then do their exam.

So they had PLENTY of time to rehearse and remember their lines.

I was pretty surprised that for my classes on Monday, 3-4 groups couldn’t remember what to say!

And one was a total disaster altogether! Because their english is very low, I told them that their role-play could be 3-4 minutes long. I also put a student whose English is higher than the others in with this group so he could help them make their script and what not. So they come in and none of them know their lines. They didn’t know what they were doing, and it definitely wasn’t practiced.

It frustrates me because I gave them plenty of time and I made it easier for them because I know they would struggle. Some of these students are failing because they don’t try in class. I told them this too. So I thought that they would put a bit more effort into it and try at least. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with them.

I don’t want to fail them but if they continue not caring and not putting effort into anything then I’ll be forced to. What annoys me even more is that I actually made it easier for them and they still didn’t care!

On a better side, I had one all girl group and they were really good! They were doing like a dating show and the girls with the lights had to decide if he (the girl on the far right) matched up to their expectations. The girl on the far left was the host. They had a ppt ready, props, and it was different to all the rest of the others I’ve seen so far! This group is in the class that is my favourite, so I’m happy that they tried a lot! They’ll definitely be getting a good score.

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My favourite group so far!

 

On a weirder note, I received a text message from one of my students and she asked could I give her 90% on the exam. I wasn’t sure what she was on about and replied that the exam isn’t until next week. I said “I know, but will you give me 90%?”

Ok??????? She’s a good student and her English is good but she actually has the audacity to ask for a high mark. I would never have asked my teachers any such question! It would be more like how can I improve so I could get a better mark. So I replied back “It depends on how well you do in the exam”.

Her response…”Too cruel!!!”

So apparently I’m too cruel. Huh.

Maybe she’s the cruel one because she didn’t bribe me with anything!

Aisling

Teaching Uni Students: 3 Months On

Teaching Uni Students: 3 Months On

I can’t believe I’ve just finished week 12 of teaching. In one sense it’s flying by, but then at the same time it sometimes feel like I’ve been teaching for years here. I’m already halfway through my first semester here, so I have more semester to go and then bye bye to China!

With every week that goes by I’m slowly getting more comfortable with my students. I can see that they can have a joke and a laugh with me now and it’s just a better atmosphere now in the classes. Well most of them anyway; I’ve one class and they are still like robots…. so I don’t particularly enjoy teaching them. They don’t do anything wrong… it’s just they don’t do anything at all!

They just stare…. and stare…. and stare some more…….. while the other classes laugh at some funny picture or video that I show them, they just stare.

So I’ll be pretty happy to get rid of that class next semester.

I’ll miss most of my students next semester. Every teacher will be getting new students as the Uni wants them to become more immersed with different cultures and what not. I understand in a way, but then at the same time the teachers have to start from scratch with gaining the students trust and making them comfortable with us.

I’ve sort of figured out what each student is like, which ones need more attention and which one’s English is non-existent. I’ll have to figure all that out again!

Depending on the topic and lesson I make, the students will react positively or negatively.  If they don’t like it, they just aren’t interested. So it’s difficult finding the balance of both work and play. They could happily play games all day, but I’d still like to teach them something at least!

But I feel I’m improving with my teaching style with every class. I know what they like and don’t like, and myself and my fiancé try and help each other to create and brainstorm lesson plans. Two heads are better than one!

With being set on leaving China, I’m looking forward to finishing the contract and moving on……and I’m really looking forward to it!

Aisling

Trying To Deceive Me

Trying To Deceive Me

With having to teach 10 classes with 25 students in each class, sometimes I tend to forget their faces or names. In my other University where I worked, I had one class of 80 students, so 25 is a much easier class to deal with!

I’m slowly learning each face and their names, and I can usually remember their names when I see them. Although the ones that start with ‘A’ always confuse me, you can check out why here –All The Same Names

So I called the role (everyone was present) and I started class, playing a game in the first 45 minutes and then I would start a new topic. I put them into groups and as we were going through the game, I noticed that their was a girl in one group not participating at all. The other 4 were huddled together while she was turned away from them and was writing in her notebook. So I kept looking at her and I was thinking:

“She doesn’t look like one of my students….”

“Well in that group there is Cherry, Aom……so her name must be Aimee”

“But I really don’t recognise her face???!!!”

“God I must be an awful teacher…….”

“No….. I definitely didn’t teach that girl before….. she must be new..”

“Then there should be a student missing if she is new??”

So throughout the game I kept an eye on her and after it I asked her what her name was. She was looking through the list and then she writes her name down. Aimee.

Ok… so then I ask her “Are you a new student?”

No reply. All the other classmates are talking in Chinese, aware of what is happening.

I then say “Your face looks different”.

Still no answer.

So I’m still perplexed and thinking if I was that bad of a teacher that I never recognised her face…. having taught her 11 times already.

After class ends I call my teaching assistant student Daisy and I asked her if that girl was new. She replied that she isn’t in their class and she didn’t know who she was.

I heard from other teachers here that some random student would show up for a class that they aren’t even in. The real student pays them money to attend.

I never thought it would happen to me but it just has! A general rule with the English teachers here is that if they don’t show up for 4 classes then they fail the class. That is one month of class that they missed. So this girl has already missed 2 classes, and now this one makes 3. I’m tempted to just fail her altogether; it’s bad enough not coming to class and then not bringing a note or whatever to show why, but actually going to the trouble of getting someone else to attend their class and hoping that I won’t notice; that’s just rude.

I won’t have the ‘real’ Aimee until next week, so I’m not sure what I will do when I see her. I’m tempted just to fail her. If she wants to not come to class, then she doesn’t have to come, she can fail instead. I wouldn’t mind getting rid of an ‘Aimee’ I have too many ‘Aimee’ students!

So I’ll decide what to do next week with her, that’s if she even shows up!

But this has taught me a new lesson; always make sure there are no impostors in my class!

Aisling

The Advantages of Working in a University in China

The Advantages of Working in a University in China

Whilst living in China, I’ve worked in both Universities and also private schools, so I thought I’d share some advantages of working as an English teacher in a University. In China, these are sought after jobs, so regard yourself lucky if you successfully managed to get a Uni job here!

1. Guaranteed money each month.

So in a Uni job, you are guaranteed that the students will and more importantly HAVE to come to class. (if it a mandatory class and not an elective that is),You don’t need to worry ‘Oh I wonder will many people come to class today?’ In my current Uni they have to come or else they will fail. However in my first Uni job, I had a few elective groups, and a lot of students skipped it. So if you manage to get secure a job, make sure you know if it’s a mandatory class or elective class. Mostly they will be mandatory though!

2. Low hours

At the moment, I teach 10 classes of 90minutes each. Plus miraculously for this semester I only work 3 days a week. (Although one day I work from 8am to 8:40pm which is a LONG day) but in Uni jobs, you usually will have less teaching hours than private schools.  It does mean a little less money than private schools, but I think it’s still a good deal.

3. Students are older

Although sometimes I feel this is a curse, generally you can have a laugh with the students and get to know one another better than if you are teaching older students.

4. Holidays

Of course Uni jobs are well known for their long holiday breaks, plus they are fully paid. So you don’t have to feel guilty about booking time off for going on a trip!

5. Lesson Plans

In my current job, I only have to make 1 lesson plan, and that does me for the whole week! Yes it does get monotonous after a while, but I know some teachers HATE doing lesson plans for each lesson.

5. Other benefits

In our Uni, they provided us with a huge apartment which is rent free, they pay for internet, half of electricity, water, give us €20 each month for food allowance (it doesn’t sound a lot but when lunch is about €1 in the canteen then it’s plenty. Plus they pay us a bonus for starting the contract and another for completing it.

So all in all, Uni jobs are pretty good! I know every Uni is different but I don’t think I’ve heard of a person working in a bad one. But read your contract closely about what benefits they offer!

Deciding to visit Guangzhou

Deciding to visit Guangzhou

Although I have to put up with some VERY LAZY students, there are a few benefits with working in a University in China. The first and most important one is holidays!

With our university, they agreed on working some days where the rest of the people in China would have off. Then they clump all these days that we worked and then we would have a week off. Not too bad for a Uni that is very badly organised!

So in December we will have a week off for New Years and we’ve decided to spend it in Guangzhou. We were debating where to go but because it will be winter and we really don’t want to go to the north of China as it will be absolutely freezing, we thought we’d better find somewhere in the south where it will be a bit warmer than Chengdu! I hope anyway!

It’ll be nice to see the city and try the food there, which is much sweeter than Sichuan food. As we plan on leaving  China next summer, (yeah I know I said that loads of times and I’m STILL here)  we’d like to try and visit a few places before we go. Obviously China is a huge place and it would be rather difficult to visit every single place of interest, but we’ve managed to see a few sightseeing places and cities!

So that is the plan! When I first came to China the thought of travelling in this huge, non english speaking country was very daunting. Now however, we have enough Chinese to get by and we know what to roughly expect when we travel around. Plus in the East of the country a lot more people speak English so it’s handier to travel there than in Chengdu, where literally no one speaks it!

Every city in China is different so we’re excited to see what Guangzhou has to offer!

再见

爱玲 (Aisling)