Outside the classroom.

With the majority of my students, this happens. If I see them before class begins, I would ask one of my students ‘How are you?’. Total silence. They look at me with a mixture of expressions. First, their face turns into a sort of bewilderment. It’s sort of like they don’t understand the question. I have asked this many times when class starts, and they are happy to reply. ‘Im fine thank you, and you?’ But once they are out of the classroom, they literally freeze up.

Second, they actually look afraid of me. It’s as if I am testing them on their English and if they say it correctly. To them, it’s speak English in class. Speak Chinese outside of class.

With one girl, I asked her ‘How are you?’. She’s 6 years old. I get that scared sort of expression and I hear ‘mmmm….uuhhhhh’. I repeated. Again, I hear ‘uuuhhhh’. I said ‘Are you hungry?’ Nothing. ‘Are you thirsty?’. Nada. ‘Are you happy?’…. I hear a small ‘yes, I’m happy.’ I decide to let her escape from this traumatic experience.

Yet once she’s in the classroom, she’s fine. She actually replies back to me! Its pretty annoying when the parents interrogate the students on what they learn after class. If they don’t want to speak English to me outside of class, how on earth are they going to speak English to their parents or grandparents?

I met another student outside one day. She was sitting with her mother eating food. I cycle past and I hear ‘AISLING!’ I turn around and I see her. I cycle back to her and ask her ‘Oh are you hungry?’ Then THAT look appeared. What did she say? My Mum is here and she will hear me speaking to the teacher. Should I speak in English to her? I don’t want to speak English. I’ll just be quiet. … Which she did.

So after I asked her two more times with no reply, I gave up, along with a little of my pride. The Mum most likely thinking ‘My daughter doesn’t know any English at all.’

But miraculously, in class I asked ‘How are you?’ and she said ‘I’M EXCITED!’ Theres no hope outside the class.

Although this isn’t always the case. Some students are more than willing to talk to you which is great. Not so great when they come half an hour early and they want to talk to you with very broken English. I like to relax and kind of be by myself before my classes.

I suppose it depends on the students and how confident they are at speaking English. It is amazing though to see the levels of each students. Two students the same age could have a completely different level of English.

I had a 6 year old and her English was amazing. Very very good for a 6 year old. Because she was so advanced she was moved to a higher class and onto a different book aimed for 7-9 year olds. Her mother spoke fluent English so this was a major reason.

And I suppose, If I was that age and someone started talking French to me I would most likely have done the same as my students. Say nothing to the scary lady.

Aisling.

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Chinese Children

In the classroom, I’ve picked up a few Chinese phrases that the children say quite a lot. One of these is shénme [shuh muh]. This is Chinese for ‘what’. One student in particular, if he doesn’t understand something I say, he says shénme to me. Another phrase I hear quite a lot is gĕi wŏ [gay woh] which means ‘give me’. This is usually said when one student has something the other student wants.

Also, I keep hearing is xià kè [sha kuh]. This means ‘class is over’, even though there could be another 45 minutes left. I have to disappointingly say ‘no… not yet!’

Another interesting thing I have noticed is, for example, is if they are colouring something and I ask what colour do they want. So many students LOVE the colour yellow! Half the time they pick this one… and I don’t like when they are using yellow, because when they start, they realise the colour is too bright and they can’t see the colour on the paper, meaning they end up taking another 2 minutes picking ANOTHER one out, usually a dark brown.

It’s also amazing to see how the 3-6 year olds love hugging you and being held. It’s quite a nice feeling, to know that you actually mean something to them (however small that may be). Two girls I teach live a few floors up from the campus, so sometimes when they are passing, they come and say ‘HI AISLING!’ and off they go again. One student offered me a biscuit and the other gave me a green, thin (almost like paper) thing, which smelled remarkably like fish.

And the parents have even passed the ‘utmost importance’ of drinking warm water down to their children. One student, she’s 6, brings in her flask with her warm water to class. There are flasks specifically designed for children, which Mickey Mouse and other cartoon cartoons on them. Sometimes during a 1 and a half hour class, I would ask them do they want some water. Sure enough they add cold AND hot water from the water dispenser. First of all, at home, we rarely have water dispensers. Anyway, if we did, I’m pretty sure not many people would drink the hot water.

They are obsessed with hot water. Chinese people think, if you are sick…. “you should drink hot water”. If you have a cold….”you should drink hot water”. If you have a headache…”oh… you should drink hot water”.
And during the winter I have heard, numerous times…”you should wear more clothes.” Now I’m not here wearing shorts and a t-shirt. I’m wearing proper clothes, like with a coat and scarf. But still I’m cold. Once I say “It’s cold today!”….. the reply is, “you should wear more clothes”. You just can’t win!

Also, I have noticed how many Chinese people cannot recognise Western sarcasm. One of the teachers was talking to a Chinese staff and she mentioned something about having to do something that will be boring and non-interesting. The teacher replied “oh that will be exciting”. I heard them talking and I knew straight away, by the tone of his voice, that he meant that in a sarcastic way and that he knows it will be boring. However the Chinese didn’t get it, and she said “oh no it won’t be exciting!”

We also have our teambuilding workshop, ie; going for hot pot together. I love hot pot, so we are going there after our classes have ended.

Oh and its getting hotter. In the mid 20’s now. I can just about bare this heat, imagine what I’ll be like when it hits the 30’s!

Aisling.

Barbeque in November

I never would have thought I’d be having a barbeque, in China…in November. But there you have it, a first! It was a little gathering with me, Charlotte and all of our teaching assistants. The Dean of the Department also made an appearance. Although we were a little daunted by this whole new experience, it actually was an enjoyable day!

On Saturday morning, we left at 9:30am. This is a ridiculous time to go for a barbeque, but whatever the Dean says, it goes. The boot of the car was packed with food: beef, pork, fish, cabbage, potatoes…. The lot! For snacks, we had oranges, bananas and what we call ‘bird seeds’. Chinese people love eating peanuts and seeds (the seed is in the middle and you have to break it open with your teeth), we told them we give those seeds to the birds at home, which they laughed at.

Typical, the weather wasn’t on our side. It was freezing, windy and there was a great chance of rain. Still, we headed to a ‘park’… meaning a golf resort.  We set the chairs up in the freezing cold, got the barbeque ready and prepared the food.

What turned out to be a bit of a terrible day actually turned out great! The food was lovely, we were chatting and having a laugh, and then we got to experience typical Chinese photography. We randomly met a couple of people who had fancy cameras with them, and they proceeded to take photos of us, telling us how to pose, move our heads, point to the sky. THEN, we had to do a typical Chinese photograph… jumping up in the air while the photographer takes the photos. All 10 of us jumping up in the air like eejits. The Chinese were loving it, obviously their years of practice made them naturals at it. Me and Charlotte however felt just a tad silly.

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This was our typical Chinese photo of us jumping.

My assistant Jason, or as he says Jaason, also made me and Charlotte some calligraphy. He does it himself and I was really impressed. It was so nice of him!

So after the barbeque, we headed back to the apartment to put the food away. Not even half the food got eaten. Then we decided to hit KTV. Although it was supposed to be all of the assistants going, only Amy and Liang could come, so it was just the 4 of us. I have to say, Chinese people actually sing very well. They can sing very high pitched, even the men!

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We ended up staying in KTV for 3 hours! We then headed back to the college and went to a Chinese place down the road for food. So the day actually turned out really well. I just hope they don’t decide to have another barbeque in December!

Then on Sunday, me and Charlotte had a wee day out in Chengdu city. We hit Chunxi Road and I just went mad altogether, spending over 500yuan, or €50 on a dress, jeans and shoes. Now I have an excuse, I have no clothes, and I mean NO clothes, so I actually did need them. Then we went to a Chinese restaurant and actually got what we ordered! Although, we did ask for 12 potatoes, and we were given 4. On Friday we were in the city again and we opted for the easy Pizza Hut, so we HAD to get Chinese this time. We have no excuse really.We also treated ourselves to a Starbucks, where I got a Gingerbread coffee, it was lovely!

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I also notice a few shops have Christmas decorations which is a little strange, it also reminds me that I’m going to miss my first ever Christmas at home….

Aisling.

Halloween!

 

I had my first Halloween away from home. So the theme for this week’s lesson was about Halloween! I have two different types of classes, 3 classes are Elective classes, where the students have chosen to study English and want to go to my class. These are 3rd year students, but I’ve had about 30 boys join one class and they are 1st year students. The other 2 classes are Required, meaning they are training to be flight attendants. Both of these are 1st years, so they are pretty wild. These HAVE to attend class because its, hence the name; required.

That means I had a good week lesson planning wise, I used most of my material from the elective classes for required, having only to modify it to make it easier for the 1st years. I discussed its origins, showed them pictures of pumpkins, Halloween food,  children in costumes, and showed my little nephew with his Vampire costume on him. All the classes went ‘ooohhhh he’s so cute and beautiful!’ They love when I show them pictures of my family, home or my friends.  I showed them trailers from ‘The Shining’, ‘The Ring’ and ‘Halloween’, and asked them to look at how they make them scary.

For one class, I veered off Halloween altogether and ended up talking about St Patrick’s day, and showing them pictures of parades and people wearing green. We talked about aliens, psychics and mediums in the same lesson. You honestly don’t know what you will end up discussing in the classes.

I’ve also been invited out to a Chinese show. It was a show for the first year students, where they sang, danced and done Kung Fu. I saw some of my students on stage aswell. Me and Charlotte had ‘reserved’ seats… being brought to the chairs closest to the stage!

The following Friday, we were invited once again to see a singing competition. I was brought to the top chairs, where we were told we have to vote for the best singer. I didn’t think I would be actually judging the singers! The Chinese absolutely love these types of shows. The room was huge, and loads of students were cheering, it was a great atmosphere.

And we are not the only 2 foreign people in the area anymore! Four Belgium boys arrived last week and are staying in the teacher’s dorms with us. They are working in Volvo as part of their Master’s degree. Our college is in partnership with the company, meaning they stay with us. It’s been good to have Western people here, and the girls LOVE them. All I keep hearing is ‘they are sooo handsome’. The Chinese girls are extremely shy though, and they won’t go up and speak to them.

Saying that, the boys here are also quite shy. Loads of times, I have walked past a group of boys, then when we have passed each other, they would say ‘HELLO’. I would have to turn around and shout hello back to them.

For Halloween, the students union decided to have a little party. Me, Charlotte and the Belgium guys were all invited to this party, where it ended up being held outside in a basketball  court. They had lights, Halloween pumpkins, chairs (where we were directed to sit, we were treated like VIP’s), a microphone, speakers, and music playing. (They were playing One Directions songs when we arrived, which I WASN’T  impressed with)  They gave out witches hats, sweets, a mask, and…. glow sticks! I laughed when they gave us glow sticks, of all things!

The party went like this: they literally forced Charlotte to sing, but she was having none of it. They then moved onto me and, without any luck, tried to make me sing a song. I had to use the ‘I have a cold, cough cough) tactic. Although it actually is true, I was dying the previous days with it.

They then targeted the Belgiums.  Up they went, put on the lyrics, and sang a Dutch song. The music was off from the lyrics, meaning they kind of butchered it… but the Chinese still enjoyed it!

After that, we were hounded with Chinese students. I mean HOUNDED. Everywhere you turned there were students taking pictures, wanting pictures, queuing for pictures. ‘Can I take a picture with you?’ was asked about 30 times. You couldn’t get away from them! It honestly felt like I was famous. I think that’s the closest feeling I’m going to get being famous. So if you wanna be famous…go to China.

I then ended up agreeing to play ‘musical chair’s’. Now I haven’t played musical chairs since I was a child. And I ended up being placed with all boys! So there I was, running around 6 chairs with 7 Chinese boys, with some of my students looking and laughing, well at least they know I can have a laugh! I only lasted 1 turn, then I was sprayed with this white spray; ruining my curled hair especially done for the party!

Soon after, we decided to head, us foreigner s needed food! We managed to sneak away where we met one of my students, and he decided to come with us for food outside the college. We had a few drinks and had a Chinese barbeque. We didn’t get back until 12am, and my student’s curfew is supposed to be at 10…. In my eyes, at 21 he’s a grown up, so he can do what he pleases!

MMmmm I wonder what they have planned for us at Christmas?

Well let’s just say, I won’t be surprised if we get Glow Sticks again.

Aisling.

Teaching

Lately I’ve been pondering my future. A lot of my students ask me ‘What are you going to do after teaching?’… and my answer is usually ‘I have no idea’. I really have no idea what to do after January! I have a couple of options:

  1. Stay in China; I will look for another English teaching position somewhere in China and stay here for at least a year. Then this way I will learn Mandarin.
  2. Go home; I could head straight home after the internship, look for a job (which will no doubt be difficult) and maybe consider going to Europe and teaching in Summer Camps for the summer.
  3. Go travelling; A lot of people are going travelling after the internship ends, to Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Australia. I’d love to do this but I don’t have a lot of money so I think that is out of the picture!
  4. Go home: Go home and pursue training courses in being a Tour Guide, or relating to Tourism.

My head is melted with all this thinking about the future! Things that are pulling me to China is that I love being in China. I love the people and it’s just such a different way of life here. One goal is that I want to learn Mandarin and that’s my main reason for staying in China. And plus, it will help me to get a job in the tourism sector.

Teaching has also made me confused! Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the teaching. I enjoy talking to the students and having conversations to them about everything. I just don’t seem to ‘love’ going to work. I don’t wake up every morning and think ‘yes, another day at work!’  Some days are great; you have a great class, the students participate (which is rare in China) and are active. You think the students enjoyed the lesson and they have learnt something. Then on other days, everything goes wrong; the students are bored, you get annoyed because they are on their phones or talking. Your lesson plan doesn’t go to plan or something that you would think the students would like, they don’t like at all! Then there are the students that just don’t want to be there, and their parents have forced them to study. It’ll be obvious at the beginning who those students are. I tend to just ignore these students; if they don’t want to be there, look bored… then why should I spend my time getting them to listen when there are students who actually WANT to learn something from me.

When I applied for the internship, I was convinced I was going to teach Primary school children, so when I was told I was teaching students from 17-to 23 years of age, I literally panicked. I wasn’t prepared for older students at all. I know I’m extremely lucky to teach them; with over 150 people in the programme, and only 4 (including myself) being chosen to teach older students, I know I am lucky. I just wonder would I enjoy it more if I was teaching younger students. Most of my friends are teaching younger ones and they seem content and happy, and some are staying on to teach for longer. Maybe I am thinking I would be suited to younger ones. I could be wrong; I could hate it, and would have to spend a year teaching them!

The next option is to go home, look for a job, and then maybe do a summer camp. It would be completely different from teaching here, method and style wise, but I think it would be good to try something different and see if I like it.

A lot of my friends are heading off to Thailand to travel after the internship. I have been looking at websites about tours so I would like to do that; just depends on money. It seems a shame to only visit one country while I’m here.

The final option is going home and look  into doing a course in something related to tourism.  I love learning/talking about Ireland.  It’s great having discussions about the differences between China and Ireland, and I think the students enjoy learning about a new country that is so different from their own. But I think if I want to get a job in the tourism sector, I need to know another language… and that’s where Mandarin comes in.

It’s sort of a Catch-22 situation I’m in. One student said he wants me to stay, and to teach him more English, which is great news to hear! Hopefully they’ll all be crying for me to stay!

Aisling