Teaching My Chinese Students: An Update

Teaching My Chinese Students: An Update

Because teaching here in China has now become ‘normal’ and well, not terribly exciting, I’ve kind of neglected to write more posts about it. But I’ll write an update about how it’s going.

At the moment I have about 10 groups who I teach. Although when I go back full time It will increase. Thankfully, everyone (apart from one group) are fantastic. My youngest are aged about 6/7 I think, while my oldest is 14. My youngest are learning phonics, so for me it’s quite an easy class, plus for them they enjoy it because they don’t have to actually learn English vocab and grammar, just how to say the words.

I’ve had one student for over 2 years now I think, and she moved with me to my new campus from my old one. Her English has improved really quickly! From 2 years ago to now I really do notice her improvement. Now I’m not saying that’s all because of me… but she’s the student I’ve had the longest, so I see the most improvement in her. She’s the one that keeps calling me ‘fat’ (huh and she’s the one that talks about food in class all the time) but overall she is a great student.

My not so great group is with two boys. The two boys that I used to have got split up, so now I teach them separately, but now the oldest boy has been paired with another boy…. and unfortunately the group isn’t so good anymore.

Now my old student ‘S’ has become much more disobedient! It really annoys me because I know that his behaviour used to be good, and I enjoyed teaching him and the other student. But since ‘T’ has joined, he has affected ‘S’s behaviour in class. It’s such a pity, because I know ‘S’ is a good student; I’ve seen it. But unfortunately this other boy is effectively ruining his learning in class.

If it continues I think I might tell ‘S’ that his behaviour isn’t good anymore… shame him a bit about this fact. I know he’s a good boy underneath it all.

But anyway, I’ve recently had a 21 year old studying with me for a few weeks. She is not resigning so I only have her a few more times. She is studying to do an English test, but the way it’s going, I don’t think she will pass. Her vocabulary just isn’t good enough, plus I feel like she isn’t very motivated. haha I can say the same for myself with Chinese sometimes!

In my opinion, it’s a shame that she isn’t resigning again, she really needs extra English classes to improve. I really can’t see her studying by herself.

But she is a nice and friendly student though, and I enjoy teaching her.

Company wise, it definitely need more improvements. Especially with Chinese PA’s… they are dropping like flies in our campus. The PA that has been with us the longest has just left as she hated her job, so I’m pretty sure every other PA has only been with us for a few months.

It’s coming to the stage where I don’t even try and remember their names, as most likely they will leave soon enough. It’s pretty sad though; the company treats teachers with good pay, holidays and two days off a week, whereas PA’s aren’t paid a lot, they only get 1 day off a week, and they have to put up with a lot of crap from parents AND from teachers complaining. So I’m really not surprised that so many quit.

Unless all the PA’s decide to revolt and protest, I don’t think much will change, especially if they don’t want to ‘lose face’, a strange Chinese phenomenon.

If you have never heard of this, have a look at the link below for some information about it!

‘Losing Face’ in China

再见

爱玲

Adding More Classes

Because I’ve moved from my old campus to my current one, I’ve had to leave my students behind. Apart from one, she decided to follow me to my new campus which I’m very happy about. I love teaching her and she enjoys learning English.

But because I’ve left my other students behind, that meant that on a Saturday I’ve only had my one student. It was definitely an easy day, but at the same time it’s a bit of a waste going just for a 1 hour class.

So last Saturday I was teaching a girl who I was covering from another teacher. Her English is brilliant, and because she is a teen, it’s a class where we can chat about different topics which makes the class interesting. So I finished teaching her, then my PA told me that I would continue to teach her every Saturday.  Then I hear that another teen girl wants to do a demo after my last class. So I did the demo with her, also with the parents in the room observing ( I hate when the parents are in the demo).. but they seemed happy with the class and so I have her from next Saturday too.

So from next Saturday on I will have 2.5 extra hours of class which is great. 3.5 in all. Just yesterday I was worrying about my money situation; being a part time teacher isn’t at all ideal when you plan on travelling during the summer, and thinking of moving, oh and paying rent and fees.  So I’ve been having problems getting classes because they first need to give them to the full time teachers, then when their schedules are full… it’s my turn. So those extra 2 classes are a godsend.

At the moment I love all my classes, my youngest is 7 years.. and my oldest is now 14. The good thing about being part time is that you can choose what students to teach… if my PA’s say ‘Oh Aisling, we have a very cute little girl who I think you could teach….she is extremely cute!’

First of all, I’m not going to teach a girl just because she is cute…. PA’s think that this a real selling point to teachers; a really cute girl. But it really isn’t. Yeah she could be the most cutest Chinese girl I’ve even seen, but if she is a nuisance in class… then you really just have a cute girl that is extremely hard to teach.. and you dread teaching this girl every week.

So when they offer me this I always ask ‘What age is she?’ …’Oh she is 4 years old’ I can now happily reply ‘No thanks, I don’t want to teach young students’… without feeling bad about it.

However when I was full time, I had quite a few bad classes. . Oh I remember in dread… I often wonder how I managed teaching some students. I think it was because I was sort of new to the whole teaching and I just put up with them… so at the moment I’m much happier teaching the students I have.

If we leave Chengdu we will most likely have to move back to full time teaching so we can earn more money, which sort of annoys me. I’ll no longer be able to use the ‘No’ word anymore.

Oh no.

再见

爱玲

 

Contract signing

One year has flown by, with us suddenly needing to sign another contract for work. Our current contract is part time, as will our next one. However in 2017 we hope to start a 15 hour full time contract.

This means that we will be payed a fixed salary every month, instead of being part time where we are only paid by the hours we work.

I’m looking forward to starting a full time contract next year, this lack of money coming in does not make me happy!

Presently, I have been working in two campuses; one from when I first started working, and the second when I moved to another campus and work during the week. For my campus on Saturdays, I would have to travel one hour to work and one hour back… which at the beginning was ok….I even stayed with the campus for an extra year, just so I could teach my students.

However I soon became fed up with the travelling. Last week, I had 3 classes.. totalling 2 hours 45mins. But because my first class was at 11:15am, while my last class finished at 5:30pm… this meant I had to leave home at 9:30 and I would arrive back at 7:00pm. So all in all I worked nearly 3 hours, but I was away from home for like 9 hours! I just didn’t want to keep wasting my time travelling and then only teaching a few hours.

In fairness though, I did stay the extra year to come in on the Saturday to teach, which I kinda feel, after telling my campus manager that I was finally leaving… my effort of going every Saturday wasn’t truly appreciated… thats what I felt anyway! I have 2 more Saturdays to work and then… adios Zhonghai!

Yesterday when we were signing our new contract in the businesses main headquarters, the Chinese staff told us “because you took 35 days off for holidays, you will have to work an extra month to make those days up”

What????? We were so surprised to hear this! How could this be!? I distinctly remember when I signed my contract that it definitely did not say this. Plus, we were part timers… it shouldn’t matter if we take time off… we don’t get any bonuses for completing a contract.

Part timers don’t get many benefits unlike full timers, but not having to make up for days not working is just for part time people.

So we asked her to check… and sure enough she returned saying “Oh I’m very sorry, I got confused… you don’t need to work an extra month” So we got that sorted.

Because we plan to move from Chengdu next year, we will not be studying Mandarin in a University. We will look at private places in (maybe Xiamen) and then we will get a work visa. We will also need to go to Hong Kong during November or December in order to do this.

I will miss studying at the Uni we are at though… I like the school and we have a good routine in Chengdu. At the moment I am half against moving away, half against staying in Chengdu. I’m comfortable here, and I don’t want ‘change’…

But I suppose, if you are always comfortable with something… it will be difficult to change, or you will never change it….. and I know in the blink of an eye…. I’ll have been in Chengdu 5years if I opted to stay.

再见!

爱玲

 

Yay, we got our visas!

Our 2 week wait is finally at an end! This morning we travelled to the centre of Chengdu to retrieve our new year long visas. Although we gave everything that we needed, we were unsure whether we would need to do a Medical exam. We prayed we wouldn’t, so when we handed over our documents, and when they didn’t mention anything about the Medical, then we presumed we were safe. However I constantly had that niggling feeling that they could ask (and I really wouldn’t be surprised) for a health check.

But, thankfully we received our passports with no problems! That is one less thing to worry about, and knowing 100 percent that we can now travel to Ireland. Leaving in 2 weeks, we will be there for a month, time for me to get my procedure done and then time with the family for Christmas.

I missed 2 Christmases at home, so this was a complete surprise that I would be home for this one. After going home for the summer, Christmas was DEFINITELY not on the cards. But oh well, I’ll enjoy it anyway. God knows when I’ll be back.

Although I will be missing a few weeks of Uni, I plan on trying to study the missed chapters at home and also during my private tutoring before I leave. It is amazing what vocab you pick up, and the random ones that stick.

鬼: gui= ghost.

拉肚子: la duzi= to have diarrhoea.

疯: feng= crazy/mad

Ha, I mightn’t be able to ask for directions, but I can confidently say If I have diarrhoea. Also the word for ‘ghost’ is one that I have stored, although quite useless.

It is amazing though, what words crop up during English class with my students. For instance, I was explaining the word ‘famous’, which she didn’t know. I said the Chinese of it to her and she immediately understood. I’m noticing more and more English words appearing that I actually know the Chinese of them, which is great for me! I’m actually remembering them.

My head even translated something into Chinese which I had forgotten the word in English! We were eating some bbq and I noticed this lady was using extremely long chopsticks while cooking; maybe 3 times the length of normal ones. I told Rafa ‘Oh look at the lady using the long…….’

I actually forgot the name in English for chopsticks, and before I knew it, kuaizi popped into my head! ha although this experience may have just been a once off, there is still hope that in the future I won’t need to translate EVERYTHING in my head.

And with regards to my very bad student, I had a short talk with my PA, and before she tried to convince me to take her again I said NO. No way. Although I feel bad for not teaching her, I don’t feel bad having to put up with her.

The PA said ‘Aisling I’m so sorry for putting you through this.’

I replied ‘You shouldn’t be sorry, you don’t have to be.  It’s not your fault and It’s not my fault either. It’s the parents fault for not teaching her daughter good behaviour. ‘

I advised her to give her to a male teacher; she may be more timid with them. But we’ll see how it goes!

再见

爱玲

Aisling.

 

My rant about my student on probation.

I have been teaching this girl for a few weeks now, the one I mentioned in a previous blog. I decided to put her on probation; every class if she was good, she would gain another class. So I went class by class with her.

The past few weeks were quite good, although she still didn’t like English. But this weeks class was when she really pushed me over the edge, by way of me slamming her books on the desk and telling her to leave the classroom.

The beginning of class was ok. My PA was in to figure out what to teach her, as her mother asked us to teach from her English book from school. So we figured it out and we started to learn the topic.

As soon as the PA left, she was misbehaving; laying her head on the table, not talking, and just being lazy.

She then asked me;

‘What’s your name?’

I said ‘You know my name.’

‘I forget…..Sabrina.’

This is one of her previous teachers.

‘You know that isn’t my name’.

‘I don’t know your name.’

I have taught her about 10 times, she definitely knows my name. That’s her way of pissing me off.

So I tried and tried with her for the remainder of the class, until she got angry with me.

What she told me was something I would NEVER, when I was her age, have said to my teacher. Never. She said them to me before, and I decided to give her another chance. But not this time. She does not have the right to say any of the things she said to me.

By this stage I was very angry, and upset. We still had 5 minutes left of class but I told her to go. She was blabbering in Chinese, and I was speaking English really fast back to her, knowing she wouldn’t understand. I opened the door and told her to leave and then I sat down and went on my phone. At this stage she didn’t know what to do!

She then said:

‘You are not happy.’

I replied .’No, I’m not happy, I’m very annoyed at what you said. You cannot say those things!’

Then she backtracked.

‘Oh but I’m sorry, I did not mean to say those things.

I replied ‘But the things is, you did. You did mean those things!’

Then she got super sweet and said;

‘My birthday, thank you for the card.’

I replied ‘It’s ok, you can leave now. Class is finished.’

So she slowly left the classroom and I just stayed; annoyed and upset at what she said. I went up and caught her leaving with her Mum, saying ‘Goodbye Aisling’. (Oh, now she knows my name) I just replied bye and walked ahead. I then told the PA that I’m wasn’t teaching her anymore.

Her answer was ‘But she really likes you Aisling. She was like this with her other teacher too, saying mean things to her. Her behaviour isn’t right. Her Mum doesn’t care about her. ‘

I replied ‘Thats not my fault. It shouldn’t be the teacher teaching her good behaviour and manners, thats the parents job not mine. She can’t say those things to people. If the Mum doesn’t care, then why should I then?’

She then replied ‘ The student needs behaviour counselling.’

Too right she does.

Teaching English is a two way system. The teacher has to do their job, and the student has to do theirs. Theres only so much teachers can do. If the student doesn’t want to learn, then it’s much harder for us to do our jobs. Plus, some parents expect us to do THEIR jobs, by teaching them manners and good behaviour. Then, if the student isn’t learning anything; the parents give out to the parents saying its our fault.

If you taught your son or daughter good behaviour then we wouldn’t be having this problem. Especially with my student.

Apparently with my student, her mother favours her younger brother who is smart, enjoys English, and is better than her. My PA said to me;

‘When I talk to the mother about X behaviour today, she compares her to her brother and how good he is. She does it when she is listening. So then she thinks she is stupid because she isn’t as clever as her brother.’

The Mum shouldn’t be saying these things in front of her daughter. This surely isn’t helping her self esteem or her confidence. Imagine having to listen to that from your own Mum!

But anyway, I re-iterated today that I’m not teaching her again. I don’t care to listen to her give out about me for a 3rd time.

So after my horrendous class, myself and Rafa went to the cinema with two other friends and we watched Spectre, blocking my hideous class out of my mind for a while.

Let’s hope I don’t see her on my timetable for next week, AND I don’t get another student as bad as her in the future.

再见!

爱玲 (aì líng)

Aisling.

Becoming one year older, and wiser!

Yesterday was my birthday, so now I’m in my mid twenties. Nearly crossing the line to join the late twenties.

One year older hopefully means I’ve learned a bit more things. Well, I’ve an extra year teaching experience. I’ve travelled to a few more places, and I’ve learned a little more Chinese. Thats really about it.

I suppose teaching wise I’m a little happier that I’m 25. I think the parents prefer when the teacher is maybe 25+. So in that sense I’m happier that, say if you are teaching an adult, they are not like ‘oh she is very young to be teaching me English’. So I’m a bit happier that in China, I’m deemed a bit more mature.

And as for being more mature, I think there are more possibilities of either being given more responsibilities or getting promoted than say for a person of 23 years.

Ha so basically I’m trying to give myself more reasons to like getting older!

But for my birthday I actually had a great day. University in the morning, then we went to Carrefour to buy some food to make spaghetti, I spoke to my family on Skype, with my nephew Alex singing Happy Birthday and showing me how well he can dance. Then at 7:30 we went to our friends house where one of them made us a delicious 3 course meal!

He is an aspiring chef, so everything was cooked by himself. Risotto with mushrooms for the first course. an Irish style dinner with potatoes, carrots and beef. Finally a lovely cake. It was so nice of him to make me dinner, as I’ve only ever met him a couple of times.

So after that, the four of us headed to a bar called Helens. There we met some of the people from work, from my uni and some other friends.

I think what really made the night is that people actually made the effort to come. It’s easy to say ‘nah we won’t go’. But most people that we asked came, which I was so grateful for. Of course some people couldn’t come for other reasons, but all in all it was a great night with people that I like, and like being with.

IMG_5742

Me and my lovely friends that came for my birthday!

So at about 1:30 myself, Rafa and 3 others headed to another area that expats go to, and stayed there until about 3:30. By this time I was wrecked, with being up since 7:30am, I was craving for my bed.

All in all, it was a very good day…..and I suppose, being 25 isn’t all that bad.

Aisling.

What to expect in a TEFL interview.

TEFLAt the moment, there are hordes of job advertisings for TEFL teachers in Chengdu. Because the new semester started in March, many public and private schools are desperately looking for English teachers. If you know what type of school you want to work for, full or part time, and where in China you want to work at, now is the time for applying for a job.

If you are not in China but hoping to get a job, as you probably know, many employers will have a Skype interview. First they will ask you to send them your degree cert, you’re CV or resume and other TEFL related things, like a TEFL cert. Most employers prefer people with a TEFL certificate, but you can easily get jobs without one. But it is an advantage.

Also, being a native speaker is another plus, but if you are a non-native but have good English then you’ll be fine. Although some employers specifically only want natives speakers… oh and to be more picky, they have this idealised teacher who is white, blonde hair and beautiful. This to them, and to other Chinese people, is the ‘perfect’ foreign teacher.

After that, they will contact you for a Skype interview. In the interview you will be asked about yourself, if you like children, about classroom management (how would you deal with a rowdy student), how you would teach a certain topic, how would you give a lesson, if you have experience teaching English phonics,if you have an idea about teaching English grammar, and if you have any prior teaching experience.

In my case with my recent job interview, they asked me if I taught phonics before. My answer was simply no. I told them that I didn’t teach it much with my students because A; I’m not sure of the phonics myself, and B; I didn’t actually know where to begin with teaching it. I told the truth, simply because if I did tell them and if they tested me then I wouldn’t have a clue! The employer wont think any less of you if you cant do something, because at the end of the day you can learn this stuff.

An important question is about classroom management. How to deal with difficult students. This is important, as if you can’t control a classroom then nothing is going to get done. I still struggle with this, but different things work with different students. Rafa has found out that bribing a student with 1 jiao ( a tiny amount of money) works with one of his students. Others have found bribing them with sweets, stickers and balloons. But the employer wants to know that you can be strict with the students.

Another point about tefl teaching is personality. I’ve met one guy and his personality was well, not exactly suited to teaching. He was shy, didn’t speak much, and was very introverted. Unsurprisingly he quit teaching after a few weeks. With teaching, you need to be active, energised, motivated and confident with the kids. If you can’t be these things, then teaching isn’t for you. The students will complain that the class is boring, thus the parents will complain that their child is bored in class. So, in the interview you have to portray yourself as being fun, you can play loads of games, like teaching children, but can also be strict in class.

After the interview they will most likely set up a demo class for you. This is only if you’re already in China of course. Usually it’s just the employers in the classroom and yourself. With mine there were three people. They will give you the age of the students, maybe a topic you have to prepare for, and the duration of the demo. In my demo class, they gave me a book and I had a few minutes to prepare something short from a choice of two topics.

Each company may want you to focus on something that they specifically want; to focus on reading, writing, listening or speaking. Usually, because you are a foreigner they want you to practise listening and speaking. To me, this is easier to teach than reading and writing.

In the demo, they will be looking at your teaching style; if you prefer to move about with the kids or if you prefer to sit more with them. They’ll be looking at your personality, how you react with them, how you can manage the class. How you approach teaching a topic and what games you would play to help the kids with retention.

During it, they might throw some curveballs at you. in mine, we were playing a game and the lady said ‘I like apple’. After the game, I explained to her about plurals and gave examples. The man then asked me whats the difference between a flat and a house, so I had to explain in simple terms the difference and by drawing on the board. So they may do that to trick you.

Once it’s over, they might have a short discussion with you about your performance and what they liked and disliked.

Thats basically it. Because they’re so many foreign people in Chengdu, a lot of people will be looking for jobs. But because there are loads of students and schools needing teachers, there is still a good chance of getting job.

So in a nutshell, for a TEFL interview:

You need to be friendly, like working with children and active.

Preferably have TEFL experience already.

Know how to manage a classroom and students.

Have games that are entertaining for children.

Able to convey a point for students to understand clearly.

Can correct mistakes.

Good Luck!

Aisling.