I woke up at 5:30am on Wednesday, partly because that’s what time my body thinks it’s okay to wake up at now (it’s not okay), and mostly because today was my FIRST day of teaching!!
After talking to Drew, Lauren, and Brittany about their classes and prepping my lessons days in advance, I felt pretty good about what I was teaching and how to assess my classes’ English skills.
I arrived at Teaching Building 2 early around 7:40a.m. and a nice lady opened my classroom and helped me set up the Chinese computer and projector. A few students came in shortly after and I had so much fun just getting to meet them and talk with them about the classes they teach. Most of the people in our classes for the next 4 weeks are teachers who are working on their English so they can better teach foreign students or get their Masters/Doctorates in other countries.
One guy told me his English name was “Brain” and he said he was a neuro physicist. (Other teachers in my class taught medicine, computer science, architecture, math, and chemistry. What!? Am I even qualified to teach people so smart?) I told him I barely knew any Chinese, just a few words like hello and thank you, and he joked and said “Then you know good Chinese!” He was very kind and said “I’ll show you around my city and invite you to dinner at my house with my wife!”
I started class by introducing myself and showing them pictures of me, my time in school, and what I liked to do for fun. I wasn’t sure if teachers would be as interested in these things, but they loved it. Most of them have never been out of China, so they enjoy learning about American culture. They gasped when they saw my skydiving picture and one of them said “yeehaw” when I told them I was from Texas. I gave them my contact information – they LOVE using WeChat and QQ for everything, their versions of Facebook.
The IELTS books are made by a British company and involve listening to audio of British people talking and have the students fill in questions as they listen. The lesson plans in our book are honestly very dry and boring and hard for the Chinese to understand because of their accents and how fast they talk, so I think for future lessons I will make up my own listening activities.
The Chinese are taught to be very quiet and respectful in class – they aren’t used to having group discussions or being asked to answer questions. They are also not very confident in their English abilities, so they take much coaxing and encouragement to speak up. The teachers did better at this than I expected, but they still did not want to answer me in the middle of class. Once class ended, they had more questions and comments about my lesson though. They told me they wanted to hear more about my experiences in the United States and less of the British people hahaha.
At the start of my second class I had a better idea of pacing and what worked well. It is so different being on the other side of the classroom! I have very little teaching experience, unless you count sunday school classes and being a camp counselor. So as they’re learning, I’m learning. Drew, Brittany, Lauren, and I had a little pow wow about this earlier in the week, reminding ourselves that we know this subject very well since it’s our native language. We know more than we think we do, especially compared to our student’s English knowledge.
It’s helpful to find the students that show the most English understanding and ask them to let you know if the students need help. After my introduction I told one teacher with good English to let me know if I was speaking too fast, and she nodded vigorously and said “right now even too fast!”
Brittany and I share classes today, so when she teaches writing I teach listening and then we switch during second period. She told me after class that once I left the classroom all of her students said “Rachel looks like that one girl from the movie!” Brittany says, “What girl?” “The girl from the Ring!” “The scary movie?” “No the magic ring!” “What?” “The magic ring! Three!” “Oh Lord of the Rings” “Yes! She looks like the fairy” “What fairy?” Finally Brittany figure it out. “Oh you mean Galadriel.” “Yes! The way her hair falls down and everything she looks like Galadriel!”
LOL that’s the first time in my life anyone has said that and I died hearing that story.
We grabbed lunch by the cantina again after class and took it to-go to Drew and Brittany’s apartment to meet Minnie. Minnie is a Chinese student who was good friends with the English teachers that lived in our building the last 10 years and just moved this year. She brought us the most amazing lemonade and answered so many questions we had! She explained more about the students and the school, and taught us about different cuisines across China.
Also fun fact, we learned that music and TV and movies are FREE in China. They stream it all on totally legal websites and pay nothing. Minnie visited the U.S. last summer and didn’t understand why people paid for TV channel subscriptions and music apps because no one in China does that. (She then hooked us up with said websites and taught us how to navigate the Chinese home screens and find the American TV shows and movies)
She offered to show us how to make dumplings tomorrow so we went and bought the ingredients tonight – I also ran into one of my students at the store so that was very cool!
I think I’m really going to love this whole teaching thing.