School started on September 1 here in China and that’s when I became a teacher to 31 little three and four-year-olds at a kindergarten in Guangzhou, China
The first few weeks of school we spent time helping the students adjust to being away from their parents and establishing a routine – showing them where to go, what to do, and making them feel happy and safe. I gave shorter lessons that got gradually longer and longer, introducing some songs to the students.
Many Chinese parents want their children being exposed to English at a young age now, so lots of kindergartens have foreign teachers. My school is a little different than most kindergartens in China – I don’t just teach a lesson and go to a different class to do another lesson. I’m with the same class everyday for the entire morning time, which helps me establish a relationship with the students and allows them to have English in all aspects of their day – breakfast, play time, clean up, etc. It’s my job to make English interesting and exciting so that it comes naturally.
As I’m used to freshman university students and not four-year-olds, everything is quite different! Here’s what the Kindergarten Schedule looks like:
8:00 – 8:30am: Students Arrive/Flag Ceremony/Morning Exercise
8:30 – 9:00am: Breakfast time
9:15 – 10:15am: English Time
10:15 – 10:30am: Fruit Time
10:30 – 11:15am: P.E. or Activity Time
11:15am – 12:00pm: Lunch
12:30 – 2:00pm: Rest time
2:00 – 4:30pm: Activities and Lessons with the Chinese teachers
I stay until lunch time and leave sometime between 11:30 and 12pm, depending on how the schedule is going and if the Chinese teachers need extra help. I have office hours two days a week where I come in the afternoon to plan lessons or help prepare things for the class.
My schedule is really nice, but it’s been hard at first because there are SO many new things to do. I have to make some decorations for my class, have unit plans ready, a different lesson and many activities everyday. For other experienced teachers this is probably much easier, but since I’m used to university teaching (where I taught the same lesson for a week to 8 different classes) and it’s my first year here, it’s a little different. Mad respect to other teachers, especially ones who help little students stay safe and entertained in a learning environment all day.
As far as my English lessons go, there are some things I was prepared for. I taught a 4 and 5 year old class for a semester last year, so I knew young students LOVE singing. It’s fun and they pick things up so much more quickly than if I sat them down and made them repeat words for the whole class. I use lots of songs in between other activities like flashcards, guessing games, etc. I’ve definitely learned more about TPR and the importance of giving little students the chance to move and divert their energy. We start with a hello song, and in between teaching new things we sing other active songs, and then learn songs related to the lesson. It’s a great way to refocus all of them, especially if there is a video with the song. (We turn the video off sometimes because it’s all they’ll focus on.) Baby Shark KILLS IT with the students and all morning I hear them repeating ‘baby shark do do do do do’.
I have so much more to learn though and have to try many new ideas – sometimes activities go really great, and other times things don’t go according to plan.
There are three Chinese teachers and one foreign teacher in every class at the kindergarten; one head teacher, one teaching assistant who helps with my English lessons, and an older Chinese lady who is the “life” teacher who teaches the kids about cleaning up after themselves, helps get breakfast and lunch ready from kitchen, and assists with other things.
There are seven foreign teachers in total at my school – two Americans, three south Africans, a guy from England and a girl from Ukraine. They’ve all been at the school for at least a year and have a been a great help to me with ideas and getting the hang of things.
September 10 was Teacher’s Day in China and our student’s brought all the teachers flowers and a note. Teachers are really respected and valued in China, and the parents are always so kind.
This year is going to be a challenge but I love these little kids already! I’m excited to spend this year with them and look forward to growing as a teacher as well.