Living in China for 6 months has been nothing short of a roller coaster of emotions but one that has definitely had many more ups than downs. The same goes for teaching, which to my surprise is a lot more fun and enjoyable than I originally expected!
Like many other foreigners who apply to become an English teacher in China, I had zero experience of teaching prior to this. Except for a few football lessons for a BTEC Sport course, but that doesn’t count. I had no idea what I was getting myself into or if I would be any good at it.
Having 3 weeks of training definitely helped with knowing the type of lessons that would be taught, teaching styles and the general concept of it all. But nothing really prepares you for teaching a class full of 12 kids than actually experiencing it yourself.
You do the TEFL online course, complete the training, observe classes and obtain valuable advice from other foreign teachers, which are all extremely useful. To a certain extent. Walking into that classroom for the first time and teaching the kids is the only real way of preparation and knowing how to teach.
After arriving at my campus and being given my very own classroom, with no classes to teach for a few weeks. I was able to decorate it however I’d like, to my own personality and preference. Luckily, I was fortunate to be able to do this as not all campuses or schools allow you to decorate a classroom or even have your own one.
Once my first class had com around, after reading the lesson plan a ridiculous amount of times and rehearsing the PPT over and over, I was still nervous for it. Although when a class of 12 adorable, lovely kids ran into my class, happy to see me and waiting for the class to start, the nerves suddenly disappeared. It’s the students that made my experience that much easier and fun, realizing all that pressure put on yourself to have the perfect lesson (which just doesn’t happen anyway), was for nothing and it is a great experience.
After that, my confidence as a teacher grew with every lesson. With every amazing student, who wants to learn, unfortunately, comes the student who is extremely naughty. But those naughty kids also makes you a better teacher, even if you hate them deep down.
Teaching in China so far has been hugely rewarding, the feeling when a child learns a new foreign word or phrase because of what you’ve taught them is truly a great moment. Or when you are walking around the campus and one of your students is happy to see you and get excited to say hello, realizing you’re doing something good at work.
A particular moment that stands out above all else was from a marketing event where I had to teach several students about purchasing, whilst using the sentence “how much is it?”. There was one student who was new to the campus, Angela, a very shy girl who was 5 years old. But very excited to learn and participate. Having taught Angela this new sentence and getting her involved, at the end of the event she handed me her teddy bear as a gift which came as a complete surprise to me. One that I won’t ever forget and that rewarding feeling of knowing I done a good job.
There is mostly highs when teaching I have found, as about 95% of the students who I have taught have made the experience so much more enjoyable and making lessons easier to teach. But of course, you have a small percentage, like in any school who do challenge you and make life that bit more difficult. But not only the students, but every day working life challenges. Like when the coloured printer stops working, not being told you have a class on that day and having to rush or not being told the right amount of students for a particular lesson. But all of these builds you as a better teacher and the highs outweigh the lows completely.
One other major factor in having an easy working environment and enjoying everyday life at the campus is the colleagues. Luckily for me, my colleagues made me feel extremely welcomed and each day making me laugh, smile, just making my time here the extra bit special. Even those who cannot speak a word of English, while my Chinese is very poor, we are still able to have many laughs together.
Life as a foreign teacher is what you make of it and how you want to take out of the experience. But for me, so far it has been extremely satisfying and rewarding. Something I shall always remember and not regret at all. Not only has it given me the chance to experience Beijing and life in China, make many new friends and mature by having to live an entirely new lifestyle. But the work itself as a teacher and seeing the students friendly faces each day is something I won’t forget.
With every day comes to a new surprise at work, mostly good, but it makes for the pleasurable working environment and knowing that the remaining 6 months of teaching in China will be no problem at all. If anything, more exciting days to come which I am very much looking forward to! The only advice I would give to new foreign teachers would be to enjoy it, don’t take it too seriously as it is kids and they want to have fun. Don’t be afraid to act a fool and take many photos to remember these moments!
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