Teach English in WujiAhe Zhen - Bayannao'er Shi — Bayan Nur

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During the summer of the year 2019, my wife and I moved to Beijing, China where she secured a job as a first grade teacher. Being from the United States, I was unprepared to experience how different their way of life was, let alone their educational system. Inspired by my wife and various people around me, I aspired to become a teacher myself though I lacked experience. Eventually she and I moved to a city in the south of China called Hangzhou. There I am currently in training to become an ESL teacher at an English training center where I have been learning about teaching children 3-5 years old through observation and practice. Through my experiences living in China and watching other teachers teach, I learned the importance of lesson planning, classroom management, and how to teach a new language to younger learners. Through this I have been able to form a possible hypothesis on why learning English has become so important for children to learn in China. While studying TEFL and through observing my co-workers I have seen how important it is in having all supplies ready to go, have back up plans, and have plenty of time to prepare one’s lesson. It is absolutely important that one has a written document of the lesson plan, the goal being to stay on track with what one needs to go over generally in their lesson. While observing and talking to my various colleagues it has been pretty clear that here in China, it is usually important to stay on the set lesson plan. Despite this, just as it says in Unit 9; one can divert a bit or change the lesson plan (unit 9, pg 2); though it must be necessary to the topic and teach the target words that the students need to learn. I have learned that training centers in China have their own specific lesson plans that are all written by the various Chinese teachers and are generally followed exactly. Even though the owners say that one can divert from the lesson plan if it is appropriate and sticks to the general point, most of the other ESL teachers I talk to follow the lesson plans completely without diverting too much from the lesson plans if they can help it. While it seems that individuality is encouraged for teachers, not many of the native language teachers seem to be inclined to do so. The reason being that, a lot of the time it seems like the lesson plans can change as I was previously given a current lesson, but later we were given a new one and had to use a brand new lesson plan. It seemed to focus on the same material, but most of the material was derived from the workbooks that the training centers work on. Through both studying and learning about it “hands on,” it is especially important to have effective classroom management. At the training center, I have observed that children are sat side by side and are when they are unable to focus there are various ways to keep them in control. First is a typical countdown from 5, then after the count the teacher would say a word that sounded like, “hut” and the teacher and the students then sat up straight either putting their hands on their thighs or crossing their arms together. The other is using a system that uses stars, happy faces, lollipops, and etc to motivate students good behavior. When students act out, there is always a warning where the teacher would say, “bye bye star” and depending on the severity of them acting out or if they misbehave after “bye bye star” the star is erased and the child normally will try to act better so they can get their star back or protest having their star erased. Despite not winning any “prize” for the star, the other teachers who I spoke to say that it regardless still motivates them to do well. The motivation being that they will receive praise or high fives. From what I’ve observed, it seems like this method really works and despite misbehavior on the student’s part; they seem to very much care about doing well and some are visibly upset when they do not do well. Teaching a new language to younger learners specifically learners from 3-5 can be very hard, but overall worthwhile. Just as it is said in unit 19 teaching children is especially rewarding because, “Children possess an innate curiosity, which is in itself a motivating factor” (Unit 19, pg.6) and “are accustomed to listening to their parents and other family members patiently repeating single words while the child focuses on real objects, people or activities.” (Unit 19, pg.6). This is the same in China—all of the students who I work with seem interested and happy to learn a new language. While training I have been working with groups of 5 or 6 students and some can be shy, but most will participate after giving them sometime to warm up and through visual aids or a given activity that emphasizes the study or activate phase. While some of the activities that some of the teachers do seem counter productive, like using Chinese occasionally when it seems like they don’t understand or having them speak back to them in Chinese, especially when the center itself proclaims that they need to use English only and occasionally they will try to put an individual child “on the spot” to speak. There was in fact one point in particular when two children refused to speak completely and while many of the foreign teachers thought that we should move on completely; the Chinese teachers kept arranging the lesson around them and eventually towards the end of the class they spent about 10 minutes trying to get the two students to talk. While living here it has become apparent that being shy is not generally acceptable when it come to speaking publicly or in situations where it is needed, however when interacting with one another being shy and not being overly affectionate is the norm. Both attitudes contradict each other greatly, making it hard for young children to be able participate as they are doing their best to learn, but they are also observing that in daily life it is okay to be shy when dealing with others. Also it is important to know that they still need attention grabbers, like warm up video activities and reviewing previous words that they had been taught before. Young learners from 3-5 need to have constant drilling, but a lot of activities that are play based in order to properly understand the new words. All of this allows us to put into perspective on why learning English has become so important for children who live in China. While living in China, I have experienced much of the difficulties of communicating with adults who do not speak my own native language and visa versa. A very small majority of Chinese do speak English, so it makes sense for them to want to have their children speak it in order to communicate with foreigners, for possible work positions, and enriching their minds. Despite this and what seems to be great dedication on the young students’ parts, learning a foreign language, especially English, seems to be extremely hard for them. My teaching colleagues say that the 8 unit programs that we put students through is too short to effectively let the teachers teach. While I discovered that it is not the material that is the issue, the material that is used by the training center at which I work is derived from National Geographic Learning and IB curriculum. Most of the education is play based with tests being issued through active participation. Therefore, it seems to be that the speed of a high paced learning curriculum is what may be the issue of learning English in China, but with continuous practice and exposure it certainly can still be possible.