Do you want to be TEFL or TESOL-certified and teach in Zelin Zhen? Are you interested in teaching English in Ezhou Shi? Check out ITTT’s online and in-class courses, Become certified to Teach English as a Foreign Language and start teaching English ONLINE or abroad! ITTT offers a wide variety of Online TEFL Courses and a great number of opportunities for English Teachers and for Teachers of English as a Second Language.
Introduction In the beginning of 2015, the author, for a variety of personal circumstances, started teaching English in southern China. In four years of teaching, the author has come across to a variety of issues, challenges and advantages of teaching to different age groups in the country. However, some distinct characteristics accompany a Chinese learner from the kindergarten to the high school. From the requirement to learn a specific English accent, to the lack of importance of grammar until high school and the rigours syllabus to follow from an early grade. As a result, an English teacher faces various challenges by teaching in China, however, despite the difficulties, teaching in this country can be an incredibly rewarding experience. A. The “foreign teacher” The author has had the chance to teach in different grades in China: from kindergarten to high school and mainly in the so-called English “training centres”. The latter, in fact, play a relevant role in the Chinese educational system. These centres are private institutions – not mandatory- which students aged 2 to 15 attend to ameliorate their English knowledge. The learners come to these centres during the week, after regular school classes and during the whole weekend, when they do not have regular classes at school. For the author’s experience, teaching time in these centres had stared in the late afternoon and often last until 10 pm in the night; during the weekends it had started early in the morning and last the whole day. In Chinese schools, an English teacher from abroad is simply referred as the “foreign teacher”. For the author’s personal experience, a foreign teacher is, in fact, only there to assist students of any age to improve their pronunciation of English. In other words, the essayist has been more like a conversational teacher that has spent about one or two hours per week in each of the classes of a given institution, drilling, playing games and doing listening and speaking activities. At the same time, Chinese instructors of English have been responsible to teach grammar and to prepare students in high schools for examination that would allow the learners to enter university on day. For the author’s experience, students felt more comfortable with a foreign teacher, if compared to the Chinese instructors of English, and have treated her/him as a friend; the foreign educator is someone they can share their issues with (in high schools) and often address the instructor by her/his (nick) name. As a result, they also did not take into account the content of the lesson seriously, but considered it an hour to spend playing games and doing activities they would not have been allowed to do in other classes. B. The accent dilemma A common trait of schools in China, where the author has had the possibility to teach, is the importance given to the “right” English accent. In fact, in primary schools, kindergartens and training centres, parents specifically ask the institutions to hire teachers that have a distinct British or American accent. For the author, being a non-native English teacher has therefore been rather discriminatory. In middle and high school, kids are grown enough and influenced by their favourite English media to decide for themselves which accent they would like to have. As a result, the author has encountered less difficulties in terms of accent requirements in high and middle schools. C. The experiences through the years The author has spent the first two years teaching in primary schools and in some training centres, during the evening and weekends. Teaching English in a Chinese primary school has followed a similar scheme in quite all of the schools the author has had the chance to teach. A textbook that contained stories had been provided and each chapter had to be covered in one lesson. Now, as a foreign teacher the author has been required to help students to pronounce about five or six words with satisfactory English accent in each lesson. In order to teach words the author has been requested by the institutions to use a variety of games and activities to make the lesson interesting. The latter characteristic has been particularly relevant in some training centres since, often, the classrooms have had big windows through which the parents have been allowed to observe what kids do in the class. In other cases, assistant teachers have recorded the lesson in order to show the lesson to the parents after the class had ended. These two factors have put extra pressure on the teacher to perform well. During the third and fourth year in China, after teaching in different primary schools and training centres, the author had had the opportunity to teach in a high school of fifteen classes, with each class having about fifty-two students. The author considers this as the most memorable teaching experience abroad. In fact, differently from primary schools and middle schools, high school students showed a higher exposure to the English language, both at school and in their private life. In fact, most of the students had travelled abroad to English speaking countries such as Australia or Canada; they had foreign English speaking friends, their willingness to communicate in English has been higher and they were rather fluent in expressing their thoughts, in particular regarding the media. The students, in addition, have been highly motivated to improve their speaking skills, which, in turn, has motivated the author to teach this age group in the future. CONCLUSION The author of this work has spent four years teaching English in China. The teaching experience has been rather positive for certain aspects, such as the willingness of students in higher grades to learn the English language. On the other hand, some challenges, such as the pressure for a non-native English teacher to have a particular English accent in some institutions of the country, might be regarded as a non-positive experience.