Erin and Michael share about their experiences teaching English in a primary school in Nanjing.
Being a teacher brings new learning experiences each day. Teaching primary school students in a foreign country where everything is new and different is an experience gold mine. Each week I and two other Americans teach over 1,400 third, fourth, and fifth graders. Their excitement and interest in English is inspiring. This year we have learned an incredible amount about education in China, Chinese culture, but most importantly we have learned about ourselves and the impact we can have globally.
Every weekday morning, (when we wake up on time) we have breakfast at the school surrounded by fellow teachers. The first class starts at 8:45 and the school day runs until 15:10. There are six class periods and we teach between two and four depending on the day. Students are constantly coming to us with gifts and smiles, saying hello, and using their English skills between classes and during our office hours. Throughout the school year we have seen many students improving in their oral English. We like to think our classes have a little to do with that. If anything, our presence gives English a purpose for the students. Their curiosity in us forces them to use their English skills, however some students just prefer to stare at us through our office windows.
Our class periods are forty minutes and cover a variety of topics and language goals. The school has given us the freedom to create our own lessons, which gives us a lot of flexibility. Anything can become a lesson, even a Mr. Bean video can lead to a great laugh and conversation. We try to incorporate things the students are interested in. If you were a fly on the wall you would see games, music, and videos each class. Incorporating technology has been key to keeping the students interested and excited. One of the highlights this year has been classic plays we have been working on in each grade. It has been a really fun way to teach English and to see the students express themselves through acting.
We have been very involved and included in the school community. There are many surprises and exciting events each week at school. We have participated in sport competitions, cooking classes and multiple dinners with co-workers. We have also been on two teacher outings; one to a fish farm and the other to a relaxing hot spring. From the beginning we have been open and eager to learn as much as we can from the students and teachers at our school. We have been very fortunate to have such a positive and active school environment. Our role as a teacher does not end at the final bell. We are constantly hearing our names being yelled outside of school by students who live in the neighborhood. It’s amazing to see the pride on the parent and grandparent’s faces when they see their child using English with us.
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