Intense Training and First Week Teaching

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September 2nd 2016
Published: September 2nd 2016
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World Teach FamilyWorld Teach FamilyWorld Teach Family

My world teach friends hanging out during our training program.
These past couple of weeks have been exhausting. I’ve never gone through such an intense moment in my life. It’s only been a month since I’ve been in China and I already feel as if I have learned so much about myself. It’s been a while since I last updated my blog so I’m going to try and recap the past three weeks covering many different topics. This will be a long post since a lot has happened in three weeks. Brace yourselves.


Under World Teach Policy, all of its volunteers must undergo one week of real teaching. Usually the way the program works is two weeks of intensive training, and one week of putting everything we learned to use, or Practicum. For whatever reason the DOE (Department of Education) in China had to change the week of our Practicum. I had one week to learn how to teach and then do it. I was terrified. This is my first real job out of college. Of course many people have to train for all sorts of trades in a very short amount of time before they begin working for a company but even so, teaching always seemed so
Yuelu Mountain and Street FoodYuelu Mountain and Street FoodYuelu Mountain and Street Food

After a hard morning of hiking in the hot sun, we got street food at the end of the mountain. Yum!
high above my grasp of understanding. I’ve always admired teachers. It is one of the toughest there is. Not only do you have the responsibility of monitoring classroom management, but you’re responsible for fostering the knowledge of a whole generation of people who will one day be leading the world. No pressure right? Back in college I remember how stressed the education majors were. They always seemed tired and exhausted, considering they had millions of courses to take and get hands on experience in order to graduate. They had four years to prepare and got hands on experience teaching in Baltimore. How could I, a history major who has never taught before be trusted to teach after only one week?

During Practicum, World Teach put 4 volunteer teachers together to teach one classroom for four days straight, five lesson plans each. I was going out of my mind. I had never before lesson planned and I felt like I had no idea what I was doing and even began questioning if coming to China was the right thing for me to do. I remember being up until 2:00 am trying to prep for five, forty-five minutes lessons. Of course I used the resources World Teach gave me, for example following a 5 step lesson plan that really works well. A previous World Teach volunteer came up with the 5 step lesson plan a few years ago and it has proved so efficient that all World Teach Programs from all over the world use this model.

5 Step Lesson Plan

1.Opening (2-3 mins explaining the topic of the lesson, maybe with review from last class as well)

2.Introduction to New Material (10 mins of introducing new vocabulary and sentence structures)

3.Guided Practice (the teacher guides the students to put new material to use)

4.Independent Practice (the teacher designs a 10-15 minute activity for the students to do on their own, for ex. A skit)

5.Closing ( 2-3 mins reviewing content of the lesson, explain the importance of the lesson topic and close)

The 5 Step Lesson Plan is really easy to follow and implement in the classroom. During Practicum I went on the internet and looked at other lesson plans people have used to teach in China. I watched YouTube videos, and even called my mom (who is a teacher) for help. I
My School (No. 15 Middle School of Changsha)My School (No. 15 Middle School of Changsha)My School (No. 15 Middle School of Changsha)

This is the entrance to my school.
tried to do as much research as possible to make sure my students gain useful knowledge. My practicum group themed each day. For example, our Thursday themed class was about Health. One volunteer teacher taught about how to go grocery shopping, another talked about fitness, another talked about food, and I talked about illnesses. The students had 4 hrs straight of English class every day for one week. My practicum group taught about 40 students. Along with the other members of my practicum group, the field director and his assistant also observed us teaching. After each day our field director and other practicum group members would give feedback on what we did well and how we could improve. My first lesson was about my hometown in Washington D.C. (I used D.C cause it’s an easier reference point for the students). My first lesson was just okay. I followed the 5 Step Lesson Plan, but my PowerPoint organization wasn’t the best. After getting feedback I changed the layout of my PowerPoint lessons and the rest of the week went much smoother. My second class, which was the next day went so well that the students didn’t even mind that I went
My SchoolMy SchoolMy School

More of my tiny campus
a little overtime. Students from other classes were even sticking their heads in the window to see what was going on. It was really fun. Our second day was themed around jobs. After my fellow volunteer teachers talked about college life and preparing to enter the workforce, how to do an interview, and understanding occupations, my lesson was about taking a break from work, Vacation. The students really enjoyed this. My Independent Practice involved students getting into groups (4 teams) and coming up with a travel destination. One team would come up to the front and describe their vacation spot and the other teams had to guess where the destination was. The students were very funny and creative. I had groups describe countries like Norway, Egypt, and The United Arab Emirates. One thing I’ve observed is that competition and group work, works pretty well in most Chinese classrooms. I had a lot of fun during practicum.

What I learned from Practicum:

My first lesson was iffy as it was my first time teaching and I had to gauge how well our students understood English. I improved my PowerPoint structure after my first class which greatly improved the flow
My SchoolMy SchoolMy School

The science building and school fountain.
of my other lessons. I burrowed ideas from other lesson plans and other world teach volunteers and incorporated it into my own. I even learned to think on my feet as our field director randomly chose a day that we could not teach using technology. It’s not uncommon for technology to break in Chinese classrooms so our field director wanted us to understand what it’s like to quickly adjust when something goes wrong. I was a little upset about that at first, considering I put hours into my lesson plans, however I am extremely grateful for this as two of my classes during my first full week of normal classes had broken computers. You always have to have a plan B. I also completely bombed one lesson. Our last day of Practicum, we had to teach two classes each. Meaning the students had 8hrs of English that day. It was the last day and I was so exhausted. Since we had to teach two lessons many teacher’s including myself burrowed other people’s lesson plans so that we would not be up at 5:00am. This did not work well for me. It’s great to burrow lesson plan ideas from other teachers,
My SchoolMy SchoolMy School

More of campus
but if you do not edit it to your style, it will not work. Never burrow a lesson plan and not edit it. Just because one lesson went over well with one class, does not mean it will work for other classes. Every classroom has its own personality. You have to figure out what works for each class. Some classes are also more advanced than others. You have to have something for the students who are behind, and something for the more advanced students. In the end I did really well and had a lot of fun with my students. Practicum really gave me the hands on experience I needed to have the confidence to teach.

A little about Chinese Education:

The Chinese education system is set up in a way that is generally focused on taking test. There are two major test every Chinese student must take. The Zhongkao (high school entrance exam) and the Gaokao (college entrance exam). These test are extremely important as they determine your future. I am not exaggerating. While the American education system has its problems, there are generally multiple options for entering higher education. For example we have junior college, community college and we’re given multiple chances to take the SAT. In China the Gaokao test is taken once a year. If you did badly, you have to study for a whole year to take it again. Your test scores also determine which colleges you can go to. In the States if you want to go to a top school such as Yale but you have a gpa of 2.8 it may be hard to get in but you can still apply and possibly be accepted. This is not the case in China. If your test scores are too low you can’t apply to top schools. The Gaokao is so important, Oral English teachers generally are not allowed to teach Senior 3 (the equivalent of 12th grade) because the whole year students are studying and reviewing everything they have learned from their previous years in high school. The Gaokao is basically the SAT X 10. The Gaokao quite literally may determine your future.

In most classes, students listen and take notes while the teacher lectures. English class is usually the only time students are asked to speak their minds. Most students aren’t used to standing up and speaking in front
Changsha (My city-hotpot)Changsha (My city-hotpot)Changsha (My city-hotpot)

The first day I moved in, I got dinner with other volunteers living in the city. We got hot pot. A classic dining style in China with a hot pepper based soup. You throw in vegetables, meat, and whatever else. Yum!
of others, this is why using group work is very effective. Every practicum group said they had trouble getting students to volunteer to speak. I quickly learned to call on students at random or change my lesson plan to involve the participation of the entire class. Students like to answer in unison. English class is basically the fun class. The class where you can relax for a second and let loose a little. Most Chinese students are in school from 8:00 am -6:30 pm. After 6:30pm, there is usually study hall which goes late into the night. Many students don’t go home until 9-10:00 pm. Considering China’s one child policy (recently changed to two), there is immense pressure on students to carry the family line. It’s a lot of pressure and students are often stressed so Oral English class has to be educational but also fun and engaging. With that being said, I had to find a balance between fun and educational. If you are all fun and no work, the students will just view your class as a fun irrelevant class that really isn’t that important. In Chinese schools, students have regular English class that covers reading and writing
Changsha (My City)Changsha (My City)Changsha (My City)

Beautiful spot downtown.
and an Oral English class. I teach Oral English. Most Oral English classes are not graded. In other words since my class doesn’t technically affect my students’ test scores, there must be some sort of incentive to keep them engaged.

Last Week of Orientation:

After going through an exhausting week of Practicum, our 3rd and final week of training began. The atmosphere completely changed. Everyone was a lot more relaxed and we had more free time. I was able to go hiking with some fellow volunteers. We hiked at a very famous spot in Changsha, Yuelu Mountain. It was extremely hot that day. I must have drank 10 bottles of water. The hike was beautiful. At the end of the mountain are tons of small shops selling street food, which was amazing. The end of the mountain also runs right into Hunan Normal University. One of the top schools in Hunan Province. We also did a scavenger hunt around the city, and visited Martyr’s Park again (the place I mentioned in an earlier blog, the national park that has an amusement park inside) where I got to get on a rollercoaster. Towards the end of that
Changsha (My City)Changsha (My City)Changsha (My City)

More of downtown
day we all went out to KTV (karaoke) which is really popular in China. You can find KTV spots everywhere. Woo! During the last week we also had a foreign expat panel who came to talk to us about their experience being in China. One of them was a black woman. Woo! Of course I got her contact info. She even told me she could hook me up with some of the African and Caribbean international students to get my hair done. After having some free time, we finished up the last week going over classroom management, how to asses students, how to travel throughout China, and curriculum planning. There are 20 world teach volunteers in China this year. We all became really close. We were together for 3 weeks trying to get through an extremely intense training program. We really didn’t want to separate. It was bitter sweet departing. On the last day the head of the DOE came to speak to us and then one by one we were introduced to our liaisons (people designated to help us during our stay on China) and we all went our separate ways. Some people are placed at schools in the
Changsha (My City-Pizza Hut)Changsha (My City-Pizza Hut)Changsha (My City-Pizza Hut)

Pizza Hut in China is way better. Super fancy too.
same city as me, others are in completely different cities, and some are even far away in the countryside. Luckily my friend Jody and I are only about 40 mins away from each other. I live in downtown Changsha, while she lives in the suburbs on the outskirts of Changsha.

Moving in:

On departure day I met my liaison. Her name is Linda. She is a very sweet, kind lady. She is also an English teacher at my school. My school, No. 15 middle school of Changsha is located 10 mins from the city center or Wuyi Square (similar to Times Square). I have great central location and there are tons of shops, malls, restaurants, and public transit right outside my door. I probably have one of the best locations. After my liaison helped me lug 120 lbs of luggage up 3 flights of stairs, I went to lunch to meet with the Principal, vice principal, dean, and other English teachers. I was so nervous. I thought, all of this for me? I had fun during lunch. We had Huanan specialty dishes. They were all delicious. There was joking, alcohol, and smoking. My liaison and I were the
Changsha (My City)Changsha (My City)Changsha (My City)

More of the downtown area
only women there. It felt like I had just walked in on a boys club meeting. We must’ve toasted each other a dozen times. Drinking is definitely a social part of Chinese life, so if you do not drink make sure to make it clear from the beginning because you do not want to insult the host of the table. Always toast the host first and make sure your glass is raised lower than people who are more highly ranked than you. After meeting my new co-workers my liaison took me to get a phone, set up my bank account, and to register for a residency permit. We were on the move from 9:00 am until about 5:00 pm.

Given that World Teach is a volunteer program I wasn’t expecting any luxurious accommodation. With that being said, initially I was disappointed with my apartment. It’s really old, with lots of dirt on the walls, and poor furniture. The first day I talked to a lot of fellow volunteers and a lot of people expressed feeling lonely. We’re in a completely new place that we don’t understand, with a language barrier, all alone. My very first night on my own,
Changsha (My City)Changsha (My City)Changsha (My City)

This gigantic Ferris wheel is in the middle of downtown and a 2min walk from my apartment.
I meet with two volunteers who also live in the city with me and got hot pot (a dining style). Afterwards we decided to have a sleepover. My second night I went to visit Jody and help her clean her apartment. I didn’t sleep in my own bed until the third night. Although my apartment needed a lot of work, with the help of my liaison everything that needed work, has been fixed. Little by little each day I have been cleaning and decorating trying to make my new apartment my home. After taking a week to clean and unpack, I finally feel like I can live here. Some world teach volunteers have already visited my place. I have a really big apartment with three bedrooms, 1 bath, a sun room to hang laundry, a dining space, living room, and kitchen. I will definitely be hosting a lot of events at my place. In fact this weekend I’m hosting game night. Considering what I’ve heard from other volunteers, I probably have a pretty sweet deal. I have central location and a huge apartment. Some volunteers have nice modern apartments but they’re tiny, while others have large but old moldy dark
Feeling HomeFeeling HomeFeeling Home

This was the first time I cooked something in my apartment. I finally feel at home with this delicious pork burger on sweet bakery buns.
and dingy homes. There’s always going to be some sort of trade off. Yesterday was my first day cooking in my apartment so it truly feels like home now. My apartment still needs a lot of work but I’m really growing to like it.

First Week of Classes (Classroom Management):

My first class on Monday was iffy. My tracking system (a system you use to manage classroom behavior) has to be used on a poster. It is not something that can quickly be written on the board. My tracking system involves a chart. There are 10 rules my senior students must follow every class. The class will automatically begin with 10 points or an A. Be on time is rule number 1. If everyone is on time, the class gets to keep that point, pretty simple. If five or six student are late I take away half a point, if a lot of students are late, they lose the point all together. This week, most classes got a 9 or 9.5. One class got 10, and another class got 8. (The class with eight points kept breaking the rule, “don not talk when the teacher is talking.”) One
Feeling HomeFeeling HomeFeeling Home

One of my friends (a volunteer) named Michelle. She spent the night and we made breakfast together. Yummy eggs, peppers and bacon.
of the most important things to do, is to enforce the tracking system. Everyone who has ever taught English in China has told me, you have to be strict in the beginning. I learned very quickly that this is true. This will make the rest of the year much easier. You can be strict and still have fun.

My first class I told them I would not enforce the tracking system until next class because I did not have my poster. I think they took advantage of this. My first class discouraged me a little and I was not excited for the second day. I quickly thought of a way to enforce tracking even though I do not have my poster prepared yet. In my power point I included the 10 rules in English with the Chinese translations, had the students repeat the rules after me and gave examples of what to do and what not to do. I drew a temporary small chart with ten blocks to represent the 10 rules. I added 1 point to each box and if they broke a rule I would tell them why they were losing a point. This seems to work
Jody's campusJody's campusJody's campus

Mu friend Jody works at a school about 40 mins out in the suburbs of Changsha. Wealthy kids go here. Check out their campus. It's like a mini college campus.
very well because it creates a group effort atmosphere. If one person messes up, it affects the whole class score. Nobody wants to be that one

For example. During one of my classes I assigned an activity where I wanted students to work with the person sitting next to them. I even made sure they knew who they were supposed to work with by asking them to point to their partner. They all knew what I wanted. When I picked on random pairs to present, I found one row disobey my directions and they worked with whoever they wanted to, which threw off the flow of the activity. I asked a student, “Who is your partner?” She pointed to the girl behind her and said “I wanted to work with my friend.” I said, “Who did I ask you to work with?” Then I found out the whole row worked with their friends. All the other rows followed directions. I went to the board and took away half a point for not following rule number 4 (follow directions). I said, “So why am I taking away a point. What did we not do?” Students’ answered, “Follow directions.” I then proceeded to tell them, “Please follow directions. We are one team. What are we?” “One team!,” the students shout. “What are we?” “One team!” After this student came up and performed her skit I gave her a hi five and told her, “See. You can do it, you did really well.” You can address one student, while simultaneously addressing the class, and still give encouragement. In Chinese schools you can be strict and enforce the rules, but be careful because you do not want to make people lose face. Losing face means embarrassing someone in public. This is a big deal in China, and you should never do it, especially if you’re a foreigner. This is why my tracking system is group oriented. If one person messes up, it affects everyone. It also helps that the students could see the score of the other classes. Every class wants to be the best. Competition is a great teaching tool to use in China. It is not harsh to publicly display grades. Grades in China are not hidden, everyone’s class rank can be seen publicly, usually on some sort of wall outside the school. As long as you’re fair, and explain to students why they are losing a point, they will simply think you are doing your job. If you do not constantly enforce the rules the same way, students will think you’re picking favorites or that you don’t know your own tracking system, and therefore not take it seriously. If students are really good they can also gain extra points. At the end of the month the class with the highest score will get a prize. (maybe we play a game or watch a short movie). I was worried that I would come off as too strict but after class my students would swarm my desk and ask me tons of questions and ask if they could add me on social media sites. After I began enforcing the tracking system, class went much easier.

First Week of Classes (Content):

If you are an organized person like me and you like to plan ahead, and you want to come visit China, get over yourself. Things are often scheduled last minute. Your class could suddenly be canceled. You could be out of town and suddenly you get a phone call saying there will be a staff meeting in an hour. Although its frustrating, one of the beautiful things about China is its unpredictability. If you want to go on vacation during winter break, be careful how you schedule. If you have 1 month off, book your flight during the second week of that month to be safe. I have to get my residency permit by a certain date or I will technically be in China illegally. Monday morning, I was prepared to teach five classes (2 senior 1 classes), and (3 junior 1 classes). I was suddenly told that I won’t be teaching the juniors until next week because they went away on some sort of one week training trip. So instead of teaching 18 classes this week, I taught 9. I actually have 10 senior classes but because I had to go to the police station Monday morning to get my residency permit handled, my morning class was canceled. I was frustrated that no one told me all of this but hey, I had a lot of free times this past week.

I only see each class once a week, so I taught the same lesson 9 times this week. I was on a roll by the time I taught the 3rd class. This week’s lesson was about Introductions. Since I was teaching Senior 1, I knew that they have all had at least three years of English, some have studied English even longer. Education in China is extremely serious. The amount of English your average Chinese student can speak by the time they enter high school (senior 1) is amazing. They all clearly know how to say, “My name is……..nice to meet you……………I’m from China.” So to make it more interesting I wanted students to introduce themselves to me using more in depth content. We talked about the origin of our names, our hometowns, describing whether we live an urban city or a rural town, and explaining what our hometowns are known for. We compared my hometown (I used Washington D.C), to their hometown, Changsha. During the end of class activity, students had to work in pairs and come to the front of the class and have a conversation introducing themselves and their hometown. I began the class explaining the classroom rules, then we went into the lesson. We learned these vocab words: origin, hometown, urban, rural, (along with attributes of an urban city and rural town) and what their hometowns were known for. After I went over what an origin was, all of classes had a fun time trying to guess the origin of my name. The students also thought it was really cool that I’m from the Washington D.C. area. They were also eager to tell me about their hometowns. Some interesting questions and comments from my students: 1. “Why is your hair curly?” 2. You look like one of my favorite artist A$AP Rocky.” 3. Teacher Dee. Do you like Flash or Superman better?” 4. Teacher Dee, do you have Facebook, Instagram, Twitter?” In the end, I had a great first week. My students are really funny and clever and I’m excited to see what the next year has in store for. Next week will be the first time I teach all 18 classes, so please wish me luck and pray for me.


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