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Published: August 31st 2011
Hey all! I hope alls well in the land of the living, travelling, trekking etc. Ive been on the road for the past 6 or something weeks now so it's taken me a while to backdate my entries and get on top of my journal . It's actually August 22nd and I'm about to start a new term of teaching back home in Huzhou. So I apologise if all of this seems a little rambly, anywhos here goes!
Over the past two weeks I've been absolutely bricking it about teaching a group of NQTs (Newly Qualified Teachers) in an intensive English Summer Camp in Wenling, a small town in Taizhou City, Zhejiang Province. Teaching middle school teenagers who are taught, or rather programmed not to question their teacher is a completely different experience to teaching ones peers. Walking into the classroom on Monday morning with 6 hours of teaching expected and only about 3 hours of material in my mind and slowly dripping from my mind, I was shaking in my shoes!
The class size was small, just over 30 students, in comparison to my average 40, however the level of
English was higher. The ratio of female to
male students was about 34:1, something highly shocking at a further education level. I understand that teaching is predominantly a female preferred proffession, however when faced with a class that dominated by women I couldn't help but feel sorry for 'Jack', the only boy in the class.
Our first few days felt like an uphill stuggle, me constantly nattering and encouraging quiet students to talk even just a little. There is an awkward mutual movement in Chinese classrooms and it goes a little something like this;
Connie: What age are your students?
(Class in unison: bows heads, avoding eye contact)
Connie: What grade do you teach?
(Class: lower heads further)
Connie: (tapping someone on the shoulder) How old are your students?
Student: (still avoiding eye contact) I don't know (bows head quickly)
The first two days were a struggle with a room full of silent students. Everybody, myself included, was extremely nervous nobody wanted to speak much and answers were hesitant, grumbles worked their way around the class each time I asked a question. I was beginning to lose patience; this was nothing like my middle school classes who,
although quiet, answered my questions without much grumbling.
However after a cheeky bit of music during one of the breaks and an embarrassing performance of the Cha-cha Slide (yes, you read right) I won over my students and the began to open up. The following two weeks was awe inspiring, students who at the beginning of the program couldn't even look at me were laughing and joking, asking for my email and just generally speaking English.
The highlight of the whole experience for me was we spent the day talking about fairy tales, and creating plays from traditional European and Chinese children's stories. We had a variety of plays from 'The Boy Who Cried Wolf' to 'Cinderella'. The best of the class plays, the one that had all of us in stitches was Cinderella. The star of the show was the Evil Step Mother, a girl who wouldn't speak a word of English six days previously stole the show. Her every move and word was perfectly acted out. She haughtily walked through the classroom incognito, she pushed and prodded Cinders, teased and taunted. Fake fainted in front of Prince Charming, and play-bullied her daughters too. Her acting skills
were second to none and to me I think China has lost a marvelous actress but gained an amazing teacher.
The fortnight elevated in spirits from here, the class tackled each task with enthusiasm and spirit and I left work everyday with a smile plastered from ear to ear. They are some of the best students I have had the pleasure of working with and I miss our lessons already!
On a different but not totally unrelated note, I wasn't the only other foreign teacher, I was also working with a Canadian bloke called Bill. We were warmly welcomed and treated like royalty throughout the fortnight, including a trip to Changyu Caves.
Our trip to the Caves was on a beautiful Sunday morning, we were collected by our headteacher and ferried to a beautiful part of Taizhou county. We were surrounded by mountains, and the caves lacked the usual parade of Chinese tourists, megaphones blaring, matching caps flashing giant lensed cameras. In fact the whole trip was incredibly peaceful. There are so many photos so I'm going to save the effort of typing and you can see the place for yourself.
I feel like I've written
so much so I'll end simply, PANDAS ARE COOL!!!!
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