How to succeed at your teaching job in China

Teaching class

Succeed at teaching

So you finally landed that teaching job in China, but you’re not sure of the expectations they have of you in the classroom. Education in China has become highly commercialized over the past decade or so, and like any other business it’s all about keeping the customer happy. Yes, I used the word customer, because with the commercialization the traditional student/teacher relationship in China has transitioned a customer/service provider relationship. So what is it that the customer wants? Well students up to college level seem to believe that education in western countries is just fun and games; and this is what they, as the customers, want from you. Definitely stay away from traditional style teaching when you’re teaching, and try to have plenty of group activities. Watch what the local Chinese teachers do (traditional lectures / rote learning) and avoid that style; they school hired you because they wanted something different, both in terms of appearance and behaviour, from the local teachers. Besides your teaching role, as a foreign teacher you are also a marketing tool for the school, and unfortuntely this may outweigh your importance to them as an actual educator.

I was able to deal with all of the above by having a lesson plan where I would start the lesson with a funny story, after which I’d go into the actual learning material, and then have them do group activities based on what they just learned. I’d then go through the most common difficulties with the class and throw a few jokes in there as well. I would always end the lesson on a bright note. Throughout the lesson, I’d maximize my interaction with the students. I made sure that during the course of the lesson, I had spoken at least once with every student in the class, even if it was a large class. Speaking to each individual student is very important, even if’s very brief; that 1 minute of private interaction leaves a stronger impression on the invividual student than 1 hour of listening to you lecture. Many students in China have minimal experience communicating with westerners and will truly appreciate some direct communication. It can also make your job meaningful, as you’re acting as their direct window to a different world.

If you’re wondering about teaching material, some schools will provide a book. If you simply go through the book each lesson, it will be considered too “boring”. Personally, I would create a lessons loosely based on each chapter from the book using the lesson style i mentioned early. If the activities from the book were interesting I would incorporate some of them. If the school does not provide a book, I highly recommend that you find one relevent to your course. Even though you may not strictly follow the book, it does provide a useful framework and looks more professional.

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