Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Brief FAQ regarding my work teaching English here in China

Q: "Do you teach at one school?"
A: I actually teach at 2 different primary schools in the same district. I alternate days, except Fridays, where I go to my 2nd school after lunch after my first school.

Q: "Public or private?"
A: Both schools are public, government-funded.

Q: "What grades do you teach? How old are the kids?"
A: Grades 4, 5, and 6. The kids are roughly 10-12 years old.

Q: "How big are your classes?"
A: No less than 40 students per class, usually around 42. (Read: too many)

Q: "Do you assign/grade homework? How about tests?"
A: I don't have anything to do with any homework assignments nor any tests. The only outside work I have to do is preparing lesson plans every week: one lesson plan per grade.

Q: "How many classes do you have per week? What's your schedule like?"
A: 25. Each class is 40 minutes long. My shortest day is 10:25 AM to 3:40 PM (4 classes), with a 2 hour lunch from 12 PM to 2 PM, and my longest day is 8:25 AM to 3:55 PM with a lunch from 12 PM to 2:20 PM (6 classes).

Q: "What do you like best about the job?"
A: The pay is pretty decent in terms of per-hour of actual work, and it's pushed further given the low cost of living here. I like the hours, and I actually have a ton of fun in my *good* classes. I really like not having any homework or tests to worry about, as I really just focus on helping the kids with their speaking.

Q: "What do you like least about the job?"
A: Hmm, where do I begin?
  • The *good classes* are an extreme minority; the other classes can be pretty awful. Combine this with a language barrier, no translator for the classes, and no authority over the kids, and you end up with some awful classes. The company only trained me to "stand there and look angry" in terms of discipline and quieting down the classes; they can't comprehend the possibility that this method might not work, so they don't offer me any other solutions. Furthermore, I tried taking some kids to their class teacher a few weeks ago to punish them, but it ended up with the class teacher complaining to the company that I was trying to "offload my work onto them." Um....okay. Either way, good luck trying to discipline 10-12 year olds in a language they can barely understand.
  • The schools have no foresight whatsoever, specifically referring to holidays and to the end of the semester. For example, I am usually informed about holidays less than a week ahead, and I still don't even know the dates the semester ends, even though it's less than 3 weeks away (roughly) from the date of this posting. This is rather infuriating for making plans, and the schools just don't seem to care. Quite frankly, this is one of the most frustrating things I've dealt with, because it feels like they have no regard for you, when in fact, the "powers that be" are just being lazy.
  • The company I work for prides itself on being around for a while, yet I have to come up with my own lesson plans and print out pictures using Google Images. In other words, they seem to be expanding but not developing. Now, don't misinterpret this as complaints about having to do any work, but isn't it strange that a company that's been in education for a while doesn't have set lesson plans by now, nor any resources on-hand for teachers like me? I mean, Google Images? Seriously? Furthermore, they are missing a lot of policies and procedures. For example, there was a minor fight in one of my classes a month ago, and they were upset that I didn't inform them about it. I was never told that I needed to inform them about how was I supposed to know? Is this the first classroom brawl to ever happen in grades 4-6? I doubt it. There are other examples, but I won't bore you with more details.
There are a few other complaints I have, but those are the biggest ones. I think the authority / discipline one is my biggest gripe, however...


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