So my first teaching year in China is coming to an end already. I’ve got around 3 more weeks teaching before I head to South Korea and then home for a break, however I’ve started to say goodbye to one class already: Senior 2 Class 13. This class were a little different to the rest of those I taught, they were preparing to study abroad for university and to go live in countries such as Australia, Canada and the UK. This meant that whilst my main responsibility was to help them pass their IELTs or TOEFL tests, I also taught them Western culture and customs.
Steve, Berry, Bronson, Jack, Spencer, Rico, Gloria, Mary, Margo, Kris, Anna and Deloris.
My classes with them can be divided into roughly 3 different stages. When I first started, I had to focus on the speaking tests they were preparing to take. I did this mainly by giving them lots of practice questions and slowly reducing their thinking times. Since I didn’t start 1-1 tutoring with them until after February, I had to rely on them pairing up. I also used written exams to check their understanding of sentence structure and grammar. This first stage was probably the most boring for me – I was repeating a lot of information as they kept making the same mistakes. However, once they’d warmed up (they were so quiet at first), and increased their ability to think quickly in English I could move on to more interesting things!
Margo and Kris: 2 excellent students with bright futures in Australia.
After Spring Festival I decided to mix things up a bit. Their written work had shown me that they were much better at answering speaking test questions and rather than repeat the same exercises over and over again, I did some more interesting things. By this point the numbers in the class had shrunk greatly – if the students had got a good enough grade on their tests they were spending their time on extra-curriculars rather than in my lesson. This meant that I could get to know those who remained better and after these lessons I had some great stories about my students.
Funny moments from senior 2 special:
- One student who genuinely didn’t believe Aboriginal Australians existed – even after I showed them a picture.
- One student whose heroes are Mao, Churchill and Stalin – diverse!
- One student whose heroes are Elvis, Martin Luther King, and Mao.
- One student who learnt how to make snarky comments. When I asked them to finish the sentence “Success is…”, he replied “A WORD”! I’ve never been so proud!
- The ongoing saga of one students obsession with Tim Tams, including the price, where you can buy them and his steadfast refusal to believe anything I said ever.
During these few weeks I more focused on getting them to express their feelings and beliefs as well as improving their group work. Some of the more interesting lessons involved getting them to argue about which charity deserved money the most, thinking about the positives and negatives of fame and getting them to debate various topics. Whilst at first some students struggled to get their point across, by the end they were looking forward to the debates and said they really enjoyed them.
For those students who were still struggling with the speaking exams we had 1-1 tutoring weekly. During these sessions I really got to know the students and I looked forward to them weekly. Thanks to these sessions I now know fully when to use articles! I was so proud too when a shy student gained confidence after seeing me privately and was able to question a very loud student in class.
Anna and Gloria: 2 of the students I tutored weekly.
For the final couple of weeks I focused on the cultural differences and settling into university life. By this point about 10 minutes of my lesson every week was taken up by random questions on a variety of topics from driving licences to the drinking age. These were probably the most informal lessons, although they were still learning things such as slang and idioms, they mainly mined me and guest teachers for information. A really successful lesson was my penultimate one which focused on settling into university and the questions they will face when they first get there. At one point a student asked me a question which made me realise just how much of a big step they were taking. They asked me how to make friends and what they should say to people to get them to like them. As I started to answer I realised that the entire class was listening and that this was a genuine concern of theirs that they’d waited to ask me.
The last lesson we just played games, but I made sure they took my WeChat so they could keep in touch! After seeing them twice a week since September it was gutting to say goodbye and I was genuinely upset when I left. It might have been a rocky and quiet start, and 2 of the students stormed out in a huff at one point, but my evening classes with them were a highlight of my week. I know all good things must come to an end, but I wasn’t ready to say goodbye so soon!
Messing around with Rico, Margo and Kris 🙂