The 3 Most Important “Teaching in China” Life-hacks You Need to Know

Teaching English in China at school is becoming easier and you are getting into the flow of things, especially regarding lesson planning and creatively making materials for class. As always, somewhere, somehow in some of your classes, you will face a problem or two concerning some of your students.

Teaching Skills in China

LIFEHACK #1 – BEFRIEND YOUR CHINESE ASSISTANTS

Whether it’s behaviour-wise or translation services being needed, you need your Chinese assistant in class to help you out.

From what I’ve experienced, most of them feel like pure translators and the go-to person for when parents have questions or comments. Sometimes their lives can be incredibly stressful, and as they do not always have the advantages foreign teachers have. One day off a week from work can be a very normal thing in certain places. Imagine having only Saturday to rest and being back at work on Sunday! How crazy is that? Would you feel happy and content knowing other people around you are experiencing more benefits even if they are not from your home country? I know I would not be too impressed.

He or she will be the one listening to you moan about Jason who needs to complete his homework before coming to class and “Remember to tell his parents they need to help him review, please!”. Usually, when you develop a good working relationship with your Chinese assistant, problems are sorted out much quicker and they are more eager to engage and assist you with the lesson and the students’ learning. They are more than just simple translators. They are a security blanket for young learners and for parents who do not speak any English. They need to be able to manage kids, parents and teachers all day, making sure everyone is happy. Engaging with them and being friendly and helpful will only help you in return!

LIFEHACK #2 – INVOLVE THE PARENTS

At my institute, we have an open lesson for parents to come and observe what their children have learned thus far every couple of months. I always ask parents to observe closely and leave me constructive criticism so that I can work on improving my skills and know what they are looking for when it comes to their child’s language development and learning.

The parents are probably paying quite a sum of money to have their child attend extra English lessons. Apart from letting them watch a few open lessons here and there every couple of months, it is a good idea to involve them a bit more and make them feel like they are being listened to and that their opinion is important too.  If you involve them and ask for constructive criticism from their side, I can almost guarantee that you will receive good advice and positive feedback, especially if you are still new in the teaching world.

LIFEHACK #3 – UNDERSTAND THE CHINESE WORK ETHIC

How is this possibly a teaching life-hack? You will soon realize that the Chinese folks are extremely active when it comes to academic development. All those Chinese memes on the internet about parents being angry at a child for not achieving 100% on test scores – it’s a real thing.
If you understand your students and their busy schedules, you will learn how to cultivate your lessons in a specific way for them to learn while having a bit of fun at the same time. Making English-learning fun is probably the greatest tool an ESL teacher should have in his or her toolbox. FUN – all kids need it, especially Chinese kids.

So there you go. In my three months here, I’ve learned these three important concepts very quickly. Implementing them has made my classes more enjoyable not only for the students, but for myself as well. I know I have a lot more to learn about teaching during my contract here, but I cannot wait to jump right into it and delve a little deeper!

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Hangzhou – A Chinese Paradise on Earth

Living and teaching in Ningbo, Zhejiang Province, I’m a 1-hour speed train away from Hangzhou and 2-hour speed train from the great, bustling Shanghai. Saying that I’m in a prime location at a great second-tier city would be a shameful understatement. I have been quite entranced with Ningbo as a city and during my first 3 months, it’s been an amazing adventure seeing what this city has to offer. I would not be exaggerating if I told you that I discover something new and wonderful about this city and Chinese culture as a whole every week. However, sometimes a little break from the bustling city life is just the thing to do. In that case, Hangzhou proved to give me the breath of fresh air I was after.

West Lake, Hangzhou

THE ADMIN

As mentioned previously, Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang Province, home to about 21 million people in Hangzhou and its surrounds, this place is nothing short of everything you’d expect of a capital city.  After snuffling around for places to stay on the popular Chinese website C-trip, I asked one of our Chinese Assistants to assist me with booking the room for a friend and I on an even cheaper Chinese-only travel and booking site. We payed 120RMB for two nights through Alipay and thought we had landed a sweet deal!

Booking the train tickets was a much easier process as I mentioned before. Once again, a Chinese Assistant helped us book the two tickets, and on the night of our departure, we fetched the tickets at the ticket office and off we were! Our train departed right on time, to the second, and one hour later we were breathing in the air of a different city.

THE ADVENTURE

After a laborious wait in the line for a taxi, we hopped in and off we were to our hostel. Our taxi driver obviously took note of our youthful radiance and so he kicked our trip off with some “sick” tunes and showing us the best party places to go on our way to the hostel.

40RMB taxi-ride later, we booked into the hostel and finally, we plonked our bags down in the cupboards, itching to start exploring. Please take note that we arrived at 23:30. Barely 20 minutes later, my companion and I took to the street and walked to the well-known franchise restaurant and bar, Eudoras, just 10 minutes down the road. We enjoyed a very late dinner and some wonderful live music from the resident band. The band members, also expats, came and introduced themselves and before we knew it, we had made new friends.  Shortly before closing time, we all headed off to G+ club. I’m not even going to say anything about this place, except that you have to go experience the madness of it yourself! Chinese clubs are CRAZY! Around 4:30am we stumbled into the room and dozed off happily until 9 o’clock.

The morning promised fine weather and we headed off to a Belgian bakery 7 minutes down the road and had a wonderful breakfast (still very Chinese-style) and that’s when we realized we were in a prime location. We could practically smell the water and fresh air from the famous West Lake scenic area. We took 20 steps across the road and then we were instantly immersed the moment we entered one of the garden parks surrounding the lake.

I was instantly at ease and felt like I was being whisked away into a magical world. We walked around the whole lake for 5 hours that day, which included an hour boat ride on a big golden Dragon Boat, fruit ice creams, greeting touring school groups in English and just being in a daze on one of the benches surrounding the water source. We saw sunset roll around and monks take their evening walks and decided that it was a day well spent. We ended up taking a quick walk home and worked in a very short nap before heading off to Eudoras again to meet our new friends. It was good night!

Hangzhou city

THE “ADIOS”

Morning came and we packed our things and checked out. We stopped at our “Belgian” bakery one last time for breakfast and met a lovely Swiss family touring China and spoke about what we did in Hangzhou and how relaxing it was to be there. It was a sad moment for me to say goodbye to such a beautiful place, but I knew it wouldn’t be the last time. Two hours later and I was back home, greeting my fur ball cat, Amber, and happily went back to work later that afternoon. If you ever consider teaching in China, Hangzhou is a must-see!

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I Went to a Thai Wedding

A Thai Wedding

Any wedding in any culture, is a special moment shared between two people that come together to share heir love with one another and the dearest friends. It is a love that is shown and reflected in how they see one another. For this occasion is special not only for them, but the ones surrounding them. It is a joyous moment to witness and even more amazing to see it in another culture.  A Thai wedding is vastly different than a western wedding. Some Thai weddings provide dances through their communities in the early morning. This is where the groom asks for money and blessings to give to the bride’s parents followed by an afternoon celebration and a rest in between. While, others may pay tribute by a simple ceremony and a glamorous reception that demonstrates their love.  Being a foreigner in a new city, I was blessed enough to not only witness this event but, also be a part of it by being in the wedding as a bridesmaid.  This was more than an honor to play a role in Tanawong Poongamcherend (Nickname Nut- Husband) and Jureeephon’s (Nickname: Prickthai- Bride) wedding.

The Week Before the Special Day

The week prior to the celebration, myself and four other foreigner teachers were asked to be bridesmaids and to make an appearance at the bride’s selected dress shop. This is where we chose an elegant gown of the bride’s picked color. This experience was quite unique, as we were able to pick a dress that suited our different body types, instead of the traditional western way of being forced to wear the same dress that the bride picked. When you get to pick a dress, you are able to try on many different styles to determine the one that you prefer, versus all of us wearing a dress that may or may not look ridiculous. This dress shop was a one stop shop because it also made all the alterations in a quick turnaround which, left us with no worries that our dresses were going to be held for weeks. Instead, this process only took a few hours.

Another huge difference between western and Thai weddings that I have found is that they rent the dresses versus purchasing them. This saves quite a bit of money and doesn’t leave you with a dress, shoes, and even earrings that you may never wear again.  Though I loved my dress, as it suited me, I just don’t know if it would be realistic to own living abroad teaching. I can’t foresee myself wearing a gorgeous gown to a classroom.

The Day Off

On the day of the magical event, we were asked to show up at the hotel ready to be primped and beautified by the hired professionals to do our makeup and hair. This required us to reach our destination at about 2 p.m. This way it allowed enough time to prepare all of us. This honestly, left me nervous as, I didn’t know what to anticipate. On any ordinary day, I don’t wear a lot of makeup and for this moment, there was a stack piled on me that left me with a new appearance. Though, it was nice to be made up like a Thai foreign doll, it left me looking like a 1960s pin up girl. After we had our new appearances, the next step was rehearsal.

Thai Wedding

Rehearsal was very interesting. We had a Thai coordinator that directed us in Thai on how to walk down the aisle and throw the flowers for the lovely couple. Though this left us with many questions, our parts as bridesmaids in this event went off without a hitch.  Our candles were lit in their honor and flowers were thrown with grace leaving an elegant walkway for Nut and Prickthai to make their way to the stage. This is where the real fun took place. As Nut and Prickthai set foot on stage, they were warmly welcomed and the wedding coordinator who was also the MC ensured an active event.  As all the guests ate and drank the lavish meal provided, Prickthai prepared herself to throw her bouquet into a wild crowd of single women. All the women staged themselves in hopes of catching it so, they can say “I am next to be wed.” Apparently, this tradition is shared between westerners and Thais.

This lavish event lasted hours and left many smiles not only for the newlyweds but the crowd of 100 plus attendees. Anyone and everyone was there. This moment was left with multiple photos that were taken and unforgettable memories.  Moreover, as a foreigner, embrace the cultural differences and always leave smiles because you never know when one day, you may be asked to be a part of something remarkable like being in a Thai wedding.

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