By Brooke Sherrell, Teacher in Wuhan, China
How are your students?
I absolutely love my students. I teach students who are anywhere from four to twelve years old. At first, I was really hesitant about teaching students so young, but I love teaching the younger kids! With the younger students, class is mainly focused on playing games using English, so class is quite fun (but it does require high levels of energy!). Older students can begin to properly communicate with you in English, which allows for more creative activities in the classroom. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing a student you teach outside of the classroom and them yelling your name as they run towards you for a hug, it really makes you feel proud to be their teacher!
How are your colleagues?
Since I work at a private training center, my colleagues are both international teachers and local teachers. Everyone has been extremely helpful in guiding me and giving me advice (this is my first full-time job out of college, but my colleagues have all been very generous with helping me out!). The local teachers are also very willing to help with anything outside of work, like if you need help confirming a hotel booking or if you need help to answer a phone call.
Is it difficult to manage your workload?
Not at all. I teach 16 classes a week which is very manageable. It takes around 15 minutes or less to plan a lesson for the very young kids, and anywhere from 20-30 minutes to plan a lesson for the older students. Other than that, we have weekly training and communication meetings, but these are always brief and usually quite helpful. Sometimes lesson planning can become difficult when we don’t know if we will be online or offline. If covid cases are high, we may be given less than a day’s warning that we will be going online the next day. Often we may not know how long we will be online, which makes it difficult to plan lessons. There have been times when I had completely planned a weekend of online classes just to find out we will actually be teaching in-person! Luckily, my coworkers all share the PPTs we make for online classes, so it doesn’t take long to plan an online class at all.
Is classroom management an issue?
As a new teacher, at first it was a bit tricky since a ‘one size fit all’ approach to classroom management doesn’t seem to work. Each class has a different group of personalities and English levels, so different strategies need to be used from class to class. I’ll share a few tips from my experience:
- For every class, it is important to go over classroom rules at the beginning of every class. Especially with young students, this reminds them and sets the tone for how they should behave in class.
- Positive reinforcement works better than negative! For example, let’s say you use some sort of reward system (like rewarding stars). If you ask all students to stand up, and two students decide to ignore you and keep sitting, instead of getting mad at those students and taking away their stars, you should instead start giving stars to each student who IS standing. By the time you are done rewarding stars, those two students will also be standing so they can also get a star!
- If you have a Teaching Assistant to help, be sure to communicate with them clearly! They won’t know how you run your class unless you communicate with them. For example, in my classes I found that when switching the class from sitting in a U-shape to sitting in tables, all the students would run with their chairs at once and things would get very hectic. So I decided to tell the students to wait in their chairs until I call their name to come to a table to make sure no one gets hurt. I forgot to tell the TA about this rule, so she grabbed a table and motioned for all the students to come running! So be sure to clearly communicate your rules, not only to the students, but to anyone else helping you with your class.
What is an average school day like?
At a private training center, we work in the afternoons Wed-Fri and a normal working day on Saturday and Sunday. During the weekdays, we only have a couple classes, so the day is mostly filled with lesson planning and meetings. The weekends are much more busy, with an average of five classes each day with around an hour for lunch. Though these days are much more busy, I prefer the weekends since they seem to just fly by!
What is the most enjoyable thing about going to school?
Seeing the students is easily the most enjoyable thing about teaching. It is really rewarding to get to know your students and to watch them grow and improve with their English.
What is the least enjoyable thing about going to school?
Sometimes there is a naughty student that you know will cause trouble, or sometimes you have a lot of papers to grade, but overall there isn’t anything in particular that I don’t enjoy with my job.
If you could change one thing about school, what would it be?
Since I work at a private training center, during peak times over the summer and winter we have extra classes. These times can be extremely busy and tiring, so if I could change anything I would reduce the amount of classes we teach during this time! The extra classes are different from normal classes though and are pretty fun to teach, but it just is a bit tiring.