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My first semester as a newbie (in China)

 
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wildgrace



Joined: 17 Nov 2010
Posts: 48

PostPosted: Sat Jul 01, 2017 3:44 pm    Post subject: My first semester as a newbie (in China) Reply with quote

I just finished my first semester in China. Will share some thoughts on my experience, in case it helps others.

I am in a tier 3 city. People often say hello, and you will have moments where a young adult is excited to meet a westerner. Your picture will be taken by others sometimes discreetly, sometimes not.

I can be a picky eater and I found food to eat. Peanut butter and chocolate provide a taste of home when I need it.

While the school will help you, expect to figure a lot of it on your own, or with the help of other foreign teachers. Students were nice.

I preferred starting in a tier 3 city, as it is a place where I can work the bumps out in my teaching. It can feel isolating at times since there is a very small number of expats, and getting to any major Chinese city is a pain.

Beds are hard in China, I have a princess and a pea bed going on because I have several duvets on my bed to make it softer.

My apartment can be at best be described as basic and functional.

Since you don't speak the language doing almost anything requires more effort and can be more frustrating.

All in all I am glad I took the plunge. I am having an adventure. Like all adventures it has its up and down moments.
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tellersquill



Joined: 08 Apr 2016
Posts: 83

PostPosted: Sat Jul 08, 2017 12:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

How did you find the actual teaching?
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wildgrace



Joined: 17 Nov 2010
Posts: 48

PostPosted: Sun Jul 09, 2017 9:27 am    Post subject: Teaching Reply with quote

Teaching was fine. You need to be a self-starter as you are not going to get a lot of guidance from the school. Other foreign teachers can provide suggestions.

I was teaching English majors. The classes had mostly women. They are generally well-behaved. Worst is they tend to look at their smartphones (that's an issue I think just about everywhere), and you need to remind them regularly to speak English.
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Mikalina



Joined: 03 May 2011
Posts: 140
Location: Home (said in a Joe90 voice)

PostPosted: Wed Jul 12, 2017 10:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Grace
I hope you are able to get away from the uni for the semester. Coping, managing, surviving in a tier 3 takes its toll, often without you realising.

We didn't use tier 3 when I was in China - more like one donkey.....

I know things like trips to big cities, finding familiar food and associating with ex-pats takes effort but these are really important to your sanity. A long, hot bath in a 5 star hotel works best! Or a swim in their pool.

Seriously, it's a spiritually tough place. I used to cycle around the back of the town I lived in and I felt the earth saying, "you'll be back."
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reblair79



Joined: 15 Jan 2016
Posts: 103

PostPosted: Wed Jul 26, 2017 8:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

What city is it?
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wildgrace



Joined: 17 Nov 2010
Posts: 48

PostPosted: Thu Jul 27, 2017 10:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nanyang, in Henan province.
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thrulensdark



Joined: 10 Jan 2017
Posts: 8

PostPosted: Tue Oct 24, 2017 4:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks, give us an update when you can.
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AGoodStory



Joined: 26 Feb 2010
Posts: 738

PostPosted: Thu Nov 16, 2017 3:01 pm    Post subject: Re: My first semester as a newbie (in China) Reply with quote

wildgrace wrote:
I just finished my first semester in China. Will share some thoughts on my experience, in case it helps others.

I am in a tier 3 city. People often say hello, and you will have moments where a young adult is excited to meet a westerner. Your picture will be taken by others sometimes discreetly, sometimes not.

I can be a picky eater and I found food to eat. Peanut butter and chocolate provide a taste of home when I need it.

While the school will help you, expect to figure a lot of it on your own, or with the help of other foreign teachers. Students were nice.

I preferred starting in a tier 3 city, as it is a place where I can work the bumps out in my teaching. It can feel isolating at times since there is a very small number of expats, and getting to any major Chinese city is a pain.

Beds are hard in China, I have a princess and a pea bed going on because I have several duvets on my bed to make it softer.

My apartment can be at best be described as basic and functional.

Since you don't speak the language doing almost anything requires more effort and can be more frustrating.

All in all I am glad I took the plunge. I am having an adventure. Like all adventures it has its up and down moments.


Useful observations from a first semester in China--I enjoyed the details you commented on. Now that a new semester is well under way, can you say what you decided to do? Did you stay with the same school, or move on to another one?

.
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OhBudPowellWhereArtThou



Joined: 02 Jun 2015
Posts: 1152
Location: Since 2003

PostPosted: Sat Nov 25, 2017 1:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tier two and three cities aren't all inhospitable. My first school was in a tier three city that was on the move economically, so watching its growth was an experience that few who live outside of China will ever experience.

I found the people to be much more warm-hearted than in subsequent tier-two cities. The school was vastly underrated. The English majors were excellent. The FAO got me extra work at other schools. I had prior experience teaching in the U.S., so class management was not a problem. I also had the discipline to make use of the freedom in the curriculum. This is something that too many teachers can't handle. They're not told what to do, so they don't know what to do.

I arrived with ZERO facility in Chinese. Students helped me out when I needed to go shopping. You have probably figured out that many of your students improve their English just so that they can converse with you, not so much to improve themselves. (I learned this when I moved on to other schools and was visited by former students whose English went right down the dumper after I left.

Be very careful with the extra padding on the bed. They can actually do serious damage to your back. I learned that the hard way. You're better off sleeping flat on your back on that hard mattress. You'll awaken in the morning feeling like you slept on the sidewalk, but your back will be better off.

Post more about your experiences. I love hearing about them! Send me a heads up when you post. Your post indicates that you'll be an excellent teacher.
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wildgrace



Joined: 17 Nov 2010
Posts: 48

PostPosted: Sat Nov 25, 2017 2:13 pm    Post subject: Updtate Reply with quote

Update for those that are interested. It's nice to be appreciated.

The students continue to be good. I like that I am not micromanaged, and I have the freedom to teach the lessons I want, and to explore and discover what works. Probably the best thing about my job.

Also I do the same lesson 10 times, gives me lots of chances to get it right. Also keeps the time outside of the classroom limited to the creation of one lesson plan per week. Although about 5 lessons its starting to get old.

We had a foreign teacher leave during the middle of the semester, I went from 250 students to 400 students, with no increase in pay. Not necessarily a lot of extra work until the end of the semester when I have to do oral exams for all students.

I have found giving handouts effective, especially for larger groups. Handouts help keep the students engaged and focused. I pair students up and give them 1 handout each, and this often leads to some talking (hopefully in English). I keep the handouts to 1 page, front and back. Students take pics of the handout, so both students get a copy if they want one.

Also tell students not to use their smartphones. I tell them I want them to speak English with their heads, not with their phones. I still have to take phones and place them at the front of the class, but I found making this clear at the beginning of the semester, keeps the phones at least hidden to some degree, versus open use of them.


Last edited by wildgrace on Sat Nov 25, 2017 2:29 pm; edited 1 time in total
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wildgrace



Joined: 17 Nov 2010
Posts: 48

PostPosted: Sat Nov 25, 2017 2:23 pm    Post subject: Update continued Reply with quote

I feel more comfortable teaching now. Taught a lesson on the schwa that seem to go well. Doing a lesson on thought groups this week, we'll see how the goes.

Also learning about listening and process-oriented activities. Have yet to find a good article or book to describe how to do this well.

In a tier 3 city their is no English speaking doctor, so miss the ease when it comes to being ill or wanting to see a physician. Harder to see a doctor with the language barrier and the need to bring a student to translate.

Found a few new restaurants to eat at, and my Chinese has improved a bit. I would recommend to anyone learning a new language to do a short immersive course. I did 2 weeks in Suzhou of beginner Chinese, definitely helped - versus one Chinese lesson a week for 90 minutes.


Last edited by wildgrace on Sat Nov 25, 2017 2:29 pm; edited 1 time in total
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wildgrace



Joined: 17 Nov 2010
Posts: 48

PostPosted: Sat Nov 25, 2017 2:28 pm    Post subject: Update 3 Reply with quote

I am thinking of changing schools once my contract up. That is turning out to be difficult for a few reasons.

1) I was not required to legalize my docs at the Chinese Embassy/Consular before (most of the documents are Canadian, my US Master's degree is USA - all have the native government authentication done, just need the Chinese part done).

I don't know why I did not have to do it before, but I will have to do it now. Which means a delay in processing the paperwork for the new visa. I'll have to be home in Canada to deal with it. And will need to go to the USA Chinese consular office in NY for my masters. What a pain. Trying to find out if it can somehow be done from the tier 3 city I am in. I cannot get to Beijing or another major city until the end of the semester and I have only a few days then before my visa expires.

2) Less positions are available in the Spring, and I had a few places I was looking at - Zhuhai, Suzhou and Hainan. Most places I was looking to move too did not have openings, that made the pickings slim.

I am looking at BNU in Zhuhai for a new contract. Received the contract, will review it and make a decision. If you have any info on BNU and want to share feel free to PM me Smile BNU was upfront that by the time the paperwork was processed it might not be until mid-March to mid-April. Worst case scenario it does not work out and I end up in Vietnam having an adventure in a new country.

If you have specific questions feel free to ask.
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OhBudPowellWhereArtThou



Joined: 02 Jun 2015
Posts: 1152
Location: Since 2003

PostPosted: Sat Nov 25, 2017 9:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

When you discover a local dish that you like, have a student who is from the area to write it down for you on a piece of cardboard. (Cardboard will hold up much better than paper). I continue to do this whenever I go to lunch or dinner with students. (Talk to your boss about this before you do it. My FAO's always approved. One of them even joined us). When you go to a Mom'nPop restaurant, pull out your menu and point to what you like. In most cases, the chef will oblige. Just be sure that you have the name of the dish written by a student who is from the area.

I can't guide you about authentication of your documents. I got mine done a LONG time ago. Nobody has questioned any of the various stamps, signatures, and various documents grommeted to my degrees YET.

"Teaching" 400 students is ridiculous. I hope that you got the quitters' roll books. That'll be a mess when it comes time to turn in grades. Begin updating your roll and grade books NOW.

Save time in class by creating an attendance sheet. Make several copies with the students' names in pinyin, Hanyu and their English names. Pass it out and have the class monitor or the most reliable student check the attendance. You may have already dome this. This is how I handle attendance.

What grade are you teaching?
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