"Wish You Happy Every Day": An Expat's Life in China

Teaching is a Walk in the Park
March 29, 2011, 11:35 am
Filed under: efl world, teaching | Tags:

For the past six months, I have been agonizing over what to do with one of my classes, a group of four astoundingly unmotivated twelve year olds.  Neglected by their parents, they are rude, obnoxious and highly resentful of being forced to attend extra classes.  In fact, I recently had to deal with one girl who was talking about me in class, assuming I couldn’t understand her.  That was a glorious Bitter Teacher Moment for me: watching her face fall in embarrassment as I told her, in Chinese, that if she had a problem she could leave.

I usually walk away from this class feeling like a failed teacher.  I don’t think I really am; most of my classes are pretty good, and deep down I know that my real talent–passion, even–lies in teaching adults.  Besides, teaching is a job that requires a lot of attention, patience and energy.  Even when you have motivated students, it just isn’t a walk in the park.

Except for last Sunday.

As I ushered these students out the door, I told them to say goodbye to China. “Zaijian, Zhongguo!” a few them shouted.  Once we stepped outside, we could no longer speak Chinese–only English.

They actually seemed scared. A few of them closed their mouths and went “MMMM!! MMMM!” Normally this class can’t stop talking, a characteristic which worked in my favor here; by the time we reached Xinle Park, they were at least attempting 1-3 word sentences:


“He flying a kite!”

“Big, BIG dog!”

They got very excited by the dogs.  That one girl who doesn’t like me even engaged me in conversation: “Teacher, I have a big dog at home. I have her for three years.”

As we walked, I asked students to describe what they saw. Sometimes I pointed out the English words for various things that we saw.  I found myself wishing that one of my Chinese classes had been like this; how exciting it must be to see your familiar world through another culture’s language.  Mostly, the students just nodded.  Oh well.  They are twelve–they’d rather be outside playing instead of going to school six days a week, and I can’t blame them.

As we returned to school, I could tell they were running out of steam. Still, I was impressed by their ability to adapt, and I hope they gained a little more confidence.

And finally, I got to brag to my friends about how teaching is a walk in the park.


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