Interview with Janice Okekumatalor, Summer teacher in Huzhou 2017

What made you decide that you wanted to Teach English In China?
There is something incredibly influential about the nature of teaching. And to me, that is the notion of passing down wisdom to younger years.

Teaching them what you know of this world, what you have acquired over time, getting them to dissect this information, as they learn the art of interpretation. It is about watching them grow as they step out of their comfort zone, whilst they learn about our world.

In a very fast evolving world, the English language is becoming a necessity. And so, in my eyes I couldn’t have thought of a more better way to contribute to this, regardless of the scale. Whether it was a group of 10 or a class of 50 students, I wanted to have an impact on these children on a way that could potentially better their lives and future. To teach children a fundamental language that a lot of people across English speaking countries may take for granted.

What age group did you teach and what are the pros and cons of teaching this age group?
I was allocated two Grade 6 classes, and one Grade 5 class for the duration of my teaching period. One grade 6 class compromised of 40 students, whilst the other had 36. My grade 5 class was 31 students. At first, I was more willing to accept a much younger age range, however I was incredibly happy to receive the age range I got.

At this Grade, the children ranged between the ages of 11 and 14. The pros of this age is that they are just entering their teenage years and are beginning to test their boundaries, and ultimately learning more about themselves and their places within the world. They are at a curious age and eager to learn. My students often flooded me with many questions on various different topics during breaks and after lessons. Their curiosity was refreshing, something I admired dearly. The cons of this age is that they often did not want to treated like children, however to not be treated like adults either! Because of this age range I had to find the right balance, and teach appropriately – it was also often difficult to assess the levels of children’s learning ability, as they were all unique and at different learning paces.

How does living like a local in China compare to the likes of visiting somewhere on holiday?
You experience the way of life in China from a different perspective. You see things more as local rather than someone who is merely in a country purely for the tourist attractions, or the “glammed up” side of a country. You also see some things that may come as culture shock, such as spitting, babies urinating in the streets, and squatting toilets. But you are also exposed to the beautiful side of China, the culture, the communities rich with respect and a loving accommodating nature, the food and even late night waltzing in the community parks.

What were the challenges about teaching in China?
The biggest challenge was lesson planning and preparation for the lessons ahead, and then finally presenting that lesson in front of your children. On some days, you will find that what you have prepared, children would be completely unfamiliar with. When this happened, I had to think on the spot and create an entirely new lesson. Over time this became natural, and I quickly learnt the things they knew already or have yet to learn. I also discovered the games, activities and movies they favoured most and reserved them for fun days.

What have you gained from the experience and how do you think this will help you in the future?
From this experience, I have learnt that I will most definitely return again to China again in the near future, potentially on a longer placement or travels through various different provinces. The overall experience was such a positive and enlightening one where I learnt so much about China and also myself, it would definitely be something I would recommend to anyone who is thinking about doing it.

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