Finally getting around to writing this – the past few days have been hectic! Since the last post, I’ve found and moved into my new apartment, had a couple of orientation sessions, and started working at two separate schools, all within the space of a week. Despite that, I’d say settling in has been relatively smooth.
Jinshan District, the area I’m located, is a lot more developed than I expected. The school buildings are gorgeous and have great facilities (picture above), and I’m fortunate enough to have been given my own classroom. Despite being a suburb in Shanghai, Jinshan would be the fifth biggest city in the UK, which really puts things into scale.
There’s a huge shopping mall a few minutes away from my apartment, covering all of the essentials, which has made my life easier. I’m fluent in hand gestures and butchered Chinese, and trips to the supermarket no longer feel like navigating a Daedalian structure. Special shout-out to Didi, China’s (better) answer to Uber, which has been a godsend.
Last Wednesday, I visited my company’s offices for a couple of orientation sessions, which were led by experienced teachers Edward and Nicole, from Canada and the UK respectively, who now work for my company in a variety of roles. They guided us through the essentials of teaching in China, the current ESL curriculums in Shanghai, and so forth.
On that day, we were also told that we’d have a night to prepare a demo lesson to perform in front of the rest of the new teachers and a couple of Chinese education specialists. Despite the nerves, it was actually a pleasant experience, the atmosphere was relaxed and the feedback was extremely beneficial.
Everyone at the academy was also assigned an English-speaking coordinator, in my case Veronica, who has been responsible for reviewing my performance as a teacher, offering me feedback, and otherwise helping me out in every way humanly possible with day-to-day life.
With all that said, I don’t think you can truly prepare for a lot of things in life without experience, and the expectant glare of forty middle school students is one of those things. Being self-critical, I could probably chalk my first lesson up as a disaster, but by the end of the day I’d hit my stride and felt a lot more confident in what I was doing.
Since starting to teach last Friday, I’ve learned that the differing student ability and behaviour levels of each class can derail your lesson no matter how many backup activities you’ve prepared or how intricately designed your PowerPoint is.
ESL teaching to younger students in particular, I think, requires constant engagement. Having to think on your feet and adapt to the present situation isn’t something I would’ve described as one of my greatest strengths, but I’ve already felt a significant improvement there in just my short few days experience.
The students have been great fun as well. Out from central Shanghai, I do feel like somewhat of an attraction. Groups of students regularly stop in the hallway or visit the classroom between lessons to talk to me. A handful are completely bewildered by my MacBook, and have asked if they can type with it after the lesson. One student, Daniel, caught up with me on the way home, and when I asked him for directions to the train station, he offered to walk me there. One girl quipped “we’re all too poor”, to the laughs of her peers, when I asked if anyone had been abroad.
I had my first few primary school lessons today and while it was nice to have such self-motivated students, it quickly descended into what I’d describe as a cacophony of enthusiasm. So, yeah, I’ll be attempting to deal with that tomorrow.