Isabel is one of Enfly Education teachers on the Teaching programme. We interviewed her to ask what her experiences are as a teacher in China and what are her plans for the future. As if that wasn’t enough, we also managed to get some brilliant teaching advice!
So tell us Isabel, how did you make the decision to go to teach in China?
I didn’t go to Chengdu at first. I went to Taiwan to do voluntary work at a local school. I liked it so much I decided to stay, but move to China. That’s when I found and started working with Enfly.
A new start in a new country! What was it like when you landed at the Airport in Chengdu?
The team greeted us at the airport and took us to the hotel they had booked for us (Isabel travelled to teach in China with her husband). After induction, they helped us move into the accommodation they had prepared for us and showed us around, so we got to know where the local shops and landmarks were, how to get to school – little things, but you want someone to help you out in the beginning.
Can you tell us more about the accommodation you are living in?
All the schools’ apartments are located close to the school. They all vary and are located in different neighborhoods but the inventory always includes all the necessary modern appliances (including western toilets and flat screen TV!). I live with my husband, but all the other apartments are private. Not only that, but the neighborhood is really nice and quiet and there are a lot of shops and other helpful sites nearby.
What was your biggest shock when you got there?
The amount of children in one class. If you go to Western school, there would be 20-30 children. In public school in China, there are up to 80-90 children!
So, how did you deal with it?
I can draw very well, I am an Arts teacher. When children couldn’t understand me, I would just draw to them. They loved it – anything that is a bit more interesting or colourful quickly catches their attention. When I moved from Taiwan to Chengdu, I instantly noticed that Chinese English teachers were a lot more attentive and helpful in the classroom, so, generally, it became easier as they helped me with lesson planning, dealing with the kids, teaching techniques…
What do you think makes a good teacher?
I think a teacher in China has to be very energetic, expressive and able to use body language, because small kids might not understand everything you say. You need a lot of patience and have to talk very slowly. I try to be active and I include dancing, flash cards and drawing in my classes. All the Chinese English teachers focus on grammar, writing and repeating rules. Whilst foreign English teachers, like me, focus on teaching how to carry out a conversation, the ways to produce one’s own language. It’s important to make it personal – I often ask children to say what they like and why, for example ‘I like lion, because it’s brave’, ‘I like rabbit because it’s cute’, I ask them ‘What colour do you like?’. I teach them to draw things related to Western culture, like Halloween, for example. They are so curious about them!
What has been your overall experiences from teaching in China?
You learn a lot from the people you work with, and from teaching children in general. I think I have become a different person, and when I come back home I will be much more open minded to things. Obviously Chinese culture is so much different, it broadens your horizons a lot.
So, what’s next? What are your plans now?
Actually, me and my husband have been teaching for 4 years… We love it here! I just think we have just adapted to the culture and life here extremely well, and we have no plans to leave for now.
Enfly are sending new people to teach in China in August. What would your advice to them be?
It is an adventure and a challenge at the same time, so just keep your mind open, try lots of different things once you’re here, like food, and travel to see places around, see what you like. You might think at first, that a different culture is bad, but you will get used to it, tolerate it and then embrace it, and it will give you the most valuable experience. Keep in mind that you are the ambassador of your country and, for some, you will be the first foreigner ever met!
Enfly Education is very thankful for Isabel’s sharing of her experience. We wish her and her husband all the best in their future!