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My first week in China, and what I learnt.

So, You’re going to China. You’ve done your research, you have your TEFL certificate, you know all about your new job! Good, then you are doing a lot better than I was. It all started when I got an email from a friend who filled me in on his situation teaching in a kindergarten in China. After the second line of the email, I was in. I was looking for a new adventure and this seemed the perfect fit.

Got my visa, and jumped on a plane. I really wish I had someone to tell me the words I’m going to tell you…Be prepared! 

You have no idea the real importance of preparation when teaching ESL. Games, lesson planning, even communicating are vital things to learn BEFORE you start your new job! 

Anyway, day . So I arrived at my new job, jet lagged and sweating from the Wuhan summer sun, they give me a brief show around then stick a mic in my hands and say introduce myself. A simple thing that any foreign teacher should be able to do in a heartbeat. So, I began introducing myself and of course these children were 2-5 years old so other than the odd word they couldn’t understand a word I was saying. I just felt awful, and so embarrassed, I couldn’t believe how bad I was at this and felt pretty down on myself. Lesson from day 1: always expect the unexpected/be ready for anything.

Day  was much better, I had had a little chat with some of my other foreign friends and they had given me some tips and reassured me that it’s part of the process. Today I was meeting my 2 classes and I was excited to get on with it to be honest. I wanted to settle in and find my own style as soon as possible. What I didn’t know is that they were expecting a full blown class. Again, my fault, should’ve been prepared. I tried my best and taught some flash cards they provided me with, then played a short game. All in all, it was better than I expected. Lesson from day 2: preparation is key!

Day  was better than day 2, BUT, I had the lovely surprise of another teacher coming in and reviewing my class. He sat at the back and watched as me and my co-teacher taught 4 new words. If I’m honest, she was still doing most of the work, and after class, he gave me a lot, I really mean a lot, of pointers on why my class was so bad. Spirit was crushed again, but I was determined to prove him wrong and improve! Lesson from day 3: listen to what people are telling you.

On day , I took the time to make a detailed lesson plan with games and activities, I was ready! When I got to class, however, my co-teacher handed me a love heart, that’s right, and told me that I needed to teach this today and the sentence ‘I love you mummy.’ I was furious, I had spent a lot of time on this and then, someone tells me to change everything? Not fun at all. Lesson from day 4: communication with coworkers. 

Day  - Friday, After a tough first week, I was feeling pretty wiped and really didn’t want anymore surprises but as lesson 1 taught me, I was ready for one. To my surprise, no surprises whatsoever. And, when I went in class my co-teacher recommended that we try my lesson plan, she had the cards out ready! Things were looking up. The classes went great and I couldn’t have asked for a better end to the week! Lesson from day 5: stay positive! 

So I learnt a lot in my first week, and all the hardship really has made me a better teacher today! Here’s a re-cap of what I learnt:

1. Be ready for anything.

2. Preparation is essential.

3. Listen to advice (or criticism) given.

4. Communicate with your colleagues.

5. Stay positive and have fun!

Final thoughts? In hindsight, I really wish I had taken the time to get some training before I jumped in that plan! A TEFL certificate isn’t just a piece of paper, it’s an insight to the world of teaching, furthermore, IT’S FREE, why wouldn’t you?

We hope you enjoyed reading this post. Remember to share with your friends and fellow teachers. Do you have anything to share? If so, get in touch!

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