Teaching English in China – a review

Chinese students

By Lee Siebritz

It is with great pleasure and bittersweet feelings that I write this review. Let me first begin by introducing myself… My name is Lee Siebritz and I am from Cape Town, Republic of South Africa.

Prior to coming to China, I had already worked in a country not too far from China with which China shares many relations, that country’s name being the Republic of South Korea.

I taught in South Korea for four years and had developed many materials and gained much experience whilst teaching there. Teaching in Korea made teaching in China so much easier for me, so All I had to do was use my materials from Korea and adapt them. I did, however, come up with some novel materials and worksheets whilst in China, so that I would not be heavily dependent on my materials from Korea.

When I first came to China, I was a little sceptical and nervous as I was not experienced with working with Chinese kids before.

However, the experience of working in South Korea really helped me to effectively teach in China. I developed many materials for learners who were not so well versed in speaking English.

I enjoy working with kids to the extent that the inner kid comes out of me and I just let go. To me, that is the main point at the end of the day, not to take things too seriously and just enjoy one’s self in the classroom.

It paid off. Students were generally very receptive of me. I never had so much fun working with them and I was so taken by their enthusiasm and kind hearted ways.

I am amazed at the students’ work ethic as I have never been exposed to students who study all the time. I have never met kids who are so diligent to spend most of their times studying. They were just so easy to teach.

I never had a problem teaching the kids at all. They were just so willing to learn and have fun that there was never a problem with classroom management at all.

I also never got so early up in my life to give class. I got up at about 6 am to get ready, because my first class was at 7.30 am. I must say that that was a little tiring and stressful for me and was something that I had to get used to.

I also never got so early up in my life to give class. I got up at about 6 am to get ready, because my first class was at 7.30 am. I must say that that was a little tiring and stressful for me and was something that I had to get used to.

Working with fellow educators was not that difficult for me, as I had been working with Korean teachers before. It is really a human aspect at the end of the day.

Sometimes, we are all so busy that there is no time to socialize, because all we are doing is focusing on the work. Sometimes, school leaders have to put a day or two aside so that teachers and students can relax.

These events would include: sports days, bon fires, talent shows for singing, poetry and dance, etc. It was really such a relaxing way to de-stress the students and to re-motivate them again.

I do admire the students for continuing with their studies even though it was during their vacation at times. It just shows their seriousness and commitment to becoming great individuals.

Dealing with students can never really be easy. It is an ongoing process that requires work. Sometimes, they were a little naughty, tired and sleepy due to their hectic study schedules and they could not fully concentrate on their English oral classes.

I tried my best to teach the learners songs using music videos, gap filling worksheets (exercises) for listening activities as well as practising the songs after constant repetitions of listening to key words and phrases. We also played tongue twister, memory and blind fold games.

I think the most enriching part for me was seeing how much their faces lighted up with the activities that we did. How much of fun they had and how much they enjoyed themselves, laughing, screaming for their teams to get the most points and livening up the classroom. It made my job worthwhile and made me see it not as a job, but as a career, a love, a passion and a future.

Singing live in front of the parents, teachers and students was the most memorable moment and highlight of my teaching career. I had such a great time singing for all of them and am so proud to have that moment in pictures and imprinted in their and my memory!

However, sometimes, I also felt that it was just a good idea to let students take a break and rest, because they do not get any chances to rest. They would be too depleted to concentrate on their school work and no amount of games can wake a child that needs rest.

But in general, Chinese students are hard working and I feel quite proud to have been affiliated with All of the Middle Schools that I have been worked with in China.

Parting ways is never easy; it was one of the hardest things that I ever had to do. I had become so close to the learners and them to me, so when it came time to say goodbye,

I could but just hold back a few tears back before they all came welling down. I felt so bad that I had spent such a short time with them and then had to say goodbye.

One thing is for sure, is that I definitely made an impression on them as they have made on me. I enjoyed their enthusiastic behaviour and their willingness to embrace me as their teacher. They listened carefully, asked questions, put on a nice dramatic performance, sang songs in Chinese and English and spoke very confidently in front of me, their Chinese teacher and their peers.

There is a beginning and there is an end. During the beginning stages, it can get a little difficult because the teacher and the students need to get to know one another and form a bond. When that bond is successfully achieved then the rest is easy and students and teachers can share in the love, the knowledge imparted, gained, questions asked and possible answered found.

The ending is normally the saddest, as once that bond has been achieved; it is so difficult to break.

Sometimes, it is not by choice but by circumstances that that bond has to be broken, tears flow, faces bow down, we all try to smile through our tears, but in the end we all sob. I just hope that they will never forget me, because I will never forget them. They have really made an impact on my life.

In this life and on this journey to search for our destiny we encounter much trials and tribulations; all we can do is roll with the wheel until the wheel stops and our life comes to an end on this earth. No one knows what the future holds so we should just jump at any chances to achieve our dreams. We should take whatever we can get and strive towards making our dreams come true, as no one is certain on how long we will live on this earth.

As I look back on the last eight months, all I can is that it was all worth it, every experience whether good or bad is an experience worth noting. There were times when I was lonely as I am a foreigner in another country, but then just taking a bus ride outside would cheer me up.

Memories fill my mind as I think back to when I first started teaching in South Korea (2007-2011) and then coming to China (2012-2013) to experience another adventure filled with hopes, dreams, fears, doubts, cultural differences and culture shocks, but All I can say is that it was All worth it. It is just plain amazing.

I would not change it for the world. There is a kind of peace that comes over me when I travel to places like Korea and China and I loved the attention that was bestowed upon me.

Therefore, I have learnt so much from the students, teachers and the people of China.

I have grown to love them so much. I love working with students and I do hope that they achieve their dream and I get to see them one day again as All my students whether they are from China, Korea, or South Africa: Will always be in my heart and memory forever…

I hope to see China again with its beautiful landscape, unique culture, sophisticated language, exquisite dishes and its beautiful people . .

Love, Lee siebritz

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