TESOL in China
Peoples’ Republic of China, Heenan Province
Sanmenxia Shoujun High School
Sanmenxia Shoujun High School is privately owned and caters for around 3000 students. It is situated in Heenan Province one of Chinas most populous and near the rural town of Louang.
Though the school is large it also reflects the rural conditions from which the boarding students come. In that beds have no mattresses, I was told that the students find them uncomfortable since they have always slept on a board bed. Ablutions in the dormitory blocks are very basic and students go to the nearby town bath house for a full body wash. Westerners may well be surprised but this reflects rural village life in China. The accommodation for the English teachers was clean airy and with hot showers. All meals were supplied and if you enjoy Chinese food these were terrific. Beds for the English teachers did have mattresses and were very comfortable. The western teachers only worked upto twenty hours per week and I say only since their Chinese counterparts worked considerably longer for much less money.
School started at 6am with morning Tai Chi, a light breakfast followed and first class of the day commenced at 7.30 am. Apart from a break of an hour and a half to eat and nap around mid-day, classes then ran continuously until 9.30pm seven days per week! Every four weeks they had a long week end so that students could travel home.
Teaching students from a strict Confusion grounding in respect for elders and especially teachers is difficult. I quickly found that they giggle when embarrassed by difficult questions, both sexes, and it would be extremely impolite and counter productive to press when this happens. You just have to find a different approach. Classroom discussions where many opinions are expressed and debated just does not happen. If addressing a student (even if you do not know their name don’t point!) they stand with hands clasped in front answer the question very politely then sit down. Do I hear experienced Australian teachers saying “I wish!” It is no gift really because the whole room hangs on your every word and gesture, don’t expect to get down from being the ‘Sage on the Stage’ these students are very very uncomfortable when confronted by a situation where they are both allowed and encouraged to express their own thoughts rather than regurgitate what they have heard you say.
Heenan is a picturesque area. In close by Louang are grottos that have been inhabited for thousands of years until quite recent times by Budhist Monks who keep the nearby White Horse Temple. We travelled around Heenan to several rural towns all of them were well kept and clean. The people dressed simply were clean and well kept and the food was simply terrific. If you ever get invited to a banquet eat slowly and don’t let your host fill you up on the first few courses. Be aware that you are settling in for a five or six hour marathon and the host won’t be satisfied until you are in an agony of over eating. Mastery of Chop sticks is a must, any thing else conveys too much food too quickly!
China is an experience that you cannot have enough of there is so much variation. English Explorer has an excellent contact in Beeijing who is an Australian with Chinese background and this sort of anchor point makes for stress free help if you need it.