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A Teaching Experience In China


Ann Timonin


individuals who understood less than I expected. Class sizes were capped at 40 registered students; however, I rarely taught more than 25 at a time. My institution had an attendance policy that prevented non-attendees from writing the final exam. Students who attended regularly would let me know if they needed to miss a class, but some simply never showed up for even one class. Few foreign teachers know much


With PhD students, July 1, 2010. C


hina is an exciting place to vis- it and Chinese universities are hungry for North American


teachers with experience in teach- ing EAL. Retired teachers, especially those between 55 and 60, are most welcome. While my Chinese experi- ence will not be what happens to ev- eryone, there are some constants that will certainly make it enjoyable. I went to Kunming in Yunnan with


my husband in 2009-2010. Tere were several advantages to this location. First, Kunming is known as Spring City where the daily average tempera- ture is 25◦C year round. Second, Kun- ming is the capital of Yunnan and has good hospitals, an international air- port, and it is a popular place for tour- ists, so the local population is used to foreigners. Despite this, Kunming is only the size of Toronto and feels less crowded than the mega-cities of Hong Kong, Beijing or Shanghai. Situated in the mountains, Kunming is also a good starting point for travel to world famous beauty spots like Li Jiang, the Stone Forest and Shangri La. Many Chinese universities adver-


tise for foreign teachers. My experi- ence was a little different because I


28 n KEEP IN TOUCH | Spring 2014


used the recommendations of a Chi- nese friend to secure my job teaching at a teacher training institution. Tis “Chinese way” of getting work is an advantage as the employer is indebt- ed to the friend who recommended you and will do everything possible to make the stay pleasant. On the oth- er hand, you will cause the friend to lose face if you do a poor job or cause trouble. Moving to a better position at a different university – a ploy used by many young teachers – is particularly rude. Because I had an MA, I was offered


classes of Masters and PhD students at Yunnan Teachers’ Training Uni- versity. Tese students needed sever- al English credits to graduate. I was asked to teach courses in writing and in speaking for a total of seven classes a week lasting 90 minutes each. Te content of these classes was also my responsibility as there were no text books for this level of teaching al- though English-speaking teachers for Chinese students whose major was English had adequate texts. My stu- dents ranged from high intermediate learners to proficient English speak- ers, but each class had two or three


Mandarin, especially as the written characters are complex. I had studied for three years of Saturday morning classes before we went to China, but my knowledge was still very limited – enough to get myself into trouble and not enough to get out again in some instances. Since my class lists had numbers as well as names, I sim- ply asked students to identify their names on the lists and to provide a simplified version of that name in “pin yin” – the phonetic alphabet. Some chose to supply an English name; oth- ers used their Chinese name. I copied the lists into spreadsheets with both characters and names listed next to the student number so I could track attendance and marks. Since I knew Chinese students use


a different approach to essay writing, my main focus in writing classes was the typical short opinion essay – in- troduction, three or four body para- graphs, and a conclusion. I offered practise topics for marks and we pre- pared examples on the same theme in class. I used actual English proficien- cy exam questions and selected es- says connected by a common theme such


as family, the environment, home towns or government respon-


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