Teaching in China: snapshots #1

Writing a blog gets pretty difficult when you have something like 31 classes a week, including IBDP Economic, IGCSE and A-level English, and regular ESL. Even more when the only time you can actually think for a while and write something down is during office hours. Since I don’t have Polish keyboard available in the office I decided to write this (and maybe some more) posts in English. After all we all know it, right?

The Big Classes in Public Schools

Some classes in Chinese schools are really big. 40-60 students is absolutely normal. What is more, you don’t get any division into groups, which means that you have to deal with this insane number of students at the same time. As one could expect the level of English with such a big class is a lottery, and in one class you may get students who don’t speak English further than ‘Hello’ and those on decent intermediate level. Add that with the fact that Chinese students are unwilling to volunteer for answering questions and are absolutely unsuitable for group work and you have a nightmarish picture.

Fortunately it is not always that bad. Some students will volunteer for answer after all, and group work can save your ass at times. I mean, if they actually speak in English, because that’s completely different thing.

Students in China are afraid to speak English. It’s a cultural thing I guess, similar for China, Korea, and Japan. If they are not 150% sure how to say something, and how to pronounce something they will not say it, unless you force them to. Their education and culture is not accepting mistakes, and they are so afraid of fooling themselves in front of peers that they prefer not to speak at all.

Finally not all classes are that big. I teach seven different classes separately. In one school the three classes have respectively 5, 7, and 10 people. In the other school the classes are 17 and 35 (divided into two groups) and 46. I think I can consider myself lucky to have only one nightmarishly big group.



I had a quarrel with a supervisor from my company about school books recently. I don’t work directly for the school but rather for a Teaching Agency, who sends me to a school. My manager insists on my teaching from the textbook. Not just teaching that material but actually using the textbook itself in the classroom. The problem is that the textbook is shitty to tell it the mildest. Students detest it. I find it boring, outdated, and plainly bad. But she is Chinese and she insists on using the goddamn book. It doesn’t matter what I teach, for her it is wrong as long as I’m not using the book. The funny part is that my supervisor on the school’s side doesn’t really care if I’m using the book or not as long as I teach right.

Generally textbooks in China are a complicated matter. It is very hard to import teaching books to China (unless you bring them with you) and all books available are the ones printed in China. Some are reasonably good (Cutting Edge series is available for instance) but most are bad. Fortunately I can still make my own materials, no matter what the manager says.


Respect for teachers

Today’s post is not very optimistic, so let’s end up with something positive – respect for teachers in China.  In China being a teacher really means something. Teachers are reasonably well-paid (both Chinese and Foreign) and respected by their students and society alike. Parents will not try to interfere with your teaching, thinking they know it best, and most of the time no one will be telling you what to do. After all you know how to teach, right? Also the students pay some respect to teacher. What ‘respect’ means this is completely different question, as in many schools students do not see anything wrong with playing with their smartphones or literally sleeping on the desk during the class. However, they are still respectful o you as a teacher and they will mostly obey what you tell them to do. Of course there are some exceptions but I have like 5 of them for approx. 100 students I teach (all in one class…), so at least this part of teaching is much easier in China.


Do you like today’s post? What do you want to read next? Do you mind reading it in English? Let me know in comments what you think.