What It's Like Being a Bilingual Kindergarten Teacher in China
The Chinese education market has been growing for the recent ten years. As the country is getting more and more open towards the rest of the world, the demand for proper English training becomes ubiquitous.
Compared to the Russian system, where English starts to be taught in primary school, in China, they try to include English as early as the nursery. The difference in culture, language structure, and the lack of proper training of the school staff open the doors to expats.
If you find a position for an ESL teacher in China, chances are you get into a kindergarten.
Two years ago, I found a teaching job in a private bilingual kindergarten chain in China. There were two main branches: a multiple intelligences kindergarten for children aged 3-7 years old with the classroom load of 30-35 children; and a bilingual part for children aged 2-7 years old and no more than 15 children in one class.
I obtained the position of a lead teacher in the bilingual department. My duties weren’t limited to just teaching and I basically had to do everything the Chinese staff had to do.
Our day started with the greeting of the children at the classroom door. We helped them to wash their hands, poured water into their cups and served breakfast. After the usual morning rituals, we had the English circle time, snack time, free choice activities and outdoor activities. By 11:30 AM we served lunch and took the class to the pre-sleep walk while the classroom was transformed into a sleeping room.
All the foreign teachers had a 1.5-hour break followed by a one-hour office time. When the kids got up, I helped my Chinese colleagues to move the beds and serve the afternoon snack. Then they had the Chinese circle time, dinner and free choice activities until the pick-up time.
Besides the usual classroom routine, we had to take part in different school activities. They were usually organized by the administrative staff, but sometimes English teachers had to prepare something as well.
Within the classroom, we were all responsible for the decorations and English-centered environment.
The school also offered special teaching trainings like Multiple Intelligences training and the Letterland training. If you created some courses yourself, the school covered the expenses.
There is a very strict hierarchy in Chinese schools. Unfortunately, it spawns competence between teachers and leads to an unfriendly environment. Chinese colleagues often felt miserable because of the superiors' attitude and for the sake of asserting themselves, reported on classroom inner conflicts, which was quite challenging for me as I used to solve all the problems by myself without washing dirty linen in public.
Relationships With Kids and Parents
As I was as responsible as the Chinese personnel, I had to work on building a strong rapport with both kids and their parents. On the other hand, I taught pre-K1 level, so the kids were relatively young. It was vital to create a friendly environment to make sure everyone was happy in our small community.
I didn’t have enough experience and it was quite difficult to interact with the parents who had a different culture. Sometimes I couldn’t understand their reaction towards me or my assistant. If they didn’t like even a single action, they complained to managers.
Will you consider working in China?
All in all, being a kindergarten teacher in China with its routine and system seems to be quite the same as anywhere else. From time to time I tended to stress out because of those cultural issues, however, it didn’t work well for me and I realized, that if you follow rules and meet halfway, you simply enjoy your work.
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