4 Things To Keep in Mind When Teaching EFL in a Kindergarten
As a kindergarten teacher working in China I have a lot of experience dealing with students, fellow teachers; Chinese and foreign, management and parents.
A few years ago I came to China to learn Chinese. To pay for my living expenses I started teaching young learners. Pretty soon I got a full-time job in a kindergarten and I fell in love with the work and I decided to stay in China and keep teaching.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Paul E.
Potential problems you might face in a Chinese kindergarten
One of the first problems I faced was of course the language barrier. In the schools I’ve worked at so far not many people speak English; especially the schools’ management. It’s always quite a task to find out what is expected of you. In China don’t be surprised if you don’t know what is going on around you or if things change at the last moment all the time. For example if the school’s director or owner wants something to be done, it has to be done as fast as possible even if it’s impossible. Since I have a management background at home, I’ve asked myself many times why tasks aren’t handed out earlier. In short, it is because Chinese management is very chaotic. I learned to accept it, if you can’t, it will make you crazy. Chinese staff will do whatever their leader tells them, even if it means working overtime. Working until 9 in the evening when they are off at 5 is not uncommon. Foreign teachers usually don’t work overtime.
You can call on other foreign teachers for advice and support
In most kindergartens you are not the only foreign teacher. Working together with other foreign teachers allows you to learn from each other’s experiences. Experiences in the country where you teach as well about ways used in each others’ home country.
Getting to know your students will help you teach them
Teaching English to Chinese children requires certain skills. First of all be very patient and be ready for whatever. Class sizes can be anywhere from 4 to 40 children and you have to manage it all. Very young children, age 3 years, don’t speak much and you need to make a very active class with songs and many games. Students aged 4 - 5 years usually know some English and are fun to teach. They basically love to do whatever you ask them to do. 5-6 year old students are a challenge; especially boys. In China many boys are spoiled by their parents and grandparents. They are used to getting whatever they want. In class the ones that don’t behave are usually the spoiled boys. I’ve learned that by getting to know each child individually you’ll find out how to approach them and how to teach them in a class. For example be strict or loose, reward or punish.
Parents like to be involved
Teaching Chinese children also involves the parents. Parents all want their child to be the best. If a child doesn’t learn well, the teacher is usually the one they blame. Even you have done everything you can. However Chinese parents are also very good in praising their teacher if their child performs well. I have experienced that many parents try to be friends with me and occasionally invite me for dinner. I politely refuse because many schools don’t allow you to do this as well as accept gifts, read your contract carefully.
Working abroad is fun. You learn a lot from another culture and, especially in China, I feel the work I do is highly appreciated.
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