It’s the last week of the TEFL course I’ve been taking here in Zhuhai, and we’re teaching in public elementary schools and middle schools now. What an experience. First of all, there are a lot of the little monsters, and they seem to punch and kick a lot more than I was ever allowed to when I was their age. But when I think about the fact that I rarely see a teacher, it doesn’t surprise me. Despite their rambunctious behavior, they are really clever.
The Chinese have definitely taken over the distinction as the most studious pupils on the planet. These little guys start learning English at ten when it’s still easy for them to learn. It makes perfect sense, and I wish more countries would realize that they should be starting younger. China will really have a leg up on its rivals in the Asian community in the near future because of this decision.
Also, the level of technology in the schools surprised me. For a country that is still “developing,” and taking into consideration this is a rich Chinese city, they have so many resources. All of the classrooms I’ve been in so far have big screen plasma TVs and computers. Students in the US don’t have that kind of luxury.
For me it’s indicative of where the priorities are placed. Here, education is highly valued, and therefore the students take their personal educations seriously. They also have higher hopes for improving their lives than western students. It’s easy to get lazy when you’ve already got everything you need and mom and dad have a trust fund…pass the bong. There are also many cultural reasons that can explain why the Chinese are so studious, including the “losing face” mentality I’ve spoken of earlier.
My experience in this elementary school today was invigorating. A 12 year old kid spoke to me in clear, well articulated English. I probably couldn’t have matched his level after three years of studying Spanish when I was 17! It’s made me think again about whether or not I should teach this age group in the future.