So here’s a bit of information on the school that I’ve been employed at here in China, just so you have an idea of what I’m doing for 6 days a week this summer!

English First is a private school that opened in 2007, making it a young school that continues to grow quickly. EF Hohhot is part of a branch of EF schools spread out across the country, and is the most expensive and reputable English school in the city (there are 2 others in the city, and a new one opening up next year). I have never been told what the cost is for sending your child to EF, but I assume it is quite pricey, as most students are signed up in packages of 1-15 years! I had a laugh with some of the other teachers the other day, because we were thinking about what that would be like in our own countries: “Hey 6 year old Stephanie, guess what! We signed you up for 12 years of mandarin school that you will attend on weekends and after normal school!!” The Chinese and their education system are absolutely crazy, but I’ll write a post on that in the future.

The school is private, so we work the weekend and get 2 days during the week off. It also means that the school is busiest during the holidays. Right now we are in our intensive period, which runs from June to August, which means we only get 1 day off a week. I’ve been here for almost 3 weeks but I’m already feeling tired from it! We have our down season from September to December, and then another intensive period from January to February (though, I’ve heard this one isn’t as demanding as the summer!). From March-May its another down season. My co-workers say it’s good that I came to Hohhot now because I’ll get the intensive season over with and just enjoy my teaching experience for the rest of the year. I’m really hoping this is true, it’s definitely been a crazy introduction to teaching! By my 2nd day I was covering a class for a teacher on vacation! I’ve never taught before so it didn’t go so well! Lots of nervousness, confusion, asking the P.A. for help. But I digress….

Right now, there are about 15 foreign teachers on staff, all from English speaking countries like Canada, America, South Africa, and England. The school’s prestigious reputation is based on the teachers coming from Native-English speaking countries, because parents in China like to know that their children are getting the best English education possible. Along with the foreign staff, there are 25-30 local staff that consist of P.A’s, administration, marketing, and security/tech. The P.A.’s are young Chinese women who work closely with the teachers, assisting them by translating instructions or confusing words to the students during class. There is usually one P.A. assigned to each class, except for the older classes where the students are able to communicate in English without needing the P.A.’s translation.

The school is broken down into categories, usually based on age but they also take the students speaking level into consideration. The students move up in levels at the completion of their course book, and each level has different numbers of books, depending on what the level requires them to know before they can graduate to the next.

The lowest level is Small Stars (SS), consisting of kids 3-6 years old. The teachers task for kids this age is to get them interested in English by using music, lots of games, and making the classroom a fun environment. These classes I find the hardest to teach so far! Their language is very limited so they acquire a lot of peppiness to keep them interested (peppiness that I find difficult to muster at 9am!), and the material we teach is simple and basic (numbers 1-10, food, letters, colours, “Whats this? It’s a ____!”…etc). The parents get upset if we don’t give them homework, even when they’re 3 years old!!

The next level is High Flyers (HFs), kids between the ages of 7-10. At this level, teachers work on improving the students oral English by teaching them new vocabulary and sentence structures. These classes are difficult to plan and the structures of English they are learning can sometimes be hard for them to grasp right away, but every student has their own unique personality and are usually energetic and willing to play games, so they can be fun to teach…when they behave!

Just a side note, you are allowed to hit children here. Not beat them up, obviously, but I have taken a flashcard and wacked naughty kids on top of the head (AWESOME)! The P.A’s are worse, I always laugh out loud when I see them wack misbehaving kids with their books. Don’t get the wrong idea here! The children are never hurt, it’s just a wake-up call to behave. It always gets a laugh from the child getting wacked and the children watching and it shows them that Teacher means business!

Then there are Trail Blazers (TBs), mostly teenagers from anywhere between 11-18, depending on their speaking level. TBs span 5 levels, from beginner to intermediate, and the focus is on improving their reading, writing, speaking and listening. These classes are longer, and therefore more difficult to plan and execute. But I enjoy teaching these lessons, as I’m more competent and confident when teaching older students. Sometimes they don’t want to play games because they have that “this is stupid” attitude that teenagers get, but it doesn’t matter because I’m the teacher and I make them do it anyway!

And after Trail Blazers comes the Real classes, where students are usually 15-18! Real classes are the best, as the students are able to speak pretty decent English but are taking classes to get more vocabulary, brush up on proper grammar structures and to get more experience and be more confident when conversing in English. I feel like I am best at teaching these classes so far. But I’m just starting so we will see how it goes!!

So that’s a bit about my school for you. I’ll write more posts about teaching as the year goes on, as I have never done it before and I feel like there is nowhere to go but up!



3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ben Babcock
    Jun 22, 2011 @ 00:03:32

    Oh noes, Stephanie hitting the children…

    Thanks for the summary. So you’re teaching various classes? Are you on a fixed schedule or is it more, “You’re teaching this today”?

    Sometimes they don’t want to play games because they have that “this is stupid” attitude that teenagers get, but it doesn’t matter because I’m the teacher and I make them do it anyway!

    You are awesome. Keep up the great work!


  2. Holly
    Jun 24, 2011 @ 03:33:46

    i cant wait to see bad teacher……. this post reminded me of that.


  3. Giancarlo Cerquozzi
    Sep 28, 2011 @ 11:12:27

    this sounds super neat! I can’t imagine being signed up for a schooling package that lasted 15 years.


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