Thank goodness for Chinese co-workers. If it weren’t for them I’m pretty sure the majority of foreign teachers would have spontaneously combusted out of frustration, confusion, or any other reason!
In an Aihua school, foreign teachers are dropped into the middle of, what is often a brand new environment, in a brand new country, with brand new co-workers – who don’t speak the same language. The idea of it can be quite nerve-wrecking, and even stressful, if you’re not used to living in a world surrounded by strangers who act strangely, talk strangely, and eat strange-smelling foods in close proximity to your person.
But the truth is working so closely with the Chinese teachers (CT’s!) and sales staff in an Aihua centre is the best possible way to learn Chinese culture, language, and everything in-between. The Chinese staff that I have worked with over the last year have been nothing but kind, helpful, and supportive, in and out of the classroom.
From being the missing link in communication between you and the parents of the kids that you teach, to teaching you how to ask for toilet paper, to taking you to the pharmacy for actual medicine because drinking hot water doesn’t cure EVERYTHING (despite what they’ll tell you), they are life-savers.
In the classroom, I’ve noticed that the weaknesses I have in my teaching style are often the strengths that the Chinese staff have, and I think that makes the foreign teachers and Chinese teachers a good team. There have even been a couple of occasions where I’ve had to double-check a grammar point with a CT because learning English as a foreign language is a lot different to growing up speaking it, and sometimes the CT will remember the best way to teach a particular kind of grammar.
Outside of the classroom, the CTs can be even more helpful for us poor foreigners. I’ve had CTs come with me to the pharmacy, hospital, and bank when things have taken a turn. Not to mention they’re handy to have around when your Didi or food delivery driver insists on calling you to tell you, faster than the speed of light and in Chinese, that he’s 3 minutes away.
The Chinese staff are also great for learning the culture, and actually getting explanations for the weird and wonderful things you see people doing while you’re minding your own business on the subway in Beijing (pretending not to notice the person taking a selfie with you), or strolling casually down the street (pretending not to notice the people ogling you from across the road).
Chinese staff at Aihua work so hard, and they help the foreign teachers so much. I can’t think of any negative counterpoints for this blog post and so I’ll end it here and get back to shopping for my Secret Santa gift for one of my Chinese co-workers (don’t tell anyone though, it’s a secret).