What makes a great teacher? The most commonly asked question in teaching interviews; google this and you will find an abundance of opinions and articles; is there one answer, one set of parameters, or can great teachers take on many different forms and styles?
Talking with some of our experienced teachers in China, who have seen many teachers come and go and have the benefit of continual professional development and training, they offered us some great advice when asked the question: How do you make a great impression in the Chinese classroom?
1. Establish your aims and your ambition from day one in China
Overwhelmingly, our teachers noted that a lot of teachers arrive in China and quite naturally spend some time to find their feet, learn key classroom phrases in Chinese, and interact with the students in respecting the cultural and behavioural norms. Spend some time before your teaching placement learning key phrases in the classroom in Chinese, and arrive in your first lesson introducing yourself with real enthusiasm and passion, trusting your gut instinct in managing the classroom. Remember, you have been employed to bring not only English teaching to the classroom, but also English culture to the classroom, so the students will find it enriching to have a different slant on the way their other lessons are run. The immediate use of Chinese will also build early relationships with colleagues, essential to cementing your position as a key member of the teaching staff.
2. Prepare more content than you think you will need for a lesson
Better to be over-prepared than under-prepared. It may be surprising how quickly some of your students pick up key concepts of the English language more quickly than you had prepared for, and you don’t want to be left with any dead time in the classroom. Prepare extension activities and challenging activities for lessons from day one, and your students will benefit from the continual engagement. Remember – if there is no more work to be done, distractions and bad behaviour can creep in to the lesson. It is wonderful to have the flexibility to take a good question from the class and explore one topic in more detail than you had envisioned – so if you do this and are left with lots of left over material at the end of the lesson – excellent! This can save you some planning time in the future.
3. Make effective use of the resources around you
If you are unsure of some parts of your lesson, or if unsure that your lessons are correctly building to the learning objective you aim for, don’t suffer in silence! Build up a network of contacts with other English teachers in the area and ask advice and share ideas and lessons, it is mutually beneficial to share ideas in this way. Opportunity China has teaching colleagues in England and China who are on hand to provide advice and guidance on lesson plans, so they can be contacted too.
Taking note of these key points can help alleviate concern in the settling in period when you first arrive in China, and ensure you make a confident first impression on your students and colleagues in your school in China.