My First ‘Open’ Class as a Kindergarten Teacher
This week’s blog comes from Mahalia Peake, University of Nottingham graduate currently teaching in Foshan as part of the 2018 Teach China Graduate Program. This is her fourth blog installment where Mahalia gives us an insight into an ‘Open Class’ in China.
There are many cultural differences that I was aware of, and had prepared to face prior to entering China; balancing over a squatter toilet or passing the chicken feet section of the supermarket was not going to catch this expat off guard! However, I never truly considered the cultural differences I would have to face within the Chinese educational system itself, especially working in a private Kindergarten.
For eleven months of the year, a private Kindergarten in China is much like one back in England. However, for one month of the year the kindergarten is turned on its head and gets a metaphorical face lift in honour of the much anticipated Open Class…
What is ‘Open Class’ in China?
Open class is a concept that some private kindergartens and many training centres partake in, in which for one day the parents of the children you teach are allowed to come to school and sit in for a day to observe and assess how their child is learning English. In my case that meant around 40 tuition-paying parents were to squeeze into the back of my classroom and shadow my school day from morning till afternoon… a daunting prospect to say the least!
Though the specifics may vary from place to place, the general aim of open class is for parents to get an accurate impression of a normal school day, and so I wasn’t expected to roll out the red carpet or do anything extraordinary for my lesson. However, as with all forms of observations, you are expected to put your best foot forward.
Not all Open Classes are the same…
Open class can vary widely depending on the teaching facility that you work at. Many teachers at my kindergarten decided to incorporate the parents in the lesson, having them compete with the kids in games, or help their child make a craft. My open class was also followed by a 40 minute informative PowerPoint presentation.
Conversely, a fellow teacher’s recount of her experience with open class at a training centre she previously worked at involved open classes every 2-3 months with no parent-teacher-child interaction. Contrastingly, public schools usually do not take part in open classes at all.
The Big Day Arrives!
After two weeks of preparing my presentation and going over my lesson plan, it was finally the day of my Open Class. At the beginning of the day I was most definitely a ball of nerves, and for good reason too…seeing the steadily growing crowd of parents, all recording their respective child with their smartphones as they eat breakfast was a far cry from the morning routine I was used to! Thankfully, as time passed and the parents settled in to watch their child play games and sing songs, much of my nerves settled too. It became apparent to me that the parents were here not to play judge, jury and executioner to the foreign teacher, but because they wanted to see their child have fun and enjoy themselves while they learn some English.
Often I would have parents laughing along with the children when one of them gave a silly answer, or cheering them on during team games. The presentation, while more structured and formal that the lesson observation, was also relatively calm affair, brought forth with the help of an organised game of musical chairs between parents to help break the ice.
In summary, I would say experiences such as Open Class and home visits (in which you visit the parents’ house and have dinner with them) are unavoidable for those who choose to work within the private education sector of China. The best advice that I could give a new teacher would be to realise that the parents just want to see their child have fun with you, and not to put undue pressure on yourself!