We check in with our Fuzhou based Teach China Graduate Program Participant and resident blogger, Francesca Lewis.
Working at a Private Language Centre in China, your 5 day week will usually start on a Wednesday with your weekend over Monday and Tuesday. Francesca gives us a first hand account of a typical week in China.
The start of the working week, my colleagues and I aren’t due into work until 4pm. For some this means a lie in, for others this means super productivity. I like to think that I fall somewhere in the middle, as I try to start the week on a high. Waking up early, I go to my weekly private Chinese lessons which are extremely reasonably priced but super effective. My tutor is my bosses’ wife, so its perhaps a good thing that we get on well. After a good lesson and a little chat about shared mutual interests, we part ways as she returns to her day and I head to the gym. Already up and out of the house, this is realistically the only way I can drag myself there, despite living directly opposite the building. I chose against signing up to a nicer gym as I prioritised location and price over quality, however this often leads to complacency and a lack of motivation to go as it’s so near. Irony at its best. With my remaining hours, I cook food for the week, and maybe grab a coffee before work at one of the local chains nearby. Having been here six months, I’m basically a local laowai (foreigner) at this point, and am on a very clear first name basis with 90% of the employees, often having them on WeChat. As convenient as this may sound, I haven’t given my WeChat to most of them, but more so it has been passed around as an element of interest. Oh life.
Thursday is the last day of the week we can come in at 4pm. (Assuming we don’t wish to come in earlier to plan/ sort things out at work). As before, I coffee shop, study, and gym. Every other month we go into work around 1 to put in a couple of hours at a local school though, so I find it way more practical to keep the day fairly unbusy. Plus, who doesn’t love a good relaxing day right?
On Fridays, everyone is expected to be in for 2pm to make time for a weekly work meeting to update us on any feedback from head office and to raise any issues/ concerns we might be having. A long day, I start my day at the spa. Having gone once a week religiously since my arrival, I take my spa very seriously. My ladies know me well, regularly informing me that I must stop drinking / eating spicy food etc without any hint from my verbally of my weeks activities. They can tell it all from the condition of my face, and with a skill like that, how could I not regularly return! With a cheeky head massage thrown in, I’m relaxed and ready for a long day of teaching my two most difficult classes. They both have some of the sweetest children in, who are a delight to converse with out of class and always keen to carry my items for me/ give me kisses on the cheek goodbye, but as soon as we are in the classroom environment, let’s just say I’m still working on resolving the lack of classroom management I’ve clearly instilled. Any colleague that has covered these classes, Chinese or Western, has mentioned sharing my concerns, one TA even crying after the lesson because they informed her that they hated her. Don’t let anyone say teaching children is easy. It is rewarding, and it can be fun, but it is anything other than easy.
Saturday and Sunday
On Saturdays and Sundays, the working day goes from 8:30-5:30 with a one hour lunch break in the middle. I’m a morning person, but I need time to wake up, and couldn’t simply drive in 10 minutes before work and successfully carry out 4 lessons per day, so I choose to wake up at 7 and walk the 30-minute journey into school instead. By this time, I’m alert, and buzzing from the beautiful scenic route I’ve just enjoyed. Now on 5 classes, demos and interviews, my days fly by as on the occasion I’m not in the classroom teaching, I’m frantically working my way through lesson plans. This wasn’t the case initially, having arrived to a newer school, it took a while for every teachers work load to rise and often I would spend more hours making resources and planning than actually teaching. With 6 classes a week as a maximum (this constitutes roughly 12 lessons at 1/1 and a half hours per lesson), im on a healthy work load, and enjoy the weekends. At lunch, my colleagues and I will either pop out to dine at one of the local Chinese restaurants for Fujianese local food such as peanut noodles, Lian Pi or beef noodles, or bring in food from home to heat up in the school kitchen area. Finishing at 5:30, the evenings are ours, and often, we will go out to SanFangQiXiang to grab a bite to eat/ go see movies/ or often, grab a few beers and hang out together at someone’s apartment. Many apartments in the DaRuShiJia area are new and extremely modern, meaning that they have lots of social areas including free table tennis areas and playgrounds for the residents. Its dreamy, and practical. Getting up early for the second time on the Sunday is always the most difficult day – adapting from starting at 4 to 8:30 is a weekly struggle, but life goes on, and it stops the week from being too repetitive which is always a bonus.
Monday and Tuesday
The world is your oyster.
Having finished work at 5:30 on Sunday, it is easy to jump onto any form of transport and travel out of the city if desired. A strong advocate for my little tier two city, I often choose to stay and travel around for the weekends, with a gorgeous national forest park, natural hot springs and multiple mountainous hikes and a treetop walkway at my fingertips. I’m yet to tire of my little slice of China, and regularly find new surprises and little hidden away gems to keep my attention. Whilst I have booked off two weeks in June and do intend to finally branch a little further out, for now, the southern tropics are enough for me. My newest recent hobby has become learning to cook with my Chinese colleagues in our spare time as we share different Western and Chinese recipes. Haochi!