How is the average foreign language class structured?
Each class lasts about 40 to 45 minutes. Students will only have their English language class once per week.
Pro tip: Plan your mellow activities for the beginning of class. Young students sometimes have a hard time reeling it in after a fun/crazy game, so those are best left until the end of the period.
Tell me more about the students I will be teaching.
You may have trouble holding students attention, not because they are disinterested or are not respectful of you as a teacher, but because oral English is not tested on their entrance exams to high school. The students you will be teaching are ages 6-15 and will probably be preparing to take that exam. Because of that, you may find students doing many of the things they do in the States: homework for other classes during your class, not paying attention, etc.
Pro tip: Your class is most likely the fun class i.e. the time the students have to take a brain break and switch things up. Plan your lessons with that in mind. You're the cool teacher and your class is the one students look forward to! Students can do group work, watch films, play games, perform mini dialogues, etc. Find out what your students want to learn, be creative, and overall keep an open mind.
What do teachers normally do when students misbehave? Is there a standard protocol?
Teachers can either report the students to administration (often there are teachers similar to department heads who oversee groups of classes), or teachers can just try their best to ignore them. Out of a classroom of 40 students, there is bound to be at least one student who is not paying attention or distracting other students.
Having a reward system or competitions in class can keep your students engaged. Points on the board, team games, and passing out stickers or candy works well. Having a good working relationship with your colleagues is invaluable, as you're likely the most lenient teacher of the day. When a class or even an individual student gets out of hand after several warnings, snapping a picture of the troublemaker and sending it to the head teacher can work wonders. You may be called upon to explain your case to the head teacher and the parent, but that student without a doubt will be much better behaved for the next lesson. Explaining (or showing) that you have the head teacher’s contact and following through with the punishment from the beginning will make your classroom that much better.
Will students have English names? Will I be expected to memorize their Chinese names?
All students will have English names, so you do not have to memorize their Chinese names. Actually, it will be likely you have so many students it will be difficult to memorize their English names.
Pro tip: Usually students will be assigned a number that identifies them within their class. One teacher found that calling on students to answer questions by randomly picking a number was super effective for participation. The students knew it was random and didn't feel singled out in front of their peers. Win-win!
Why is Monday so significant?
Monday is the Flag Raising Ceremony, so students typically dress a little nicer on these days. Foreign teachers are not always expected to attend this ceremony; it varies from school to school.
Do students wear uniforms?
Students generally do not wear uniforms.
What is the dress code for teachers?
There is not a strict dress code for teachers to follow. Jeans are acceptable. For ladies, avoid wearing anything too short or low cut. Try to look put-together and you will probably be fine.
How do the Chinese feel about visible tattoos on their teachers? What about piercings?
Generally, the Chinese do not want to see visible tattoos, so do your best to cover them. The same goes for piercings, however, small facial piercings will not be a problem. They understand you are foreign and welcome your diversity, but you will probably not see any Chinese teachers with tattoos or piercings.
How is the school year structured?
The school year is broken down into two semesters. The first semester starts the first week of September and goes until the second week of January. The second semester starts after the Chinese New Year holiday and goes until mid-June.
Pro tip: You'll have lots of time to travel, but peak travel season in China occurs during the week-long holidays (see below: Chinese National Holiday and Spring Festival) because everyone in the country is off from work too. Plan ahead and buy tickets early. Or choose to travel when Spring Festival is over or at the conclusion of the 2nd semester.
What about the vacation time/long weekends?
There may be some variation, but most schools will follow this general Public Holiday Calendar:
September: Teacher's Day in China, so while you will still go to work on this day, students may give you gifts to show their appreciation. Also, Mid-Autumn Festival usually lasts a few days, and sometimes combines with National Day
October: Chinese National Day; there is a one-week break at the beginning of October to celebrate
January 1: the New Year; no classes for a 3-day weekend
February: Chinese New Year; there is about a six week break in-between semesters from mid-January to the beginning of March
April: Tomb Sweeping Festival; there is a long weekend
May: Chinese Labor Day; there are no classes April 30 - May 2
June: Dragon Boat Festival; there are no classes for a 3-day weekend
If I'm sick, will there be a substitute teacher to teach my class?
If you are sick, there will not be a substitute teacher for your class. If you cannot teach your class, the students will most likely miss their English speaking class for the week and would be taught an additional lesson in mathematics, science, or have study hall.
What types of technology will be in the classroom?
You will see the same types of technology, if not better, as you would in a U.S. classroom. Each classroom will have computers and projectors for PowerPoint or other presentations, etc.
How much American culture are we allowed to introduce? Music, movies, etc.?
The students welcome all American culture, except for politics: try to avoid that subject. Otherwise, use your English speaking class to each about culture as well. For example, have a Thanksgiving celebration, host trick-or-treating on Halloween, talk about popular movies, use music. Have fun with your culture, but try not to compare them by saying one is better than the other. Respect the Chinese culture, but you are welcome and encouraged to introduce American culture.
What things should we NOT do in class when teaching students that might be discouraging and/or American habits?
Students may feel embarrassed to speak up and express themselves freely at first. Constantly putting students on the spot may be discouraging for them. Be careful when talking about other places and cultures, try to avoid negative stereotypes or over-generalizing. Speak clearly and at a speed appropriate for the level you are teaching.
Are students allowed to use laptops and/or cell phones in class?
Students are generally not allowed to use laptops or cell phones in class, but as in the U.S., many students will anyway.
Pro tip: Lead by example. Put your own cell phone away and on silent.
What is the most important thing an AYC English teacher should know?
Be prepared to learn on the job. No one expects you to be perfect. Get ready for the ups and downs that come with teaching. The moments of triumph when your students have a break through and times when you hit a road block. It's all part of the process. Don't forget you can reach out to your other AYC colleagues for advice. The most important thing for AYC teachers to know is to be open-minded and patient. Don't get mad at the students, and remain calm and friendly during the lessons.
I hope this post has given you a better understanding of your role as an AYC teacher and what you should expect next year in the classroom. If you have further questions, post them here or send them via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.