I teach about 350 7th graders 口语 (spoken english) at 老营中学 (Lao Ying Middle School). I teach in China’s Yunnan Province, near the city of BaoShan. Due to limited resources and finances, my students are receiving english language instruction for the first time this year.
Students in China are expected to begin studying English in elementary school (3rd grade). Therefore, the 7th grade standard English PEP textbook instructs under the assumption that these students have had previous exposure to the english language. One could imagine just how steep their learning curve must be. In middle school, students will face the 中考 (middle school exam)-where English will be tested. This test will determine what high school a student will be able to attend, a higher score will lead to a better high school, which in turn will lead to more opportunities to attend college. How is a student meant to master 6 years worth of language instruction in only 3?
Interest. English is difficult and though many students understand the language’s importance in today’s globalized world, it is hard to connect english to their reality. Most of my students might end up working in factories, construction, and service oriented occupations within the confines of their county, city, province. These occupations may not stress the necessity of speaking English, nor will my students have the opportunity to use their english language skills outside the classroom.
Me as their teacher. Though my students benefit from having an educated foreigner speak and instruct them in the english language. I wonder if the exposure is enough? Am I or will I truly be an effective teacher? Teach for China provided a summer training institute where we received instruction on pedagogy and hands on experience in the classroom-be that as it may, I did not study education in college and I find myself questioning my ability to be a teacher in the classroom.
However, despite the few challenges I have provided above, teaching the past three weeks has given me a purpose.
I learned that most of my students parents work in far-away cities and only see their children twice a year, when I asked the students who they live with while at home, many answered- I often live by myself.
These students are 12 years old with a unique dichotomy of innocence and responsibility.
My hope is to instill in them, confidence in themselves, choices for the future, and a desire to strive and expect more from oneself. Last of all, I hope to teach them a thing or two in English