Originally posted September 16th, 2009
So I find out that I’m going to be based in Shanghai for the next few months. Shanghai wasn’t my first choice as I didn’t really want to go to a city; I was up for seeing some of the more rural areas of China. To be honest though I wasn’t really bothered where I was placed as I didn’t know enough about China when filling in my application to make an informed decision. I did, however, get my first choice of age group as I have been placed in a kindergarten.
Shanghai is a 14 hour train ride from Beijing and the schools paid for us to come down on a hard sleeper obviously a daunting prospect. Despite its name the hard sleeper was actually really quite comfortable. Each compartment has six beds (2 rows 3 beds high) and there are no doors on the compartment. You do have to climb up to the second and third tiers so if you think you’d find that difficult you’d have to plan ahead. Our tickets were sorted out by the TTC partners so I don’t know if you can specify what bed you want when you get the ticket. The beds are quite comfortable and after a bit of chatting Stephen (who is at the same school as me) and I got a good 8 hours sleep. I’d highly recommend the hard sleepers as they’re quite cheap and as you’re traveling overnight you save on a hotel room. I didn’t buy food on the train so unfortunately I can’t tell you what it’s like, we took pack lunches.
>Take toilet roll as there is none on the train (take this as a general rule as most public toilets I’ve seen don’t have toilet paper). The toilets are pretty grim as they are of the ‘hole-in-the-ground’ type and peoples aiming skills aren’t the best...
>Lock your bags. Though I felt perfectly secure I think it is a good idea as the compartments are open to anyone, better safe than sorry!
>Always, always, always keep your ticket! On the train it will be swapped for a card then before you reach your destination you get your ticket back, at the exit of the station someone will check your ticket. This person will be wearing a uniform, if anyone else tries to take your ticket refuse. Stephen gave his to a beggar without realizing and then we found out we needed the tickets at the police station to prove where we’d come from! Luckily he had a person from the school to sort it out for him.
After getting off the train we were met by Hu a guy that works for our school, which, incidentally, is called the ‘Outstanding American Pres-School’ random I know but it seems most of the schools here have odd names. We got in a taxi and drove to the school to drop off our bags before going for some lunch. After lunch we had a brief tour of the school and then a rather confusing introduction. Our liaison at the school wasn’t there as she had gone on a trip and I think the language barrier made the process more difficult. I was asked if I was willing to work the next day and although I’d have rather had the weekend to get settled I didn’t want to seem work shy to the new employers so agreed. I thought I might have to go round some classes meeting students and teachers and joining in a bit. No. I was given my time table of eight 45 minute classes and six books that I would need to base the lessons around. I put them in my bag until after our visit to the police station, which took much longer due to the ticket loss. Finally got to our apartment at about six and by seven I had showered and unpacked and was ready to face about as many lesson plans in one night as I had done in the 120 hour tefl course! I managed to get them all done with varying degrees of confidence, some of them were pretty sparse as the books were in parts more of a hindrance than a help and I didn’t have a clue what they wanted me to teach! By half 12 I was knackered after the night before and all the traveling so decided to get some sleep and take the next day as it came.
My first day of teaching ever went much better than I thought it would, it was actually quite fun! The lessons that I had planned went quite well and I had a Chinese teacher in the class with me which made it much easier. Some of them even had things to teach the kids so in the one class I’d lost my lesson plan for the teacher gave me all I needed! I left the school after my first 8 hours feeling uplifted and quite pleased with myself, I had survived and had 2 days off to get settled and check out Shanghai.