"Hang on a minute... it's May already?"
Yep. It's hard to believe I've been in Beijing for 4 months now. Where has the time gone?
Firstly and most importantly I want to express to those of you doing the TTC internship this August - or those of you considering it - you won't regret it. The experience has been fantastic, from the awesome people you meet to the culture change to the teaching. Every aspect has been amazing. Don't get me wrong, it hasn't all been easy, but the good times by far outweigh the bad.
Looking back to my first week as a teacher, I can proudly say I have learned a lot and become a much better teacher than I could have ever expected. Knowing I have been able to influence 32 young minds and help them learn makes every day worth it. It's funny that I'd never even considered teaching before this time last year.
The school I teach at is an International Primary School, so I don't actually teach Chinese kids; instead I have students from Korea, Japan, Mongolia, Cuba, Colombia, the USA and so on. In my sixth grade class it's hardly noticeable as the kids usually talk to each other in Chinese (getting them to stop is a near impossible task!) However, I also have a class of beginners, and of course the mix of languages has created cliques of nationalities. It works well for me, because as I teach them English, they are teaching me Spanish, Japanese and Korean. You should see their faces when I mispronounce a word.They don't let me get away with it! "Miss Loren, you should say it like this!", "Listen, Miss Loren, Listen!". Sometimes I forget who's the teacher and who's the student, but I can't say that's a bad thing.
If you're feeling nervous about teaching, don't. At first, of course, I was. The idea of standing in front of a class of young children and having them hanging onto every word I say was terrifying. Firstly, let me say, this just doesn't happen. They are young kids and don't particularly want to listen to their teachers. The good thing about this is that if you make a mistake (for example, mispronouncing a word or spelling a word wrong on the blackboard - yes I have done this more than once) chances are, they won't notice. If they do, a simple "Well spotted!" makes them think you did it on purpose to catch them out. After the first week, the nerves had gone. Instead, I was mostly feeling frustrated.
The sixth grade class. The demon children. The little b****rds. Oh, what names haven't I called them? They are such a talkative bunch, to put it very nicely. It's one of the most annoying feelings - talking and not being listened to - but it's one you have to deal with on a daily basis as a teacher. There will always be kids who just don't want to learn. I have tried literally everything I can think of to get them to be quiet. In fact, if anyone has any ideas, please share them! I went from being the 'friend teacher' to being the 'evil teacher' (as one of my students wrote in her journal) and back. I have found that now I've relaxed around them, they are more willing to listen. Also, they are at an age where they are easily embarassed, so I've found having a joke at their expense is much better punishment than making them sit and write lines. Plus it's fun for me! They are a nightmare sometimes, but they are all smart and funny kids. Sometimes it's hard not to see the funny side of their excuses for forgetting their homework or playing with their phones in class. It's always important to remember, you aren't teaching a class - you're teaching students, and each one has an individual personality.
As for life in Beijing, it's certainly different. The best thing for me is the nightlife. I am a party addict. No question about it. Sanlitun has given me many a good (and usually very drunken) night, with a lot of good people. The drinks can be expensive, but they don't hold back on the spirits! If you're heading to Beijing, Sanlitun is the place for a night out.
The area we live in is in the South East of Beijing near the Communication University. It's not a busy area, but it's not far away from Sanlitun or the Silk Market, so we're happy. The food is usually good. There are plenty of stalls on the streets offering BBQ, crepes, spicy potatoes and all sorts of tasty treats. It's all very cheap as well, so that's good. The only downside of the internship is the salary I'm afraid. It's enough to get by on, but if you party like me, you'll struggle! Luckily, I managed to pick up a job teaching business English at a company near where we live to earn some extra dough. It's easy enough to get extra work when you're out here, so don't worry too much about it!
Anyway, it's about dinner time here, so I will love you and leave you. If you are considering the TTC internship or generally teaching in Beijing and you want to know anything in particular, feel free to ask and I will give you as much advice as I can.
TTFN. Loren x