Kids in my classroom will take any opportunity to run rampant. (KRISTA MILLS / FOR THE SUN)
There is a vast difference between the lives of the foreign teachers and our Chinese counterparts. The Chinese teachers work harder, longer and (in my opinion) better than most of us. This is due largely in part to the amount of learning that is required to read and write the Chinese language.
The students are obliged to be in class 12 hours a day, sometimes more. This means the people who teach them are needed to always be around too. Some of these teachers will cook, eat and nap at their desks during these marathon-teaching sessions. This is all day Monday through Thursday and a half-day on Friday and Sunday. There is very little personal time.
Comparatively, in one day I am only told to teach five 40-minute classes at the maximum. With this extra time I try and help them wherever and whenever I can. Without knowing Chinese there is not a lot I can do though.
In a recent interview with a Mary, a Chinese teacher in Grade 6, I tried to get to the very heart of what it is like for them to teach at our school.
Mary chose Grade 6 because of the challenge. Everyday she has to come up with new ways to improve her students’ memory while trying to keep them interested. The best parts of her day are interacting with her students and working with the facilities New Oriental offers to its staff and young learners. Consequently the worst parts of Mary’s day are the lack of free time.
"Sometimes we just want to relax. Sleep, eat and maybe go shopping. Especially eat, I would eat all day if I could."
This quote does not do Mary justice. She may like to eat but she is roughly the size of my leg. The left one, it is slightly smaller.
There are some perks that go with her job though. The students take her and her colleagues more seriously than they do with the Westerners. For years Foreign Experts have been known to play more games and sing more songs than teach strictly and with structure. Her students are well behaved. My students are about one lizard, one bug, one loud noise, one missed look, away from utter chaos.
All of these small events have happened to me by the way. It is difficult to recover the class after a lizard crawls through the window.
Mary’s Grade 6 classes are rigidly at attention every time I see them. She does have seven more years of experience than I do. So perhaps that is the difference. Or she has dark and terrible magicks at her disposable.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition June 23, 2012