David Murray, GapBreak, China
The teaching practise has been and gone and, while it was challenging, we were all up to it. It was incredibly nerve-wracking at the front of a classroom full of forty-three 15 year olds, all by myself, but we all knew the benefits of the practice. Twenty minutes into the first day my hands finally stopped shaking, and by the end of the week they didn’t shake at all. The kids were great, and very eager (if a little shy). Though we only knew them for a week, it was sad to know that we will probably never see them again. Upon completion of the teaching practice, we found ourselves with most of the next day free and no idea what to do with it. Some people took the chance for some last minute sight seeing, others just relaxing or heading into the city in search of teaching materials for the coming months. We had our graduation dinner, thanked our tutors and hit the town one last time, for come the morning we were headed to our new homes.
Hayley and I were on the first bus to the station at 6:15am. We decided it was probably easier not to sleep, so we didn’t. I do not recommend this. We were tired and impatient and the crowds at the train station should not be faced with this demeanour. We battled our way on and found our seats and settled in for the 4 hour train ride to Shenyang, in the north. Not a wink of sleep was had. There was another crowd to engage at the Shenyang station, at the far end of which we met the smiling Danni, who took us to our new home. Dongbei Yucai, north campus. We lugged our luggage up 6 floors of stairs to our room at the very top, where I sit as I type this. These small rooms will be our home for the next 4-5 months. We had no misadventure with our lodging as we have heard from some of the others, who have no running water until some time in October and others that are temporarily in a dorm built for 5 year olds. We did lose water for a couple of days due to some road works, but other than that our room seems pretty comfortable (if not a little hot).
At this point we have spent five days in total at our new school, and have been teaching for three. If there is any word that best describes the campus at which we teach (which is an hour bus ride away from where we live) it has to be ‘impressive’. It is a combined Primary and Middle school, and has around 4000 students. The buildings themselves are built to impress, and circle a courtyard bigger than a football stadium. Oh, and it also has a football stadium. There are three of us teaching at this campus, two in Primary and one, me, in the Middle school. Across all my classes I have about 750 students, the largest class I have taught so far having 53 students. For the most part the classes have around 40 students, and they are either 13 or 16.
I have realised that there is no reason at all to be nervous because they are just thrilled to have a foreign teacher. The other teachers are great as well, and have made me fell very welcome. As I settled into my new office I was shocked to see the students willingly cleaning the staff room with brooms and mops, bringing fruit to the teachers and one student was even giving her teacher a shoulder rub. The students’ English is incredibly good, but only on paper. They have little opportunity to speak and listen, which is why we are here, and as such I have been given no syllabus or course book and have simply been told to tell them about my country and culture. This is a challenge in itself as now I need to make up 5 months worth of materials, but, being a native speaker, it doesn’t matter what I do as long as I get them speaking. It is a lot of hours and a lot of work, but well worth the effort.
David Murray, Deakin University, 6-month Teaching Placement, China