Teaching English on a Summer Camp in Yangzhou, China – Part Two

By Yolande Deane
DELTA qualified EFL teacher with 5 years’ teaching experience

Yolande with her students

If you have read the first part of my blog you will know that I was in China teaching in two different cities on two summer camps.  The first camp took place in Nanjing, and the second camp was in Yangzhou.  I had never taught a class of teenagers before so it was a little daunting.  The classes were rotated between four teachers, so I actually taught an age range from about twelve to sixteen.

What were they like?

Students postersI found that the teenagers were very autonomous, for example, during break time they would occupy themselves with either homework they had been given to do over the summer, play cards or they would put on a film to watch until the end of the break.  They were very artistically creative; they always enjoyed creating posters for the classroom, particularly when they had to work as part of a group.

As teachers we realised that working in groups seemed a novelty for them, many of them commented on how much they enjoyed it in the thank you cards they made for us, there was also a clear division between boys and girls, and they very rarely mixed in the classroom.  I do not want to caricature Chinese students as being model students. Of course there were students who were disruptive or did not want to do any work. We had to confiscate mobile phones on more than one occasion and intervene in arguments or fights, but I would not say that was my strongest memory of the camp.

Problems

Fashion showOne of the “problems” we all came up against was their reluctance to speak in front of the class or do any form of group presentations, so, trying to implement tasks that encouraged fluency through individuals talking or small groups was more challenging. They never refused, but many became almost inaudible when speaking in front of the class. Generating discussion as a class was also difficult, it would take ages before anyone would speak without being prompted.

They were very entertained by games that I would assume the average teenager in Britain would find childish; musical chairs, wink murder, snakes and ladders etc. It made our lives a great deal easier, because we did not have to constantly think of something “exciting” to do for indoor games.  My experience of teaching in China for a month was positive, I found the teenagers inspiring; most took great pride in their work, which was shown in the many posters they created and the end of camp fashion show.

They always wanted to do their best, and that for a teacher was very rewarding!

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