Today when I came into the office, there were a fair few people in here, but in the office there were three girls.
Makeup Of English Academy Staff
Jessica was one. Another girl that I had not seen before that sits next to Jessica, whose name is Emily. Then the girl I saw another time when you enter the office, on the far left side. Jessica is on the far right, and Emily is in the middle.
The British guy was also in the room sitting down. I said hello to him, and we began to chat in English. We had the most robust conversation, whereas the other three Chinese girls were quiet and did not talk to each other. It is part of their culture to not socialize at work.
The British Colleague
As we socialized, I asked him some questions about Guangzhou. He told me some things about how he has come from Britain. He said,
“Some people think I am from an Islamic country.”
I then asked,
“What was your experience like when you first came to China?”
“I have lived in China for seven months and in the last two months I moved to another place.”
He mentioned, he used to live in Pazhou (琶洲).
“I used to have to catch three trains to come to work. I had to go through Chebei (车陂). Man, Chebei was so bad. There are so many people there.”
“I know Chebei. It is a bit of a disaster area. It is not built up.”
We bonded around travel.
Experience is one discussion, apartments was another discussion.
“This kind of place, most people say it is too expensive, but for me it is good. I can put both my suitcases down and I can still move around. Every month it costs him 1,800 RMB.”
“That is really good.”
Then he mentioned
“There is another guy here who lives in a really rundown place. When you look at it you would not want to live there because it is really shabby, but he only pays 1,000 RMB per month.”
I told him,
“I live in Taojin (淘金), but I plan to move.”
He suggested Air BNB.
“That works in China does it?”
“Yes. That is how I came to live here.”
“When I came here, I saw people spitting on the road, and people pushing their way forward in lines.”
He had the most generalized initiation into China. I thought,
“That is okay, he has adjusted now.”
We are talking about dating in front of the three office girls. I asked,
“What is the dating culture like in China?”
“It is pretty good. When I talk to the girls, I pretty much ask them straight away if they want to go out on a date. 95% of the time they say yes. Of course, it helps if you have good looks too.”
“That is pretty good. Where do you pick them up? Do you go on the street?”
He laughed, and looked pretty shocked about that comment.
Then he went into a story, saying,
“I saw one guy. He was looking at one Chinese girl from a really long distance. He decided to walk up to her and talk to her. He walked past me. So I thought, let’s see what this guy is about.”
He came to explain that the guy spoke in Chinese to her, asked her to sit down, and got really comfortable. The girl was playing on her mobile phone so she was not interested in him. He said,
“After a few minutes he should have just left. He should know he is not welcome.”
“Did he get her number?”
“No. Normally if someone is successful, they will get their WeChat. You will see an exchange of codes. But that didn’t happen. He just walked off.”
“That is a shame. If it was me, in the first minute, I would have asked them for their WeChat, and then you can just ask them on a date. So, where do you find the girls that you date?”
“I just go online.”
I am thinking,
“Wow, what am I missing out on? I have not been going online to look for girls.”
The British teacher gave me some good information actually. We were making better friends and work colleagues.
Our culture at work is much more different to the girls. We like to come in and have a chat, whereas the girls sit down on the computers and that is all they do for the day.
After we talked for 30 minutes, I said, “I am going to go to find my office.” He said, “I am going to do the same thing.” He then went into the big room for student groups.
I walked down the hallway and around the corner to my office with the window. On the way here I saw another teacher with blonde hair. She was sitting in her own room, just like me.
I then got out my laptop PC and began to work.
Meanwhile, on one of the walks to the main office, I asked Jessica,
“Where is the paperwork that I need to sign?”
I saw the other girl was asleep on her table with her head on the bench. The only girl that was awake was Jessica. I guess she is a hard worker.
Jessica gave me the paperwork and said,
“On Friday you will have a class with two kids in the same class. They cannot speak any English. There is no demo to do. You will just teach the class.”
“Okay, I will prepare a lesson for that.”
That will be next week. That was interesting. I finally have one class.
That was a good step.
The time was 1:30 pm when I came out for lunch. By 2:40 pm I came back to work.
I saw the rooms were now filled up with teachers. Next door to me is the British guy. Across from me is another female from Europe with a non-Chinese person in her room. Then up the path is another European girl, and down the path is a loud-speaking American guy with a kid student. There are 6 teachers in the The English Youth Center altogether, which includes me. It is feeling much better now. It was slow to start, but it is getting better.
Jessica In My Office
Things in the English Academy were moving quickly.
Jessica came into my room dressed in a really pretty, beige pink top and skirt, and said,
“There is an AEAS entry exam for Australia. Do you know anything about this? A student will want to come to the office and learn this through you.”
Jessica stood for too long as we talked, so I encouraged,
“Come, sit down.”
She came and sat down, and we were seated beside each other.
When I am sitting in my room, I have more confidence. Sometimes she is confident, and sometimes she is shy. She is a bit quieter a speaker, but sometimes she is confident. So, it is all mixed. We are still getting to learn each other. I guess we will be working together, so we should have a better working relationship.
I went online and checked.
It had 4 parts for reading, writing, speaking and listening. I said,
“It looks similar to IELTS, but a more basic level. We can have a look online.”
I then asked for the password, and then showed her VPN.
“How do you use VPN?” I said, “It is free.”
“Normally it costs money.”
“Sometimes it does, but this one is free. It costs no money.”
I encouraged her to use VPN.
She then said,
“I have to go back to my room.”
“Okay, I will send it to you via WeChat.”
I then checked what AEAS is about. I found it was entry exams for primary and secondary schools in Australia.
I was back in my room by myself.
Things are a bit more fluid now that I am sitting in an office. It is kind of a high-class Centrelink. In Centrelink in Australia, you get money and paid for doing nothing. But I come to China and am sitting as if I am in a serviced office. I have my own office, my own laptop here, and I am getting paid for this, but I am not doing anything except for my own work. It feels like an upper-class Centrelink, where I am still getting paid money, but I am getting luxuries like an office, WIFI, tables, chairs, and all those other luxuries. It is really interesting.
A bit later, Jessica sent a message asking,
“Could you do a class at 6 pm today? It is with a kid. They will read from Big Fun 1 book.”
English Class Preparation
Then I came into her office and picked up the book.
All the classes are busy with students getting taught. I am walking around seeing people writing on the whiteboard. This gives me pointers on how I should do the class. Then I had my book out, going through it, seeing how I should be teaching the kids.
In the office and got myself paper, because we will play with crayons today. The kid can’t speak in English at all, so we have to speak in basic English to him, and see if he can pick up some words.
Student Assistant (SA) Liaison
I then went over and talked to Jessica. Jessica was a consummate professional. She told me,
“Friday, we have a demo class for you. This demo class is really important. It is a group of 3 kids but they only speak Korean, and a bit of Chinese. They want to learn English. The demo class is 5 pm on Friday. Then you have your normal class at 7 pm Friday..”
I asked if I had to sign paperwork.
“It is only temporary because you are taking it off someone else’s class.”
I also wet and washed four plums and tomatoes bought at lunch, and then took them into the office. To one of the girls in the middle chair, I said,
“This is for you all. I bought them from outside. I washed them. You can have something to eat.”
The girl said,
“Thank you. I added you on WeChat.”
“Oh was that you was it. Okay.”
I thought that was a bit flirtatious because nobody else has added me since I came in.
“I am also an SA like Jessica.”
“What do you have to do?”
“I have to liaise with the students, call up the parents, and arrange classes.”
“That is good.”
We developed more rapport.
Then I came back into the room and started to prepare for the 6 pm class.
I went to the toilet and put on my work shirt. It looked pretty cool. I had my paper, my crayons, my book, my whiteboard. All I need now is the student.
English Class One (课程)
I was in the class preparing all the little books. I then thought,
“Where is the kid already.”
I walked to the front reception to get more books.
“Where were you? We were looking around for you.”
“I was in the class preparing.”
The kid was in the room. She introduced me to the kid. The kid was a shy kid. The dad had to usher the kid forward with me.
“Come on. You can come.”
At this point I had no idea what his level of English is.
The kid was a nice, obedient, 8 year old kid.
At the start, I was a tiny bit nervous. Once we moved into the class, that was it. I was with the kid for the rest of the time.
I went through 2 chapters of the book.
The first chapter was about crayon, red, yellow, a square, a circle. You have to find interesting ways to match these things between chapters, to keep the interest of the kid, so he would keep saying things.
At first, the kid was listening and obedient, because I am a teacher and they have to listen. Then I thought,
“I should be a bit more fun with the kid, otherwise he is not going to be happy with the experience.”
So, I was glad when we got to the part when I was teaching him about bees and butterflies. I got different colors into his head.
When I got to the second chapter of the book, the most fun part was when I started to talk about a bee. I was making the bee noise. I had to relate bees to happiness and sadness from a previous chapter.
I would say, “bee” and make the bee buzzing noise, then buzz onto my hand. I then would pretend I got stung by a bee, and then finally, say, “sad” and pull a sad face. I would be looking at the kid, and he would be chuckling at me.
Then I would do a butterfly waving around in the air with my hands. I would float somewhere and say, “Happy butterfly.” I then had to differentiate with him, what is happy, what is sad. I wrote down on the board, I drew a butterfly, drew a bee, drew a happy face, and a sad face. I kept drilling this into the kid’s head over and over again.
That is pretty much how the class was.
Once I gave the kid some crayons to play with, he was pretty happy. The kid was building a stack with the crayons. So, the first thing I did was say, “Crayon,” over and over again so the kid would get that in his head.
When the kid was drawing with crayons too much, I would use the crayons in my lesson, and ask him to draw a chair, or a square, or a table, or a piece of paper, or something to keep him focused on the lesson.
At a later point we were supposed to learn circles and squares. So I put 4 crayons together in a square, and said, “Square.” I then put the crayons over the book where the squares were, and asked him to put the 4 crayons in the shape of a square. He did that. Then he said, “Square.” He listened to what I said and did the same thing.
I am pretty sure Jessica floated around somewhere with the mom in the background. I kind of put it on more and made the kid laugh more, because I saw him look over his shoulder at his mom.
I was conscious that Jessica and others take videos of us to put onto their business WeChat. I was trying to figure out,
“What is the best 10 seconds I can do in the moment that she is behind me?”
It distracted us in a way.
The shock moment for me was when he was putting all the crayons away, I asked,
“Show me which one is blue?”
He would pick one out of the box, say,
“Blue” and hold it out.
That was an epiphany for me.
That moment to me was,
“Wow, I actually taught this kid something.”
Then I asked,
“Where is red?”
He picked out a red crayon. I said,
“You are really good!”
Then I gave him a high five for every time he got it right.
One hour had passed after this lesson had transpired. We finished at 7:15 pm, so we took more than an hour to do the class, but that is alright, I had fun.
It was a good class.
When Jessica came back into the classroom, Jessica said,
“That is enough for the lesson, unless he wants to continue and go for more? Do you want to continue with the class?”
The kid decided not to.
It was a relief to finish those 50 minutes that turned out to be 80 minutes.
Jessica gave me a book to write out what we had written.
“What did he learn today?”
“He learnt how to say crayons, colors, he learnt how to say parts of the face.”
I then tested him, asking,
“Where is the crayon?”
Because Jessica and the other people were there, he got shy and would not show others. But, when he was with me, he was an ace, and knew what he was doing. I was proud of that.
I have to say that teaching is a very illuminating experience. You have to have a sense of humor to be able to get through the class. It was a great illuminating experience, because you cannot hide in a classroom. If the kid gets upset, runs away and cries, then you have done a bad job.
You don’t want to scare the kids. I didn’t do that, and was happy for my first class.
Then, when we finished up the class and I signed the paperwork, I went and packed my bag in the other room. I was getting ready to leave.
In The Office
When I went into the office, Jessica said,
“We are going to have another demo class at 8 pm.”
She looked at me as if to say, “Will you stay around for that?”
“Demo class, I reckon I guess I can stay. How old is the kid?”
“The kid is ten years old.”
She gave me some information, saying,
“I will go prepare the class. You will be alright.”
Then she mentioned with a big smile on her face, finishing the sentence, “Your previous student really liked you.”
There was another girl sitting inside the office. Jessica said,
The other girl couldn’t speak English, but she was there to be an assistant to prepare the classes. We talked.
She said she had arranged somebody to come for a demo class at 8 pm.
“I am going to pop out to get a drink.”
“That is okay. You have half an hour before the class starts.”
“嗯, 我的眼睛很累. ~ my eyes are really tired from that class.”
“Go outside. When you come back you can start the class.”
“You will finish late. You started at 10 am and you will be here until 9 pm. That is eleven hours. You can come for less hours.”
English Class Two (课程)
The demo class I did today, I think I bombed it.
I walked into the class, as the mom was seated down beside the child. The boy is ten years old.
I sat down in the class, I introduced myself. I said my name. Then we went straight into the book that I was teaching him on.
There were only short passages of text there. There is only so much I can draw out of that lesson. One of the lessons was,
“Read the clock. What time is it on the clock?
What time did you wake up?
What did you do after?
You brushed your teeth.
Read the passage.
You fed your dog.
Read the passage.”
I then had to ask questions around that. I asked,
“Do you have any pets?”
“We have a cat.”
I was laterally thinking,
“When do you feed your cat? What do you feed it? How big is your cat? Is it big or small?”
I was asking questions about the animal that the kid can answer.
He did best reading passages. He knew how to speak and read fluent English, so he has been doing pretty well. The only problem he had was being able to articulate some words the right way. I think the kid knew a lot. I think my pace teaching to the kid was too slow. I know however that you should not spend too much time talking to the kids. You should give them practice in talking for themselves.
The place where I fucked up was where I tried to explain the word “at least”. The kid did not know how to say it. I asked,
“Do you know what ‘at least’ means?”
“At least means, look at this cup. It is at least full. No, no, you can’t say it like that.”
Then I tried to think of a way to use “At least” in a sentence. I drew a blank. I could not think of it. I raised my head up, thinking,
“At least is like saying, almost there.”
I was fumbling around for two minutes.
I looked at the mom. She can speak English too, I think. She gave me a look as if to say,
“Come on man, you are taking too long.”
I was trying to make an example out of “at least.” I am pretty sure I lost the kid after that, but I still kept teaching the class.
I eventually said some crap, and finished up.
I then read the passage in the book, which said, “Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds to wash the bacteria off your hands.” I thought,
“Fuck, why didn’t I just read the passage.”
The kid looked bored. He was only listening because he has to. Sometimes he looked like he wanted to leave the class, but he was forced to learn because his mom is there. That is alright.
I didn’t know whether I should make the class fun. I did make him laugh a couple of times.
When I asked about his life in regards to his cat and other things in his life, I said,
“Your mom must feed the cat, is that right?”
We just laughed because I included his mom in the conversation.
English Class Summation
I finished the class. It took 20 minutes. For me it is arbitrary.
When the non-English speaking SA came to the door and said,
“It is time now,”
I kept reading a passage to the kid, because I thought it would look better if I did that. Then we finished up.
She came in and asked,
“Is there anything that he needs to improve on?”
“Yeah, the way he pronounces things. He can’t really pronounce ‘we’ properly, so I have to take him through some of the words, and pronounce them properly for him before he can say it. Otherwise, his grammar is okay.”
I think she needed to say some things to improve, so she can convince the mom to continue to come to the class. I think however by then the mom had already made her mind up.
From there I came back into the office. I went to fill out my form. Then I talked to Jessica. I asked her,
“When are you going to finish?”
“I have to do a lot.”
She is always looking at her computer. She said,
“I will probably finish at 10 pm because the other assistant cannot speak English, so I have to do more of the work. There is a lot to catch up on.”
“Come on, do you at least have lunch?”
“No. I sit in the room.”
“Okay, next time we should have lunch together. We should relax a bit.”
“Alright, we can do that.”
I then handed her a big pear, and said,
“Here, have this, because you are not going to eat tonight.”
She looked at it and said,
“That is huge!”
“Yeah. You can have that for dinner tonight so you do not go hungry.”
The time was 9 pm when I left for home.
The author of Diary Of A Mad Chaos from 1996 to 2018, The Lost Years book, Wubao In China (猎艳奇缘) book series, and Foreigner (华人) an exploration of race relations in Australia. Fluent in Chinese Mandarin, Macedonian, and English, the author currently resides in China, Guangzhou where he continues to make comparative analysis of the cultural differences between Eastern and Western societies.