Teaching English in China to university students is very different compared with teaching children or middle school students. Even if you have excellent teaching experience in kindergarten or middle school, Here is some advice to help you to teach university students in China.
1) University is their first taste of freedom
You may have heard about that the Chinese education is quite different from the West. The gaokao, as the exam is called, can make or break a child's future in China, and the study habits - cram, memorize and forget - that are formed in preparation for the intense competition that comes with living in the world's most populous nation are unlikely to dissipate or change anytime soon.
When they are in their middle school, teachers always tell them how important the college examination is, so every day’s learning is for the exam and they just need to cram and memorize. Day after day, night after night, they get into the bad habits of all study with zero creative balance. When they go to university, it is their first time to feel free and think by themselves. As an ESL teacher, it’s very important to understand Chinese education system and encourage students to think outside the box, and to make lesson plans as entertaining and exciting as possible. Typical Chinese classes are largely lecture based, and students aren't encouraged to discuss or ask questions. In an oral English class, however, our job is to get students to speak, even if it means asking direct questions to individual students - a teaching style they're certainly not used to. Some students may not want to interact with you the first time; you should be patient and nice. With your different style, they will enjoy the freedom they have in your oral English class, and look forward to coming back again.
2) Help them think outside the box
Because of the Chinese traditional education, and their elder generation’s impacts, Chinese university students are usually less creative. They’re used to thinking in a traditional way and they don’t want to take risks. As an ESL teacher, it is not our duty to introduce creative thinking in class; it isn’t our responsibility to force students to learn US education system. But you must guide them to think creatively and independently as much as possible.
3) Make the class comfortable
Learning a second language requires an ability to overcome a fear of saying the wrong thing. Chinese students are all very shy and reserved. They talk less in class even when you ask a question. They are afraid to say wrong grammar and use the wrong words which cause other students to laugh, and then they will loose face. In that situation, they feel uncomfortable and they giggle uncontrollably.
Remember to make the classroom a comfortable setting. Students won't talk at all if they feel threatened or intimidated. If students make some mistakes, please correct them patiently but don’t discourage their speaking courage.
4) Talk more about what students interested in
Due to Chinese government’s supervision, many students don’t like to talk about Chinese politics, especially the negative. Another reason is that they all live in an environment with which they all familiar. So they prefer to learn more about western country’s different culture, religion, beliefs and life. For example,you can talk about western philosophy and literature. And make the class full of energy and prepare some topics the students are really interested in.
University students are all adults, they have their own mind and have their own interests. Asking them after class is also a good way to get into their heart and make your every class successful.
5) Be a friend
In China, students seem to have a long gap with their teachers. Teachers hurry to leave the classroom when the bell rings. Students have rare chances to communicate with their teacher, even if the questions are about class. Chinese teachers seem strict and talk less.
In order to make your class great and different, get on well with your students and be a friend. Put yourself into student’s shoes. When students all love your class, you gain a lot, too.
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A Lawyer of foreign hiring in China, Mark Manning is the CEO and Founder of Teaching China.net, a teacher employment and service provider firm that helps teachers get closer to their employers and win at securing a safe and valued teaching position in China.