Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Teaching Challenges in China

This is Cody. Cody enjoys dancing and was able to travel to Singapore and perform with her dance group. Parents in China devote a lot of time and resources into the child. It is very structured and they don't have much free time. Cody attends with her cousin Linda and skipped part of one book but she is keeping up with the class. Many students want to work in higher level books, there are many reasons, schedule, friends, parents desires. One problem you may run into when teaching oral English is the impact or sometimes lack of impact on the students scores in the Chinese schools. Since this education focuses on reading writing and grammar, your oral classes may or may not raise the students English scores. With good students who are speaking well the grammar usually takes care of itself. However, you do get some parents whose express purpose is to raise the scores in the Chinese system, even though this system spits out millions of students who can not speak more than a few sentences and possess poor listening skills if any. So there is a bit of a problem there, if you concentrate too much on the grammar, they speak less, but the parent may be happier. If you can balance it then everyone is probably somewhat pleased.

It's a matter of wearing two hats for me. As the teacher, I want them to be able to speak and have a decent conversation with someone, but as the school owner I must try to get the school scores up to please the parents. Since the system is not going to change any time soon, that means more grammar. I've started implementing the testing from the books which gives me and the parent some idea as to where their child ranks in my class. Having some that score in the 90 percentile helps show the parents it works. It does go somewhat against the grain for me though, as I prefer a more improvised setting around a defined structure,(the book). I have steered away from too much testing as it gobbles up time in class, and they have so many things to study for it just seems like overload. This sort of cross purposes is prevalent in most schools. The other dynamic you get is, it's a business! So some times sales are more important than verified results. Well, it beats working in the factory.

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Larry Rhoe aka worldtour

Monday, September 25, 2006

Day trips for teachers in China

If it is at all possible, get your days off together when you are teaching in China. There are lots of daytrips that you might enjoy. If you teach for a private language school this should not be a problem. It will likely be during the week. If you prefer teaching English to university students that also is no problem. Some schools have real challenges when it comes to scheduling so try to get your days off together. There are lots of overnight trains that can get you there while you sleep so you can maximize your traveling. This is a picture from Jiang Bei, or North River in Harbin at Sun Island. As you can see it is quite nice and a pleasant stroll . Like chess? Get some exercise at the same time. Sun Island is a tourist hangout but the locals like it too. You can see the tigers and enjoy the gardens as well as many other things. Because it is so cold in the winter here, people try to make the most of summer and all that that brings.

Many foreigners may notice a sort of slow motion in the Chinese. It's not much different from say a New Yorker and a small town midwesterner, one has a very fast paced life and the other may at a much slower pace. Most Chinese here in the North are not out of second gear. You see it all the time on the streets and at places like this the pace slows down even more, except for the kids who are bursting with energy. You may like the layed back pace or it may drive you a little nuts, depends on your background. I do think it is important to slow down and enjoy life whenever possible and there are many lovely places to do that. Enjoy!

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Larry Rhoe aka worldtour

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Happy Birthday Dad, You're the best.

Today is my father's birthday. He is 80 years old today and still going strong. He's quite a guy. This picture is when he came to visit me here in Harbin. I was just getting started with the school and this is at my old apartment. I think he is a great example of human being. Dad has spent most of his life as a minister, and he comes to Asia usually once per year at least. He has semi retired and has a nice life working around his place. He also collects some funds from other good hearted people and buys cows and pigs for people in Bali that are quite poor. It's great to see the love of Jesus in action not just as a ritual in a church. There are so many that are pious and don't put their faith into action so I really admire him for that.

Traveling to China is quite easy and not really very expensive. I think anyone can have an interesting time even on a tour. I prefer to be on my own when I travel, but you can always find resonable tours. It's always good to have a friend in the city you are going to visit, and there are many ways to do that too. Well I just wanted to put up a picture of Dad, Michelle and myself on this special day. Love you dad.

Larry Rhoe aka worldtour

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Chinese start English classess when very young.

This is May. May has been taking classes from me for over a year. She was one of my students at the last location and followed me when I dissassociated myself from that school. She is a lovely child, very smart and a good student too. Often you have a smart child that is not a good student. When you get it all in one package it is really nice.

The new class started today. This group is even younger, in the 5-7 year old range. Many can say a few words but the reading skills are not there. They know their alphabet and a few other things. I was not sure if they could do the young learners series from Cambridge press, but I gave it a shot with that book as I have had good luck with it so far. I will probably have to mix in some flashcards and take it a bit slower so they can start to grasp the connection between the letters and word formation. First class pretty good. Michelle helps with Chinese translation and I know a little too. I also am pretty good at the non verbal so that helps alot. Mime is great for verbs, adjectives and adverbs, but not as useful with nouns. It's a great way for me to develop young learner skills, some classes catch on quick, and I always speak English in Class. As I have said before, one major flaw in the English education here is that most of the Chinese English teachers teach in Chinese and that has proven not to work. So by using English only in the classroom, or at least 90% of the time you achieve a better result. They will get plenty of instruction in writing and reading in their schools so having this approach will give a better balance to their overall English Education.

I did my English VCD today as I do every month. I do all of the narration and voices for all the characters on the VCD and book. It is a monthly publication connected somehow to the party. It is quite well done and I work directly with an editor/producer and one computer person to record in MP3 format. It has stories, profiles, holiday explainations and it is completely hyperlinked. When the student encounters a new word, it can be clicked on and then you will hear me saying the word. The book has the Chinese characters for traslation. I usually have one of my students come with me and they perform the Chinese sections. It's great for them to see how it is done and get their first "job" as a performer. Hats off to the production team that does a good job with that. You can take a peek at their website here.

Some of you may have noticed that I took down the posts about Hit, although I felt I was honest, now that my site seems to be able to be seen in China, I thought it best to soften my position. Sometimes a job is just not the right fit for you. This was the case at HIT. I am happy to have had the opportunity but it just was not the opportunity for me. It is an open market now and sooner or later most schools will get with the free market concept of prevailing wage and that should help the teacher, letting those with more experience and credentials to rise to the top. It will also help schools become more well known with the top teachers. Most of us are not here for the money, but let's be honest it is important to everyone, on both sides of the equation.

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Larry Rhoe aka worldtour

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Feng Shui, Fact of Fiction?

Perhaps some of you have heard of Feng Shui. It is a Chinese system of organizing your home into a harmonious situation. Since I am here in China I thought I would check it out. One of the newsletters I subscribe to is about that subject. You can find it here. The picture on the left is in my office and that is my schedule. On the left you see three coins tied with a red string. This is suppose to bring you money. I put it up about 10 days ago, my girlfriend incorporated them into the knotted red string that you see. I picked up the coins outside the school where I teach once a week, they don't have any foreign teachers. An elderly man had about twenty of these old coins. You see them quite often, they have a square in the middle of the coin. Now, according to the blog listed above you should get them from a prosperous business or they should have belonged to a rich person. Well this man was not rich but he was dress very well for someone who sold odds and ends on the sidewalk. My thinking was that at some point in time they surely were in the possession of a wealthy Chinese person. Here is what happened after I put them up.

A few days later, two mothers arrived at my home enquiring about classes and said they could probably deliver 10 or 11 students. They wanted two classes per week that is 2000 rmb, I'm cheap, 25 rmb for two hours, so 500 per week. A few days later I got a call from one of my former students at another school, my first in Harbin, and she also wanted classes for adults in business English. That would be 1400 per month. I also have had about 5 other mothers show up with their children wanting classes. Pretty amazing! Who knows, coincidence? Or does it really work. If you are interested then check it out, see what happens. I don't do any advertising at all, this is all word of mouth so if these 20 new students materialize, I will have about 90 students. One hundred was a goal I have had for awhile. Six months ago when I moved my apartment and my teaching location I had 40 students. So things are looking good for the future and I probably won't have to do any other teaching outside of my own. It's great to be the boss and as I was told by Dan early on in my teaching, a small school with an owner, teacher was on of the best models for making money. Low overhead, no payroll, just your own efforts. Well, not just me, my girlfriend does the books and is my assistant, she's great. Now all I have to figure out is getting the resident permit renewed in December. I think I can get that done through my first job here, for a price ofcourse.

So I have just about made up for the low salary I gave up at HIT, once I reach 100 students my income will have risen to about 10,000 rmb per month, which is about 1200 dollars, and that my friend in China is a really nice sum, that puts you in the upper middle class.

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Larry Rhoe aka worldtour