Teaching kids in China (4) - Teamwork

Teaching kids in China (4) - Teamwork
DaqingDevil Aug 23, 2013 12:00

Well another term of school is about to start as the long summer holiday comes to a close. I’m not sure what the kids have been doing because as opposed to the holidays back home where you see school kids having fun everywhere you go the kids here were noticeable by their absence. No kids in parks, none wandering the streets, no juveniles getting up to shenanigans, nobody caught plastering graffiti over public walls, no delinquents challenging and harassing the elderly and certainly no kids feeling each other up in deserted alley ways or closed school grounds! Refreshing in a way.


The papers the other day in China were going ape about the national basketball team having its worst result since 1975 in the Asian Championships. Why? Where were all the budding basketball players and Chinese sportsmen and women that performed so admirably in the Olympics? Well, if you must know they were all in private classrooms somewhere studying or learning something new. Certainly not outside enjoying themselves in the summer sun!


This unhealthy obsession to maximize study time and to hell with any physical activity is making the children of China into dull people if we are to apply the maxim of too much study and not enough fun. There is a form of PE in the schools the most bizarre being eye exercises a couple of times a day. If the children really want exercise they enroll in martial arts and dancing classes outside the normal school times. They don’t form teams or “houses” as we do and there is a distinct lack of team work and the psychology of working, playing and competing in teams is sadly lacking.


In our English classes we form the kids into teams whenever we can, be it for spelling, sentence or grammar games but the concept of the kids working together as a team requires a bit of effort and explanation from the teacher. Chinese kids really like to individualize everything they do. I guess that might be a result of the one child policy as well because they have no need to share, frighten, fight with or be scared of a smaller or older siblings when growing up. The mothers and fathers of the current one and half generations are really different people than the kids they are raising! The fact that most of them had brothers and sisters would be a reasonable explanation.


And losing! Oh my, what wonderful little losers the kids are if they are beaten in a game that is of no importance, if they don’t score a 90+ mark in their tests, provide a wrong answer to the teacher in front of other kids or just don’t know the answer to a simple question. Students bursting into tears in the classroom for any of these minor…..nothings….is not so rare a sight. Temper tantrums and refusal to play any games in the class is another way the kids elect to behave.  Funny thing about that is the other kids don’t ostracize any individual for this behavior, they just shrug, ignore and accept.


 In private schools it’s important that all the kids pass the oral and listening tests given by the foreign teacher. It’s actually so important that we teachers are “kindly” requested to not mark students lower than a certain score, usually 80%. Lets’ face it, parents are paying a pretty penny to put their kids through private English schools and it just won’t do to have the kid fail…right? Teachers who take the moral high ground can mark students as failed but rest assured that that mark will not be the one shown to the parents at crunch time. And crunch time is? ....... when the school asks for next term’s fee of course. With this system in place it’s frustrating but not unusual to find you have a 14 year old student in an advanced English class who cannot say more than the basic English greetings!


I adopted a system for the older kids, about 12 and above, which enabled me to write in detail just where I thought the student was with respect to their English. Maybe other teachers before me couldn’t be bothered doing this which was time consuming and possibly ignored anyway. My assistant, who was also the principal, decided to read these out to the students and parents who attended the last class of the term. She translated my comments into Chinese and surprisingly the parents really appreciated the time I had spent writing these short critiques. I was never demeaning or over critical but tried to encourage and point out areas where the student could improve be it listening, pronunciation or vocabulary.


On the lighter side, the new term will give us lots of new students and gives them the opportunity to bring out the only bit of creativity and imagination of their use of the English language you will ever see  – adopting an English name. This is done for no other reason than to help the foreign teacher learn the names of his/her students because remembering their Chinese names in Pinyin or Chinese characters is nigh on impossible. Interspersed amongst the Alice’s, Mary’s, Coco’s, Yoyo’s, Anna’s, Lucy’s, Amy’s, David’s, Peter’s, Sam’s and the like we have these gems:

Tiger, (a highly strung, wimpy 10 year old boy), Animal, Honey (for a boy), Kaka, Happy, Rainbow, Jizz, Veedee, (VD?), Hymen, Twink, Racecar, Stop Sign, Sky, Cherry (not in the same class as Hymen thank heavens!), Ghost, Apple, Rabbit, Wasabi, Leaf, Silky, Rolex (rich parents I guess), Chaos (liked Get Smart episodes maybe), Bird, Winter, Summer, Kinky (nice symmetry of letters), Forp (?), Garlic, Merry (a boy), Rain, Sunshine, Flower, Butterfly, Snoopy, Pimp, Dodo,  Atlantis, Condom (14 year old girl), Lion, James Bond, Mango, City, Cigar…….the list is almost endless and yes it’s hard to keep a straight face when these names are given to you. (My thanks to echinacities forum contributors for many of these names!)

Tags:General Teaching & Learning Language & Culture


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If that was true they would be "Wang King" :P

Aug 27, 2013 17:29 Report Abuse


For those name themselve as "King", maybe because their name is "Wang", which can be the character for "king" ?

Aug 27, 2013 14:52 Report Abuse


I had the same experience on all the aspects you mention - inflated grades so that they are in the [100, 75] range, completly disconnected with the actual level of the students. Failing to comply to the rule would have me facing the school's direction. - students almost to the tears for some of them, when struggling - students in a class they don't belong to (like, advanced computer science topic when they can't write one line of code correctly) - one that made me twitch : burping and loud throat clearing during the class -_-' However, my students were 20 to 23 years old, in a top-tiers science & engineering university, one year from getting their engineer diploma... I heard the same stories from other teachers, foreign or not. I also have interviewed young graduates for jobs, and they were *all* suffering from the effects of such style of teaching. Is it really an endemic phenomena ?

Aug 27, 2013 14:50 Report Abuse


Agreed! they must ingrain this idea of not failing young because I worked with three year olds that seem to have this problem!

Aug 27, 2013 12:50 Report Abuse


I covered a class and had twins named "Lady" and "Gaga" too! Perhaps they were the same ones... :-) GREAT STORY!

Aug 27, 2013 12:07 Report Abuse


I have a set of twins in my class, suitably named "Lady" and "Gaga" :)

Aug 27, 2013 10:34 Report Abuse


great read!

Aug 26, 2013 14:47 Report Abuse