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Teacher Experience: General
This section describes the backgrounds of people who ventured out to this far away place and identifies the cities in which they taught. It also contains comments from returned teachers who were willing to share their experience including the effect these experiences had on them.
2. Teachers' Backgrounds
Many of the candidates placed through this programme were teachers but not necessarily teachers of English or even any language, other subjects being Maths, Art, Costume Design, Physics and History. Candidates have come from backgrounds as diverse as Information Technology, Law, Medicine, Local Government, Accountancy and the Military.
Just as disparate as the backgrounds from which people came were the reasons candidates gave for wanting to teach in China. Many said they were interested in learning about Chinese culture. Some wanted to learn the Chinese language. One person had family ties with China.
' … an additional motivating factor for me was the example of my maternal grandparents, who had been Baptist missionaries in Shanxi Province from 1910 to 1925.As well as going out to teach in China, we were hoping to follow up their story and try to visit some of the places where they had lived and worked, and where my mother and her siblings, who were all born in China, had been to school.'
Others said they felt it would provide them with inner growth or help with their faith journey.
'The Columban Far East Magazine was instrumental in my decision to teach in China. It posed the question, ‘Is God calling you?’ This spoke to me immediately, I experienced a deep desire to heed this call. I resigned from my teaching post in Suffolk 2 years before my official retirement, much to the consternation of well meaning friends, but it was a decision I never regretted, the BEST!'
3. Location of Placements
Teachers were placed in universities in a variety of towns and cities throughout China including Wuhan, Fuzhou, Chongqing, Beijing, and Ji'an. The size of these cities ranged from Beijing with a population of around twenty-one and a half million people to Ji'an with a population of nearly five million.
4. Teacher Comments
Regardless of city size though, all teachers spoke of the respect and friendship accorded to them by their students and the kindness of the ordinary Chinese people. One teacher said
'When winter came several of my students were concerned that I wrap up well and not get cold. A very touching incident occurred on St Patrick's Day in my first year. The previous week I had advised students that this was a very important day for an Irish person and that people usually wear green that day. To my surprise the class monitor had obtained a reel of green ribbon and proceeded cut a length for each student, some wore it in their hair, some around their wrist. Then a couple of boys arrived a little late. I was just getting ready to remonstrate with them when they presented me with leaves of a local plant which were shaped just like shamrock, though bigger. The significance of shamrock they had discovered through their own research – I had not mentioned it!'
'And when lost, sign language, facial expressions, a word in Pin Yin would attract a local who then summoned help on his mobile and a group of people would gather discussing the best option for me. I was deeply touched on one occasion when I was directed to the metro, my guardian angel insisting on paying my fare! On another occasion a local walked me to my destination which was some way away, then after saying zaijian and xie xie, I noticed he retraced his steps back in the soaring heat of 30 degrees plus! This was absolute kindness. A student informed me they were the hosts and possibly the locals would not be treated in the same way as the foreigners.'
(Pin Yin is what a Chinese character sounds like but written in the western alphabet.)
An example of the typical welcome from students:
'We had many positive experiences both in Wuhan and Jian. In both places the students were well motivated, friendly, and frequently told us they honoured us as if we were their grandparents! They were only too pleased to be able to help us with our practical needs and practise their English outside class time.'
'I made many lasting friendships and remain in contact with several Chinese friends, both colleagues and students.'
Other comments were:
'In 2012 I went to China to teach for two years. That was the plan, to help students improve fluency in today’s lingua franca, as I had often done elsewhere abroad. But China was different. I became the student, humbly learning so much more than I could have imagined.'
'My memories of teaching in China are happy ones mainly outweighing the nuisances such as
being jostled, pushed and shoved (no queues). Silent motorised bikes getting in your way without
warning ... The opportunities offered to me through CEC and Aitece are forever etched in my mind as being very blessed. My conception of China was changed all for the better. Deo gracias.'
'My last day in Chongqing was the most painful one as I had to say goodbye to my new found Chinese friends and to the students that I had grown to love. There were many tears but smiles too for I had comfort in the knowledge that I had established that bond of friendship which I will always hold close to my heart.'