Online or Overseas: 4 Important Tips To Keep in Mind When Teaching ESL Students from China
From hours spent in class, to lesson structure and break times, formal education in China is worlds apart from that in America. The chasm is not only caused by physical miles involved, but also the native variable cultures and traditions between the two countries. We’ve learned that there’s no reason to force American educational system ‘norms’ on Chinese students, as that can lead to high drop-out rates and low attendance.
Instead, American teachers, whether working overseas or teaching online, can try to fold some of China’s customs into their curriculum. Students will appreciate the connection, and teachers will notice regular attendance and deeper engagement.
We’ve compiled a list of some behavioural differences in the Chinese education ecosystems, and how American teachers can best work with their new students.
1. Class Participation
At first, you may notice your class is quiet. Chinese students can be fearful of “losing face” if they answer a question wrong or offer an incorrect suggestion. For many students, the embarrassment is worse than saying nothing at all. Also, Chinese students are used to teacher-cantered learning. Be assured that they are taking everything in and their passivity is not a sign of a lack of attention.
You can encourage them to ask questions and ensure them that you are there to help them get a deeper understanding of the subject.
2. Independent Learning
Your students see it as your role to impart knowledge. The Chinese culture does not encourage independent learning. Typically, they don’t take responsibility for their learning. In their culture, they are still “children” until they get married and leave home. If you are teaching in China, they may even look to you as a substitute parent during their classroom hours.
They will expect you to tell them exactly what you want them to know, and what to do. Your students will look at you for direction. Set expectations at the beginning of class and encourage them to discover things on their own.
In China, the single-minded pursuit of good grades is usually all that matters. Chinese students are typically diligent and hardworking, but the downside of this is that they often ignore opportunities to expand their horizons and go off-syllabus. The fact that such activities may help them get a broader understanding of the English language will mean little to them. You can explain or exemplify (depending on age and English level) the many benefits of thinking outside the box, expanding creativity, and exploring less rigid aspects of the curriculum.
4. Online Teaching Tips from 51Talk Educators
Rigel Reyes: When teaching English online, humor can be a great lifesaver. It also helps if you create a relaxed mood. Your students will see you as human, rather than a stranger sitting on the other side of the screen! So, have fun together!
Sarah Griego: Always be online and have your classes open a half an hour before your first class. Create an office space for your classes, and keep all teaching materials in one area. For example, I have a lot of stuffed animals in one place, ready to go.
Jay PI: My best advice to new online teachers is to treat your work as a business first. Upgrade your equipment (when possible), so you can provide a better class and make your job easier. For example, get a comfortable headset or microphone and use dual monitors. Make sure to use a comfortable chair because you are going to be in it for a long time. Also, try not to skimp on your Internet service.
Here are some other articles that may interest you about this topic:
Interested in teaching English online? Inquire about teaching for 51Talk