Teaching English in China – Greetings from Changsha, Hunan, China!

Courtney Tomlinson teaches Oral English classes to both 6th graders and 10th graders in China.From Today, we kickoff our new blogging series, “Teaching English in China”. So, keep an eye out for regular updates!

My name is Courtney Tomlinson, but my students here in Changsha, Hunan, China call me Miss T! For the past four months and for the rest of the year, I am teaching Oral English classes to both 6th graders and 10th graders at Zhounan Middle School. It’s true what they say about experience like mine, you end up learning more from your students than they learn from you!

EducareLab has provided me the opportunity to be a guest blogger and share some of my meaningful insights and goofy stories from my classroom here in China. Please feel free to leave me comments, or email me with questions or feedback! My email address is Tomlinson.courtney[at]gmail.com. As I expressed briefly in my bio, I am very interested in cultural and educational exchange and that exchange can begin anywhere! Especially in the blogging sphere. I will do my best to engage your interests about China, highschool, education, and anything else you can think of!

Now, I want to share a short sample of blog topics to come:

Today’s lesson was on “Infomercials: Using persuasive language to get someone to buy something.” A How To on selling. I went through the aspects of a commercial: Name of the Product, physical description, what it is used for, why you should buy it, pricing and language. Then the students were given time to choose objects at random from a bag and create their own commercial. In planning the lesson, I had prepared for a louder and crazier than normal class, expecting the kids to be excited for the chance to act a little silly, as some of the objects were very unusual.

My downfall in this lesson was forgetting to anticipate the Chinese system of learning, which relies heavily on memorization and recitation and very little on problem solving and creative thinking. At the beginning of class I had a quote from Albert Einstein, because they all know and love him; “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”

Still, when we began the activity, every group was raising their hands and asking, “Miss T, what is this? What does it do? What is the name for this?” I tried to respond with “You tell me, you make it up, use your imagination.” This unfortunately, fell on deaf ears.

When one girl would not relent, I told her the name of the object was a Power Converter, which I had brought to China. I tried to challenge her by saying, but maybe in the future you can use in to charge your brain, just like a computer or cell phone. She laughed, but when the group got up to present, it was back to a Power Converter.

There are so many lessons and comparisons that can be drawn from just five minutes, in one of my classes! My Chinese students like answers and facts. They are so accustom to getting this knowledge from their teachers, that they rarely question the teachers during their lifelong educational pursuit. When you ask them Why? They respond with “No Why!” Or the one reason they were taught and memorized.

The upside to this lesson is that without debate, Miss T becomes an expert on anything and everything in China. Stay tuned for more of my wisdom!

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