So I stuck around Hangzhou this summer to do some part-time work and pick up some extra cash, yet with only one week left remaining, I haven’t written much about my job.
Despite living and teaching in China for the past 4 years, I’ve only had one job experience at Zhejiang Agriculture and Forestry University. It’s a government run public university. And it’s pretty clear I love my job. The pay isn’t the highest, but the students are great, I get some good benefits (like free apartment, airfare back to America) and the hours are low.
I’ve never wanted to work at a private language institute, despite the higher pay, because I’ve heard bad things. Very little time off (and night and weekend classes), rich, bratty students who don’t actually care about learning, and administration that tends to screw over foreigners. So why did I choose to work at a private language training center this summer? Well, the money was amazing, more than twice as much as my uni job, and I had 2 friends that worked there and had no complaints.
And overall I have to say it is great. Summertime is the high season for these kinds of places, as students are off school and their parents kind of force them to continue studying. And at my school, the kids are rich. For instance I get an obscene salary for my one-on-one classes and obviously the students pays more to the school. I have no idea how much a 4 or 6-week course is but it must be in the tens of thousands of rmb. Also, my students have had their parents pick them up in cars (another luxury item) and almost all of them have iPhone 5’s.
But the good news is they are not spoiled. These kids actually work hard and participate. In fact, in my group classes they are almost more active than my uni students. It’s because most of them have a purpose. Either they are going abroad next semester, or sometime in the near future, or they have one of the major English tests like TOEFL or IELTS.
So classes are quite fun. I spend the most time, almost 2 hours every weekday, with just one student. In the beginning it was a girl who was going to UC-Davies so her english and comprehension was quite high. But she left and recently I’ve been teaching a 14-year-old boy. He plans to go to Canada in 3 years.
As I’ve spent hours and hours with him we’ve gotten to know each other quite well. He’s quite creative and friendly, but I can’t say he’s the sharpest tool in the shed. I told him something about Yunnan (a province in China) and he said he had no idea where Yunnan was. That’s basically like an American 14-year-old admitting he doesn’t know where California is. So we did a lesson on Geography as traveling is one of my favorite things.
I showed him a blank map of North America. “Tell me which countries you recognize,” I said.
He hesitantly pointed at America and said, “Canada?”
Then I showed him a map of Europe and right away he recognized Italy (thanks to the boot shape) but nothing else. “What about England? Where is England?” I asked. He pointed to mainland Europe. “Here?” Umm, nope.
But I’m very proud to say, after reviewing the major countries locations, 2 days later he was successfully able to identify 15 countries and even knew their English names. I’m quite proud.
I have night classes, and they are bigger groups ranging from 6-12 students. In the big groups their levels are different, which can be a challenge, but I just try to do things so that everyone can be active and talk regardless what their level is. We’ve had a lot of fun too, but one thing I don’t like is that the students constantly change. In 6-weeks I haven’t had one continuous student the entire time. For someone who likes to get to know their students, it’s kind of annoying to have them on constant rotation.
So I guess I’m re-thinking my anti-training school stance. This school has been quite fair to me, scheduling my classes around my needs, not overworking me, and overall just treating me fine. I’ll admit, with the pay I’m getting it’s quite tempting to stay, but I can’t abandon my darling little university students quite yet.