the best is for the best

12 May

Man, if I could turn my private tutoring sessions into a full time job, I might never leave China.

For one thing, I think I’m better suited to teaching primary school students. If I could go back and do it over, I would go for a primary school job. The problem is that I don’t understand how high school students think. I’m not sure I ever did, to be honest, even when I was one. I didn’t really know how to have a conversation with other 15 year-olds and keep their interest (much less pique it) when I was 15. I’m certainly not a master of it now.

With primary school students, I find it much easier to maintain control of the room, even when I have a demo class of 100+ students and they’re all hyped up and rowdy, because I have a decent understanding of how to get them to react the way I want. If I want to make them curious, if I want them to laugh–saying the right thing to get the response I want is pretty instinctive for me. I suspect I’m not all that unique in this–I think teenagers are a mystery to most adults. But primary school kids…I like them. I like the way they think and the stuff they say, and I feel like I know what to say in response. I don’t feel out of my depth.

I still often feel out of my depth with my teenagers.

My high school students like my class; I believe this. I get constant feedback from the students themselves and from other teachers. I like them, too, but on my end it takes a lot more work to maintain that balance where I like them and I feel like I’m being productive with them.

The other reason I like private tutoring, besides the fact that I just really like the kids, is that it’s a huge ego boost. Parents are dying for native English speakers to teach their kids here in China, and they are so happy to see me coming. They drive me around, they praise me, they give me gifts. And the kids are happy to see me, too…you know, here in China almost every kid is forced to participate in extracurricular academic activities–like Math olympics. Compared to the stuff they’re doing every other evening of the week, my class is fun. If they weren’t with me, they wouldn’t be watching tv, they’d be learning physics. Trust me, they’d rather play blind man’s bluff in English and read National Geographic Kids magazine.

I also like tutoring because at least one parent is usually present–but that parent generally doesn’t speak English very well, if at all. So I have a parent there with me, which prevents discipline problems, but I don’t feel like I’m being evaluated and judged, because the parent can’t understand what I’m saying. It’s pretty sweet. I do lose some control of my lessons, like I mentioned in the entry about my tutoring sessions with Julia and her daughter Fairy. But, honestly, after dealing with 500+ high school students on my own all week, I’m happy to sacrifice a little bit of freedom for disciplinary help.

Also, they pay me really well. If I could get a visa to stay here and do this full time, I could make a killing.

Speaking of primary students, I thought I’d post a photo of the countryside school I was sent to teach at two weeks ago. I was correct in thinking that the “countryside” part had more to do with the economic status of the students than with the physical location. I took this photo standing on the fifth floor of my (non-countryside) high school–you can see the railing I’m leaning over. The countryside primary school is the building with the bright red roof. It’s literally next door.

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