I recently wrote a piece about how Chinese students are different than American students. Because it’s important to know what you’re getting into before you teach in another country!
Don’t be alarmed, though. In many ways, Chinese and American kids are very similar. If you have any experience teaching or babysitting in your home country, the knowledge you gained will undoubtedly help you when you teach overseas.
Here are a few ways you can expect Chinese children to be exactly like American children.
1. They love to sing
Growing up, my favorite parts of lessons were always when we sang songs. At school, we sang jingles to learn everything from the 50 states, to presidents’ names, to algebraic formulae. And now, at age 25, I still remember some of them! (Does anyone else still hum the “slope of a line” song?)
As a general rule, kids love to sing. Chinese students are no different.
Your Chinese teachers will be happy when you incorporate songs into your lessons, especially if you teach primary school. Are you teaching about moods and feelings? Sing “If You’re Happy and You Know It.” If the kids are learning about modes of transportation, introduce them to “The Wheels on the Bus.”
You can sing these songs acapella, or you can show videos. No, China doesn’t have access to YouTube, but you can find videos for all these songs on a website called YouKu.
2. They want to impress their teachers
Chinese and American kids’ relationship with their teachers differ a little bit. While American students typically respect their teachers, the Chinese hold them in high regard and often fear them more than Americans do.
However, kids from both cultures want to show off for their instructors.
Just like American children, Chinese students want to prove that they are smart and capable. For this reason, when I ask students to raise their hands to answer a question, I often have kids jumping up and down, yelling, “I can try! I can try!” In fact, some kids are too eager, because they want to show off for me.
Don’t be afraid about lack of participation. If you teach high school, some kids might think they are too cool to answer questions. But if you teach younger grades and no one is answering, they probably just don’t understand. Try presenting your instructions in a different way or making your lesson a little easier. They’ll be fighting each other to answer your questions in no time!
3. They respond to peer pressure
I wish I could say that I was too confident to give into peer pressure as a kid, but that would be a lie. Actually, that would probably be a lie if I said it about myself now as an adult, too.
Regardless of country or culture, kids respond to their peers. For this reason, dividing your classes into competing teams is a helpful tactic. I usually divide them into four groups.
When someone answers a question correctly, or when everyone in the group is being quiet, I give that team a point.
If a student misbehaves and makes his team lose a point, all the kids start yelling at him. That will make a rowdy kid calm down!
4. They are children
At the end of the day, they’re just kids. They like to have fun, show off, and be with their friends.
Even if you can’t understand what your students are saying, remember that they are just kids. Give them a break and help them learn.