When it comes to on-the-job responsibilities and activities in your TEFL career, the majority of your work will revolve around teaching in the classroom. However, throughout the course of the school year, various opportunities will present themselves that will allow you to branch outside of the classroom and become more involved in your school’s culture. From fun outings with your students to community-based events, a career in TEFL can offer much more than classroom work.
Field trips in China are bigger than you might imagine
Three weeks into my time at my primary school in Shenzhen, I was invited to accompany the students on “a trip to the park.” They were taking a day trip in lieu of having classes. I had the choice to simply stay at home if I wished to enjoy a day off at no expense. However, I recognized the opportunity as a good chance to see what China has to offer and become involved with my school and the faculty. So, of course, I said yes to the offer.
Repeatedly, I had only been told that this was “a trip to the park.” I figured perhaps a nature outing to a local park, something of that sort. In short: I was very wrong. Myself, several teachers, and thousands of students boarded dozens of buses for an hour long drive to Overseas Chinese Town, a theme park of epic proportions. For those familiar, imagine Universal Studios combined with Six Flags Great Adventure and then some. My role as “chaperone” was quickly relinquished, as the students were placed in the care of park employees when we arrived. Myself and the other teachers explored the park’s many sites, including cascading waterfalls, 3D virtual roller coasters, cable car rides, walking bridges, and so much more. As I near the end of my first year in China, I can confidently say that day was one of the most memorable I’ve had. Say yes to field trips!
School-organized flea markets for the entire community
One month into the second semester of the year, my school hosted a flea market for the entire community. By the time the day had come, I had already learned my lesson: Expect this to be a very big event. Sure enough, the market was a massive gathering of townsfolk in the school’s courtyard, with every bit of free space boasting a variety of vendor stalls, games, live music, and more.
The best part of the market, though, was the fact that the students played a huge role in organizing and running the entire thing. Many students served as vendors, ticket sellers, and guides. The event gave them an opportunity to have an authentic role in their town’s community, something that yields tremendous value in education. Seeing elementary school students operate a flea market with hundreds, if not thousands, of customers was something I could never have anticipated when coming to China. Similar to the field trip, this was another day that I will remember for a long, long time.
Sports Day is a great way for students to take a break from class and enjoy themselves
Sports Day is a day that most, if not all, Chinese schools will be familiar with. It is the American equivalent of field day though, as you may expect by now, much bigger. At my school, Sports Day was a full two-day event, during which no classes were held in favor of two days of fun and activities. Students are encouraged to compete in a variety of track and field games respective to their age group. Those who don’t compete still attend, cheer on their peers, and have fun of their own.
At my school, the event kicked off with an “opening ceremony” where all three thousand or so students marched around the outdoor track in their individual classes of fifty or so students. Some classes had gone as far as crafting their own shirts for the event, with fun designs and team names on them. Over the course of the two days, the athletic competitions included high jumps, shot puts, basketball, and more. However, no competition drew greater attention than the races. Students of all ages lined the sides of the tracks to cheer on their classmates as they sprinted to the finish line in hopes of bringing bragging rights to their classrooms. Win or lose, though, everyone maintained a positive competitive spirit throughout.
Activities at your school
These are just some examples of the various activities beyond the classroom that my school has provided. Other schools will likely host different activities and events for you to attend. All of them, whether they align with your personal interests or not, serve as great opportunities for you to embrace your school’s and community’s culture.