An Interview with Rebecca Pulford-Broadhurst with Public Middle & Primary Schools in Zhengzhou

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GS: So, can you tell us a bit about how you first got into English teaching?
RP: It was 2 am and I was sat in my kitchen at Aberystwyth University when I heard about this opportunity from one of my best friends. I thought to myself, why not? Why not just go for it? And now, I am thoroughly enjoying life in China!

GS: What advice do you have for people about the recruitment and interview process when looking for jobs teaching in China?
RP: The people who work in this company are truly the best people ever, they are so friendly, helpful and they are always there for you regardless of what time it may be in the morning, evening or even when people should be asleep. They are always there for you. I’d like to thank, Eric, Nina, Joey, Mage and Sally for personally helping me whilst I have been here, and so far, I have only been here for 2 months. But so much has happened!

Also, be optimistic about the whole process. To ask questions, regardless of how silly and unimportant you may think they are, there is never a question that is silly or unimportant. All questions are important so please ask! There were times for me when I struggled to find motivation in getting the paperwork completed, but I stuck by it and I can honestly tell you that I do not for one second regret the choice I made. I am so happy that I chose to embark on this journey and I know it is an adventure that I will never forget.

GS: You are teaching in Zhengzhou now; can you tell us about your impressions of the city? What do you like most about living there?
RP: I am thoroughly enjoying it here. The locals here are so kind and inviting, I’m shocked at how truly lovely they are. I get the feeling as if it’s like a breath of fresh air since being here. The city is so unbelievably beautiful. Every corner you turn, there is something spectacular that catches your eye and I’m in awe of how beautiful it is. And that is in the day time. Seeing the city at night is a whole different experience. I think to myself, how can they make something this amazing look better? And they do. They have buildings filled with led screens or various amounts of lights. Because of this the city lights up the sky, it is that magical. Even the shopping centers come to life at night too. I love architecture and seeing how things look in different perspectives. And Zhengzhou for me, at this moment, has won my heart.

GS: What do you like most about teaching English?
RP: I love that it is varied, and nothing is straight forward.
The children love to learn the language which makes me enjoy teaching them more. The children’s reactions are unpredictable and that makes teaching them enjoyable. All the children still get excited when I walk into the school, down the hallway and they scream and cheer when I walk into their classrooms. I thoroughly enjoy teaching them new words and meanings, I like to introduce them to new songs, ideas and challenge their cognitive skills.

GS: Talk us through a typical day teaching English in your city
RP: I travel on the bus for approximately 5 minutes (during this bus ride, I have children coming up to me asking me questions in English about; myself; everyday things in life etc., and they always ask me if I can teach them English. And you can guarantee that they will give me some sort of item, first time they spoke to me they gave me a piece of paper with ‘hello’ written on it, the third time they gave me a little piece of chocolate and so on. They truly are adorable. They make my morning!

I arrive at school for 7:40am and every morning I am asked if I have eaten any breakfast, to which I sometimes say yes and sometimes say no. and if I say no, my friends will either give me some snacks or will come ready with breakfast for me, which I think is truly adorable. At home (England) we say that we love each other and care for one another. But I have noticed that the Chinese way for this gesture is to ask if you have eaten or not. Which brings memories back when my grandparents asked me if I had ate and id sometimes say yes and sometimes say no, and they would provide me with all the food that they could get their hands on. And I loved that feeling.

My first class is at 8:10am. Second class is at 9:00. Then the children have a 20-minute break/exercise. Third class is, 10:10am. Fourth class is at 11:00am and each class lasts for 40 minutes. At 11:40 -14:00 we have dinner, so I go to my school’s canteen with some of my teacher friends who I share an office with. We get our little metal bowls out and serve ourselves. Then once we have finished we wash our own bowls and place them into our own locker. And typically, after lunch/dinner on Monday, Tuesday and Friday I have no lessons in the afternoon so I can go home and ‘rest’, but I spend this time planning my lessons for the next week. But on Wednesdays I stay until 4-5pm because I have a class at 2:10pm and I then attend a ‘special class’, which can be either watching an English film, taking part in an art class or a calligraphy class. It depends which one is held each week.

Lately I have been planning and putting together a play for the end of spring festival. Finally, on a Thursday I stay until 3pm as me and the English teachers have a ‘research class’ for 1 hour, to give the others some positive criticism so they can improve in their classes or if they are doing tremendously well we then tell them in this informal meeting, or we watch a video on ‘how to teach’ and learn different teaching methods, this is all to improve our own teaching, which I think is very helpful when we actively do personal reflections on our own lessons, It helps me figure out what does and what doesn’t work in the classes.

GS: Can you tell us about your favourite class at the moment?
RP: My favorite classes now are Grade 2. Because I am teaching them about Christmas and some English traditions that we do. Every time I introduce them to a new thing like a ‘bauble’ or some new foods like a ‘Yorkshire pudding’ they are all shocked and excited to learn about these new things. They are such precious people and I thoroughly enjoy teaching them. It fills me with happiness seeing their facial expressions to the new pictures of items that I show them.

GS: What are the teaching resources like there?
RP: The teaching resources (books) are very vague. For example, one lesson in grade 1 can be based on 2 sentences, or in grade 2 they can be based on three sentences and so on and you have to create a 40-minute lesson from these sentences, which is very difficult and could be boring. But, when I first started to use the books, I noticed that there was lots of room for imagination and exposing the children to new vocabulary each week. I am grateful that my teachers allow me to teach in my own way. That is to not only stick to the books content. I can teach what is in the book and I am allowed to add more things into each lesson, so the children are able to learn new words and phrases. I like to challenge them each week to see if I can push them a little to learn more things, rather than just what is in the books. And so far, I think my teaching style is paying off, because as the weeks go by there are more and more children who can speak to me and ask me more questions about things in general, or if they are struggling to read or pronounce a word they will happily ask me for guidance.

GS: How about your apartment? Can you give some details on the place and the area?
RP: The apartment is beautiful. It has two beds, 1 bathroom. It is very spacious and there are two beautiful water features in the complex. I live with my best friend which is amazing and the complex has two gate and guarded entrance and exits which is very helpful as it makes me feel safe and secure. The complex is 1.5km from my school, which is quite close and it only takes approximately 20-30 minutes to walk or 6 minutes on the bus. The area is very up market and incredibly modern. There are plenty of shops to choose from whether it be; food; clothing; convenience stores and other various stores. Also, at night time, the surrounding areas’ buildings light up and that makes it even more beautiful. There are some buildings that have different architectural structures and they are magnificent, one time I stopped and looked at them for approximately 5-10 minutes without realizing I had stopped. They truly are spectacular.

GS: China is full of surprises and unexpected adventures, tell us about one you have had recently
RP: One unexpected adventure that I had recently, was when I went to the bank to open an account. They could not open it on that day because they told me that my name was too long. Which I was very concerned about. But the following Monday, after 2 and three quarter hours, a lovely man helped me set up an account and he mentioned that there was a glitch in the system, and after 12 attempts, he eventually were able to open me an account.

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