An Interview with Tre at Rainbow Station in Shenzhen, China
GS: So, can you tell us a bit about how you first got into English teaching?
TT: I first began teaching with Teach For America in Atlanta, Georgia, where I taught fifth grade. During my time in Atlanta, I taught all the core subjects, including social studies, math, English, and science. I enjoyed watching my students learn, discover, and challenge each other so much that I wanted an opportunity to continue this work in a different setting upon moving to China.
GS: What advice do you have for people about the recruitment and interview process when looking for jobs teaching in China?
TT: The most important aspect of working in China, based on my experience, is flexibility. You are encountering a culture that may resemble your own in some aspects (especially in larger cities), but that can also make it easy to undervalue the differences that exist between home and China.
One of the major differences I’ve encountered since being in China is how most people here operate on a fluid sense of time. What this means is that times set for meetings and other engagements are often approximations rather than definite. For example, if you have a meeting beginning at 3:00, you may come to find that your colleagues arrive at 3:10. For many people outside of the culture, especially Westerners, this may be a point of frustration, yet with open communication and clear professional expectations, these discrepancies with time (and other cultural differences) can be easily mended.
Flexibility is always most important when considering living within a new culture, especially China. You will find that, by being flexible, you will come to more greatly understand and appreciate the differences between the two cultures, and they in turn will have a greater sense of what it is you value and how they can also accommodate your expectations.
GS: You are teaching in Shenzhen at the moment, can you tell us about your impressions of the city? What do you like most about living there?
TT: In Shenzhen you will find a city that is on the verge of becoming one of the world’s greatest cities. Within the next generation, it is sure to stand out amongst the Hong Kongs, New Yorks, and Londons of the world. Shenzhen is a relatively new city (only thirty-five years since its founding), but it is quickly growing with rapid infrastructural and cultural development. This creates a space where people, newly arrived to Shenzhen, can stake out their corner and infuse their own ideas into what the cultural identity of Shenzhen should be. I love being able to create opportunities for myself and others here, while also admiring the many talented people who have grown to call Shenzhen home. Here in Shenzhen, with the right idea, drive, and ambition, you can accomplish anything.
GS: What do you like most about teaching English?
TT: Perhaps the most important part of teaching for me is opening the world to my students. They are going to inherit a planet that is at once much larger and much smaller than the one in which we currently live. With the increasing rise of technology, more and more cultures are being brought into greater knowledge of each other. Teaching, especially within a foreign culture, allows me to act as a cultural ambassador of sorts, bridging divides and mending misunderstandings, while also drawing the world a little closer together and preparing students for success in the 21st century.
GS: Can you tell us about your favourite class at the moment?
TT: My favorite class at the moment is any of our signature Leader in Me classes. In these classes, we teach, outright, the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People to our students. Watching two, three, four, and five year olds grasp these important principles and apply them so readily to their own lives, has been the highlight of my teaching experience here. It is such a unique part of Rainbow Station, giving students a framework by which they can plan, achieve, and measure their own success. Any time I am able to teach our Leader in Me classes, I feel that I am really connecting with our mission of ensuring the success of each child.
GS: Talk us through a typical day teaching English in China.
TT: A typical day of teaching at our school involves arriving to school on time, meeting with your teacher’s assistant to coordinate class materials and any additional accommodations/modifications for that day’s class, going out to Station Square to meet and play with your students, teaching class, and then speaking with parents directly following class about what the students learned and did that day. Following that, our teachers provide an additional opportunity for partnership with our parents by filling out short written feedback about each child’s specific performance that day in class.
GS: What are the teaching resources like there?
TT: There is an abundance of resources here with our school! From a limitless number of American children’s books, to craft materials, paper, and other office resources, our teachers always find exactly what it is they need to conduct the best classes possible within our school. If an item is not currently stocked at our school, we have systems in place where teachers can easily order the items they need in advance and have them delivered to the school in time for their class.
GS: How many teachers are there in your school?
TT: There are currently 6 American lead teachers and 7 Chinese teacher assistants.
GS: China is full of surprises and unexpected adventures, tell us about one you have had recently.
TT: Recently, some friends and I went on a hike at Wutong Mountain, one of Shenzhen’s more popular hiking locations. Near the summit of our hike, at the top of the mountain, we met a group of men from America who were in Shenzhen for work.
We were pretty thrilled when the guys then told us that they were here with Disney/Pixar, and they were working on a new film, especially because one of our friends worked as a voice actress with a local studio here in Shenzhen. When they found out she was a voice actress with one of China’s largest animation companies, they were instantly hooked and asked her if they could all exchange information.
One week later, my friend went to meet with these same gentlemen and the director of their film, and at the conclusion of the meeting they offered her a role! It’s always fascinating the types of people you run into here in Shenzhen and the types of memories and networks you build.