An Interview with Lauren at Joy International Education in Beijing
GS: Tell us a bit about how you got into teaching English?
L: I first came to China in 2016 with the goal of improving my Chinese. During my year as an exchange student at Peking University, I started working at JOY part time. After my studies were over, I found that I wanted to live longer in Beijing, continue working on my Chinese, and see what it would be like to work at a school. So, I decided to sign on as a full-time teacher.
GS: Can you tell us about your impression of teaching in Beijing? What do you like the most about living there?
L: I had very little teaching experience when I started, so there was a pretty big learning curve in the beginning! But I did a lot of learning on the job, and I ended up liking it more than I initially expected. As for Beijing itself, I would say one of the things I appreciate most about life here is the highly developed public transportation system. I come from a small city, and it’s such a relief to not be stranded because I don’t have a car! There’s also the opportunity to meet people from all over the world and no shortage of great restaurants to try.
GS: What do you like the most about teaching English?
L: I have always really enjoyed learning, so one of the best parts for me is when I’m able to bring out a love of learning in my students. This can show even in simple things, like when a student asks a question without being prompted. Many students are turned off by learning because they associate it with never-ending classes and piles of homework. When I see students having fun and learning at the same time, it is incredibly rewarding.
GS: Can you tell us about your favourite class at the moment?
L: I probably dreaded my Grade 3 group class in the beginning just because I wasn’t always sure how to prepare for it. But now that I’ve been teaching it for a while, I’ve been able to build a good relationship with the students. Now I look forward to seeing them! They are around ten years old. In my experience, this means they are old enough to discipline themselves more but not so old that they don’t want to do fun, silly activities.
GS: Talk us through a typical day teaching English in China.
L: Defining a typical day is difficult! Most classes I have are in the afternoon or evening, but it’s not uncommon to have morning classes as well. I have a couple of group classes which meet at the same time each week. One-on-one classes vary a lot from week to week, but I never teach more than six hours per day, and even that is rare. I may have a couple two-hour classes each day, and the rest of the day I spend preparing lesson plans and materials.
GS: What are the teaching resources like in your school?
L: At JOY, we teach using a set of books called Wonders, which are also used in American classrooms. This includes reading practice as well as grammar and phonics exercises. We also have a variety of materials (worksheets, games, etc.) that have been created by past teachers to meet students’ learning needs. The staff are very open to purchasing new resources that teachers want to use in the classroom.
GS: What is one of the best things about teaching at JOY?
L: I could list many things I like about JOY, but one of the things that has had a particularly strong impact on me is the sense of working as a team. Instead of separating Chinese and foreign staff so they can work in isolation, JOY encourages constant communication between different members of the staff. As a result, student needs are quickly identified, communicated to parents, and addressed. Weekly meetings are held at which all staff members can voice concerns about students, curriculum, etc. Whenever I’ve encountered problems, the staff have been very supportive about resolving them.
GS: China is full of surprises and unexpected adventures. Tell us about one you have had recently
L: This past Chinese New Year was the first one I spent in Beijing. My impression of Beijing during New Year was that it would be a total ghost town because everyone would leave to spend the holiday with their families in other parts of the country. However, later I learned about temple fairs and visited a couple of them over the week-long vacation. At these fairs, you can try different snacks, watch performances, and walk around the temple itself. As my friends and I were leaving one fair, we managed to catch the Lion Dance! In this dance, the “lions” are actually two people in one costume, and they do a range of acrobatic tricks. It was a great way to get into the spirit of the holiday!