Hi,

I teach 25 classes a week in 2 public schools in China. Most of my students are in middle school, but I have at least one of each grade from 2 to 6, also. I have not seen much information on this kind of teaching on any of the "interwebs" The threads I found here on this topic are old and closed.

I'm starting this thread because in hopes it will attract some others who have done this kind of work and might have advice to pass on. I'm certainly glad to share what I have learned in the course of *almost* a full academic year. Unfortunately, I still have more questions than answers. In this kind of setting, one doesn't often get a chance to talk to one's predecessor. People's contracts end and they leave the country. I haven't had the benefit of talking with any teachers who have taught middle school. I've learned a little more from current and former primary school teachers.

I'm in the northeast of China -- Liaoning Province. I think what is true for the public schools here is true in many other regions, but I'm sure things vary a lot across this huge country.

Here are some of the features of (my) public school teaching that set it apart from private classroom ESL teaching:


  • Class sizes vary from about 20 to 60 students. 35 to 40 is about standard. Some public schools send 2 classes at a time for lessons with the foreign teacher. I have a group of 85 in this category.
  • Desks and chairs are generally arranged in single or double rows. Alternate seating arrangements are not generally an option, as there is no classroom dedicated English teaching.
  • A native Chinese speaking assistant provided by my employer (a private language school) accompanies me to each class. Assistants, exclusively young women at my school, are chosen mostly on their ability to speak and understand spoken English. They are expected to translate the foreign teacher's instructions, and to assist in maintaining discipline in the classroom. A good assistant is essential to the foreign teacher's success, I believe.
  • Communication with students' *other* English teachers -- the Chinese teachers -- is either very limited or non-existent. The majority of Chinese English teachers I have met have been friendly and charming, but few of them can converse in English.
  • Students are not tested or graded on their participation or performance in my classes. (Students know this.) Foreign teachers are not expected to give written exercises or tests in class. My language school would not permit me to make the hundreds of photocopies required, even if I wanted to mark such a high number of papers.
  • The vast majority of Chinese students I have encountered are friendly and at least moderately cooperative. Many of them view foreigners as minor celebrities. I prefer to concentrate on these students rather than the small number who go out of their way to show me their contempt and disrespect.


Thanks if you've stayed with me this far. If this post draws any comments or questions, I'll add more about specific classroom issues and some of the ways I have found of coping with the challenges.

Cheers!