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Living and Teaching in China: My Perspective

 

  

 

 

I have always been fascinated with China and its culture. This feeling comes from watching Chinese period dramas on television every Sunday during my childhood days without English subtitle and totally clueless of what the dramas were about, dining in Filipino-Chinese restaurants in my hometown and having Filipino-Chinese classmates and close friends in my school days (still keeping in touch with a lot of them up to these days). So, when the opportunity from University of Maryland came for me to be employed as Foreign Teacher in China I grabbed it without thinking twice. I left my tenured university literature instructor position in my country’s premier State University to experience Chinese culture and to widen my teaching experience. And of course, to have an adventure (I will not deny that)!
Luckily enough, the recruiter placed me in LangFang city of Hebei province. From the moment I set my foot in this city I embraced it like my second home. What’s not to like about LangFang? Word, Nothing! LangFang may be small but it has its own beauty, at least in my eyes. Let’s start with its location. It is strategically located in between two major cities in China, namely Beijing and Tianjin. We are so close to the capital, Beijing. It’s so easy to navigate around LangFang and its nearby cities. So for me, flying home or to other cities and countries is so accessible. If there are things that I cannot find in LangFang and I badly need them I can easily go to Beijing to acquire them as Beijing has almost everything.
The local people in LangFang are so welcoming. My Chinese is close to non-existent but I can do most of my errands on my own and get what I want on my own because when I find myself trap in language problem there is always a Chinese person to come to my rescue to offer help and assistance. In this way, I make new friends and gain more friends among the locals. I pick up some useful Chinese words and phrases in this way too. These help me in my every day communication with the locals. I never learned Chinese formally. I picked up my few Chinese words from friends, students, Chinese co-teachers, street vendors, shop assistants, and taxi drivers. It’s a killer when Chinese people praise my very meager Chinese. I love it when they tell me “Your Chinese is good.” And I especially love it when I can “converse” somehow to the locals. It makes me wonder after how I managed to understand them and how they managed to understand my very poor Chinese. It could be because we were talking from our hearts so language has never been an issue and a barrier. There are times though that I wish I have more vocabulary in Chinese so I can express how I truly appreciate my interactions with genuinely nice locals. But I would never depend on my Chinese if I need to do complicated transaction. It’s just so good that I have friends ready to help me in this. I have been laughed at and joked upon my poor Chinese too. But I know that those few occasions have never meant to insult me but just plain jolly fun time of the locals with my Chinese. I do not mind a bit at all because I am aware that it is part of learning the language and assimilating the culture. Whenever I make mistakes in my Chinese I just let it go. It is nothing to be embarrassed of. Thank goodness I have not made scandalous or offensive mistakes yet. In my own right I am fairly equipped with the survival Chinese words I need in my everyday living. If I can improve my Chinese then why not as it will be a plus to my current skills but I am way to go still, too long way to go still. Chinese language is such a difficult language to crack. I am trying though. Believe me. At present, I am getting by with a little help from my friends and from random friendly and helpful strangers.
In contrast to my Chinese language proficiency, I would like to believe that I have a fair grasp of Chinese culture. China’s culture is very rich in traditions. I can’t help but appreciate most of them. I find it easy to blend in the culture as I am Asian myself too. The cultural heritage is amazing. The historical sights are breathtaking.
The local cuisines are so delicious. Chinese dishes not only fill my stomach and attract my gustatory sense but as well as my visual and olfactory senses. They are so colorful. They are so well prepared that sometimes I feel like I do not want to touch them as it will destroy their beautiful presentations. I also learned some accompanying stories of these Chinese dishes. I always find myself expressing “wow” and “yummy” when faced by Chinese cuisines. I can’t help but gush as I am a foodie in my own right. Eating in fancy places is such a treat no doubt. Yet, enjoying the wide variety of street food each with its own character, peculiar aroma, distinct taste, individual presentation and novelty is equally a treat. I can just conclude that Chinese food is definitely one of the world’s best. Chinese put into practice the notion of cooking as an art. Add to that is the challenge of using the chopsticks in eating. As I mentioned earlier, there are several Filipino-Chinese restaurants in my country but it’s such a different experience eating authentic Chinese cuisines in their country of origin itself. There is no comparison to tasting, eating and enjoying the real deal.
Chinese people are in general very welcoming, warm and hospitable. They always try their best to help me in ways they can and to make my life easier. The members of No.8 community from the top leadership to the leg men are always ready to assist me in whatever and however they can. No wonder I have been here in No.8 for several years already.
Teaching in China has its own challenges and demands such as the language, the culture, the mindset, the academic year and class schedules, the classroom management and disciplining style, the school rules and expectations from the students, the parents and the administration. Rote learning which is strongly enforced in China’s classrooms receives different reviews from educators worldwide. I personally think it has its demonstrable good results. Memorizing has its own merit and I have seen the commendable results from the students’ scholastic achievements over the years here in China. This learning style works well in China for a reason. I have been seeing different teaching methodologies and learning activities too and all of them are aimed at developing the students to their best. As a licensed teacher by profession, I try to absorb the good points I can learn from China’s education system. They can widen my teaching skills and techniques. On the other hand, I offer what learning styles and techniques I have in whatever classes I handle here. I try my very best to share the teaching pedagogy I have with me. It’s a give and take situation. No.8 has opened the avenue for me to see and experience a different take on education compared from the education I grew up with and was exposed to. I may not understand and accept it fully but it surely added more to my understanding of education in specific and in general. It broadens my teaching spectrum. For that, I will always appreciate this educative opportunity.
All in all, my stay in China is very rewarding so far. China has touched me in more ways than one. The opportunity in living and teaching in China and to experience its culture in the process has changed my life in countless ways. The gift of speaking the language no matter how minimal I have, the gift of sincere friendships, the gift of authentic cuisines, the gift of experiencing the culture first hand, the gift of seeing the historical sights in my own naked eyes and the gift of teaching Chinese students are once in a lifetime privilege. I have indeed been enriched as a person and as a teacher. I can say that I am in a good place in my life. My stay in China is a major life changing educational adventure and learning experience. Staying in China, I have my highs and lows but at the end of the day the “perfect days” outnumber the “lousy days.” There is no perfect living abroad experience but I am very much convinced that China continues to offer me a meaningful life experience.
 
Marissa S. Nones