Part I: School & Structure
I know there are many questions about what exactly I’m doing in Shanghai, who I’m teaching, the ages, the structure and why exactly any teacher would have to work Sundays. Therefore, these next two posts are my explanation of my job (after 2 weeks of observation & training and beginning my second week of actually teaching).
First, how did I get the job? I found the organization Reach to Teach online and after researching and having Skype interviews with them and other recruitment organizations I decided to use them to find a job in China. Reach to Teach is one of many recruitment organizations that recruit native English speakers to teach English abroad. R2T places teachers in Taiwan, China and South Korea. They have hundreds of reputable schools they work with in these countries in order to find the right fit for each teacher.
Because of my (lack of) experience, my geographical preferences and the openings which were available, R2T connected me with Kid Castle Educational Corporation in Shanghai. Kid Castle is a Taiwanese based company, but they have numerous branches in China. Kid Castle operates kindergartens as well as English training programs throughout the country. I work at an English training center, one of about 12 or 15 Kid Castle locations in Shanghai. The center offers classes for children pre-kindergarten through primary school ages. Classes are held after school on weekdays (Wednesday – Friday from 4:30 – 8:10pm) and all day Saturday and Sunday (9am – 5:30pm).
The students are broken out into three groups, K (for Kinder), J (for Junior) and S (for Senior). Within each group there are several different levels, (K1, K2…). The K group only goes up to level 3 or sometimes 4, as many students are then switched into the J group because of their age. The J group goes up to level 7 (J1 – J7). There are only a couple senior level classes at our school and currently I am not teaching any of them; regardless, there is a set curriculum for seven levels of Senior classes. However, at that age (around 12-13, I believe) students are involved in many other extra-curricular activities and tend to leave Kid Castle.
Apart from the senior level classes, all classes are one and a half hours in length (two 40 minute sections with a 10 minute break) and classes meet two times per week. Every other class is instructed by a “foreign teacher” who speaks English as a first language. The second class of the week is taught by a Chinese teacher. Each class ranges in size from 15 to about 20 students. I think my largest class has about 21 students and they are a handful! For the K level classes taught by a foreign teacher, a Chinese teacher is provided as a teacher’s assistant (TA) to help keep the little ones under control on task. Keeping 15 three to four year olds on track is a lot to handle when you speak the same language; when you don’t – a second person is certainly helpful!