Messages by Susan and Frank

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General » The Little Red Book - Teaching ESL in China
The Little Red Book Teaching ESL in China has a companion blog

Please feel free to leave a comment. We look forward to them.

Best wishes, Susan and Frank Black
General » The Little Red Book - Teaching ESL in China
The Little Red Book Teaching ESL in China has a companion blog

Please feel free to leave a comment. We look forward to them.

Best wishes, Susan and Frank Black
Hello Zonnee,

Thanks for the great advice. I'm looking forward to more of your ideas and positive approach.

General » sorry About That
Hello colleagues,

Sorry for the repeated posting of "Don't Engage in a Power Struggle".

The posting system returned an error message and I continued to press the post button.

Thanks for your patience.

Susan Black
Susan strides up and down the narrow aisles between the fifty-five desks filled with students in the cold classroom in China. She looks down and sees a Chinese magazine open to pages that reveal unrecognizable characters.
“What class is this?” Susan says.
The student looks up at her and blinks, expressionless.
“English class,” the student says.
“What book then, should be open on your desk?”
The student slams the Chinese book closed and opens her English textbook.
“Thank you,” Susan says.
The veteran ESL Instructor moves to another desk and asks the same question.
The student stares at her but does not move a muscle.
Susan repeats the question.
The student still does not answer and Susan’s mind drifts to advice she received from her respected TESOL Instructor back in Canada.
“Don’t engage in a power struggle with the kids, especially teenagers, you will always lose.”
“Groups are the work of the devil,” Michelle said. Michelle was an ESL teacher in China who thought that group work was impossible, especially when you’ve got 55 or more students in a high school classroom.
I shared my group work technique with her and others that taught smaller classes in private schools and university and the concept took hold.
I’ve redefined the group leader as Group Assistant, which left me with time to oversee entire group projects.
If you want to learn how Group Work can be useful in your classroom, you can find it in the book I wrote: THE LITTLE RED BOOK TEACHING ESL IN CHINA
General » Over 55 and still teaching abroad?
Hello Everyone,

We taught in China for four years as seniors. My husband, Frank, was 61 and I was 50 years old when we arrived. We were celebrated in Yichang, Hubei province for being the oldest foreign couple in the city. We taught at Yichang No.1 High School.
Don't be discouraged or self-conscience about your age. Most reputable schools, both public and private, look for ESL instructors who have experience in life and will fulfill their responsibilities.
Heidi's advice is very wise when she says to 'look fresh'.
Go for it!

Susan Black

It is common that you are watched and reported on everywhere you go in China. Although Yue Yu, the Classroom Representative in the high school where I taught ESOL, was not wearing the distinctive burgundy armband worn by the People's Republic Observation Representatives, she might as well have been.

In every classroom in China you are being observed and reported on. The Classroom Representative, whose duty it is to observe you and then report daily to the Chinese Head Teacher, takes her job seriously and she cannot be expected to renege on her duty. The communist system dictates structure in the classroom and part of the structure is reporting on your conduct.

Your high standard of teaching professionalism will prevent you from having to report to the Principal's office.

It took me eleven months of teaching English as a second language in China to discover that in every classroom there is an English Study Leader. The designation comes from achieving the highest grade after examination from the Chinese English teacher.
The English Study Leader can be your assistant. Depending on the size of your class, you may even have two English Study Leaders. Ask who they are and write their names on the board and then ask them to assist you at the front of the classroom. They will dutifully stand with you as you conduct your class and with encouragement from you, will travel around the room guiding the other students in their study of the English language.
Prince, the English Study Leader in one of my classes, came to my rescue regularly and I was very grateful. I didn’t have a command of the Chinese language, so when a student didn’t fully comprehend my instructions, I would ask Prince to help with the interpretation. He liked translating instructions to those students whose English was at a lower level of comprehension.
When I asked Prince if he minded helping me, he said, “It is my honour and duty, Mrs. Black.”
To paraphrase a quote from Mao Tse Tung, “If you want to know the taste of a pear, you must change the pear by eating it yourself. If you want to know the structure of the classroom in China, you must take part in teaching ESL in China. All genuine knowledge originates in direct experience.”