‘Hello!’ ‘Good afternoon!’ Every Thursday afternoon, around thirty excited 6-year-olds greet me, still running around and slowly getting ready for class. I always come in a bit early to get everything ready, to start up my computer and to draw some prompts on the blackboard. The kids just woke up from their afternoon nap. The Chinese teacher, who always assists me in organising my classes, combs the girls’ hair and makes beautiful braids. She also gives out fruit or other snacks to all of the students, before I start my class.
I find it a joy to observe the Chinese kids getting ready for our weekly English class, getting more and more excited about what we are going to learn that afternoon. The diligent kids repeat the words we learned last time or try to sing one of the English nursery rhymes on their own. The slower ones mainly concentrate on eating their fruit.
To get the students’ attention, the Chinese teacher would chant a few lines that meant something like ‘put your arms behind your back, be quiet now and look at the teacher’. The kids repeat the chant and slowly everybody gets seated. Sitting straight with their arms behind their backs at neatly organised desks, they would stare at me, waiting for me to begin my class.
For over two years I worked as an English teacher at a public kindergarten in Lijiang, a beautiful small city in the South of China. I loved to teach these little sponges. They absorb so much information so quickly. After a while, they did not only know the English words for all kinds of animals and family members, but they were also able to have a short conversation in English. This made me so happy. Also, I will never forget the gratitude of the students’ parents and grandparents who never learned English themselves. They were delighted that their children and grandchildren greeted me in English like it was the most common thing in the world.
Written by Puck Stamps, Program Consultant at China Plus