International teacher Michelle Andrews recently moved to Beijing with her family to take up her teaching post at Yew Chung International School. Here, she describes her experience of those chaotic first few weeks teaching in Beijing.
So we have been in Beijing for one month. It has been a roller coaster ride and we find Beijing beautiful and amazing and colourful and also ugly and smelly and chaotic all together. It’s very strange to describe.
When we arrived, we were picked up from the airport and taken to our apartment. It’s nice. Just what we need. Ugly furniture though, but that’s OK. The first few days were a whirlwind of sorting out our Chinese SIM cards, Internet connection, power, water, waste water… we were exhausted and it was all a bit much! We also had to deal with blocked toilets and my door key breaking in the lock.
We had five days before I was due at new teacher orientation which was good because we got to be in holiday family mode, and take some time together to get our bearings.
I had three days of new teacher orientation. I was impressed and we did things as a new staff like catch the subway and went to two lovely eateries over two days. My partner Chris and daughter Penny came to the new teacher orientation too. It was nice for them to feel a part of it and meet people and other kids and tour the school. School is awesome! I was very impressed! The two co-principals, Noel and Christine, are super approachable and professional. Very nice people. They talked to us about culture and how we might feel some days, and yes they were right about everything we would feel!
After that I had a week of PD. All good too.
Then, term started. I’m teaching K4 children. A real melting pot of nationalities including Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Australian and Chinese.
There are two K4 rooms but mine has more non-fluent English speakers (apart from the Ozzie!) and the other room is full of blonde blue-eyed English speakers. Not to worry! The first week I found really hard. I felt like a beginning teacher again. It was awful! I taught them some songs so now they just walk around singing in English. It’s funny! My name is Miss Michelle, but most of them can’t say it so I just get called Smell!
My co-teacher is the head of the Chinese teachers and she is lovely and likes to keep things meaningful and real as do I. I am so impressed with the Chinese teachers. Beautiful people, such hard workers and all about the children.
When Penny found Year 11 too hard (she had been only halfway through Year 10 at home), I was worried that we had made the wrong decision coming. But the teachers were very empathetic and I had her changed back to Year 10. Her smallest class has 3 in it and her largest 18! That’s wonderful! An amazing free education and lots of trips for her to go on with school like to the terracotta warriors.
So now we are settling in. It’s been really hard but it is OK. My colleagues are wonderfully helpful and this decision now doesn’t seem to be so bad, especially after the first pay!