Let the Teaching Begin!

Hey guys! This last week has been quite the eventful one for me. I not only taught my first class EVER, but learned what the next three months of my stay in China will consist of. I will be teaching at six different places that vary day to day. Some days I teach at as many as three locations! I will also be teaching EVERY age group. I’ve had toddlers no older than two, preschoolers, kindergartners, third graders, middle schoolers, high schoolers, young adults, retirees, and everywhere in between.

I am new to teaching, and by new I mean this trip to China will be the first time I’ve ever officially taught a class. Making six different lesson plans a week for people I have a hard time communicating with is quite the task. Most of them can’t go past “HELLO!” so I have to figure out how to simplify EVERYTHING. My only response to this newly added stress: challenge accepted.

The two kindergarten classes at the YWCA were my first teaching experiences. The kids are all adorable. One of the translators for us, Lu, actually told me what one of the little boy’s names meant–“small watermelon!” I get to watch their 20 minute workout sessions in the mornings, and then after that Barbara (Simon, a fellow JCC student who’s also interning in Chengdu this semester) and I set into our lesson. As of now we teach the children five words a day that go along with the alphabet, followed by a game. We’ve done anything from the Hokey Pokey, to Red Light Green Light, to Duck Duck Goose!

I bought some books the other day that will hopefully help me learn Mandarin faster. I’ve learned more basic conversation since my last blog: “Hello, How are you? My name is Alyssa and I’m from America. China is nice. Where are you from? Are you okay?”  Some of my friends and coworkers here have also helped me learn how to count to 10 and figure out basic colors like black, white, yellow, red, orange, and blue. It’s a work in progress…

Besides planning for future classes, Barbara and I have had time to visit the 5.12.08 earthquake graveyard, and the Mt. Qingcheng and Dujiangyan water shrine. The earthquake site was tragically captivating. Almost all of the buildings had been rebuilt, but they’ve chosen to keep the collapsed school area as a shrine to the deceased.

The water shrine was beyond awesome! I think the point of the shrine itself was to help improve the irrigation systems of China. There were a lot of good views of the mountainous terrain, and a lot of cool bridges that we could cross to get a good view of the multiple dikes. I also visited Jintang for the first time on Wednesday. I will be staying at a YWCA orphanage there Wednesday nights while I teach at two nearby middle/high schools.

The orphanage is beautiful in a rustic sort of way. Its building structure is very traditional, and there is a courtyard with a garden that the children each own a part of. I will be helping the children with their homework on Wednesday nights. I’m beyond excited! I also visited both of middle/ high schools I’ll be teaching at, and couldn’t feel more welcome. Kids at both schools were trying to get our attention from every story of each building we passed by! One of the schools has almost 5,000 kids attending it. I felt like I was touring a college campus when one of the English teachers, Candy, showed us around.

On Thursday I visited an old “Asian-town.” It finally allowed me to see the more rural side of China. All I can say was that the scenery was beautiful. The Asian-town itself was a small sector of a city that consisted of a lot of places to eat, and local shops that sold anything from traditional Chinese candy to jewelry, to statues of Buddha! It was really cool to check out, and I even got to walk around town with an orange and yellow flower headband. I concluded that flowers must be a big deal in that area because down the street from this old Asian-town was a HUGE field of flowers that seemed to stretch for miles! After eating some Chinese version of KFC for lunch I got to venture through that field.

I’m starting to get used to people staring at me constantly. Sometimes, Barbara and I will get random people who approach us just to show off the fact they know some English. It was kind of funny because old Asian-town was actually the first place where we had people ask to take pictures with us!

I’m also seeing more instances of nationalism here. One of the first phrases I was actually taught was “I like China,” and now that I’ve visited anywhere from Jintang, to Asian-town, to the Chengdu College of Technology, I’ve seen billboards of the communist flag on almost every street, and little communist flags even hanging out of the college dorm windows.

My schedule for this next week will be a stressful one. I’m very nervous about planning a lesson wrong, especially for my middle/high school classes. I’m not sure where half of my classes stand with their English yet, and I’m scared I’ll either a) not meet the time criteria for each class I have to teach or b) plan a lesson that the students already know.

Aside from the occasional apprehension and nerves getting the best of me, I know it’ll all get better after the first couple of weeks. Suggestions and advice, however, are more than welcome!

Xièxiè, everyone!

Want to know how you can have an internship experience like Alyssa’s? JCC offers a wide variety of internship opportunities, both abroad and at home, paid and unpaid, for credit or not, with the college or with area businesses and organizations. Check out our listing of available internship opportunities and fill out an internship interest form to learn more.

About the author


Hello, my name Is Alyssa Brown and I'm currently a sophomore at Jamestown Community College on the Cattaraugus County Campus. As an honor student, I've worked on campus as a Peer Mentor, and played soccer for the Jaguars this past fall. Go Jags! In my spare time, however, you can catch me listening to music or hanging out in the Learning Center with my friends. As of now I'm currently trying to master the Mandarin language for an internship I'm completing in Chengdu,China. I'm more than delighted with JCC and the opportunity it has provided me with to both study and teach abroad at the same time!