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CHINA BOUND: A Guide to Academic Life and Work in the PRC
learn from someone who has just had an experience similar to the one you are about to have, the better prepared you are likely to be. If employment is found while you are still in the United States, you should communicate with the Chinese side as soon as possible to find out about what courses you will teach, the language level and age of your students, and descriptions of their teaching materials and English-language library.
Bring as many of your own materials as possible, as most Chinese materials are poorly structured and do not stress class participation. Materials from Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) programs in Taiwan and the United States should be helpful, as should your own dictionary, grammar book, novels, and videotapes. Ask if there is a photocopier and/or computer available.
Much is expected of teachers in China, both in the classroom and outside. Chinese faculty ordinarily assume responsibility not only for the intellectual growth of their students but for their personal development as well. Expertise is appreciated, as is good teaching. Students welcome opportunities for less formal interaction and may enjoy meeting with their foreign teacher in small groups. Some students visit their foreign teachers at home and invite them to participate in social activities. To give your students the best of your time and energy, you must be careful about accepting too much outside work, such as tutoring, editing, and proofreading.
By far the greatest demand in China is for teachers of English language and literature, but the range of subjects Americans are invited to teach is now much broader than in the early years of exchanges. Americans now teach American studies, American society and culture, U.S. history, economics, business management, international trade and investment, marketing, U.S. law (constitutional, criminal, and criminal procedure), environmental and natural resources law, library management, journalism, art, and music. American teachers are to be found in a wide variety of institutions and in all parts of China. Most believe they are making a significant contribution to China's educational process and to greater understanding between the two cultures. Most, like the journalist quoted above, believe they have learned as much as they have taught. One former teacher offered this advice:
If you remember that you have gone to China to learn, to share knowledge and ideas and to enjoy the Chinese people and their culture, you will have an easier time "rolling with the punches." No one is going to change China during a year's teaching visit! Perhaps the most valuable characteristic a foreign expert can have is a healthy sense of humor.