The Fall semester was the most rewarding academic experience that I have ever experienced. . . I do not believe that I will ever have [another one] as rewarding and as enjoyable, writes one Fulbright lecturer.
I learned more in one year of the program. . .about life, politics, society, and the practice of journalism in China than from all the books I've read on the subject over the years. . ." writes another.
Adjusting to the teaching environment in China takes time. The fall semester the faculty member quoted above had begun with the discovery that his students were ill-prepared for the intermediate economics course he had planned to teach, the books he had ordered were inappropriate, his students were frightened because they did not understand market economics, and the dean of his college thought he should give up trying to teach them. But the Fulbright lecturer was determined to work with his students to teach them economics. He stuck with it, and so did the students, most of whom agreed that his course had been one of the best they had ever taken. Even the dean was pleased. While not all foreign faculty have similarly startling successes, most report great satisfaction with teaching in China. Many wish they could stay longer, and many do.
Most of the experiences described in this chapter have been taken from Fulbright reports and from meetings in China with Fulbright teachers and with foreign experts and teachers. The one consistent piece of advice they, like researchers and students, offer is to try to talk to someone who has recently taught in the school where you will be going. Every school is different, every locale has its own special characteristics, and China changes from week to week. The more you can
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.
THE BUREAUCRATIC STRUCTURE
The work unit or danwei, as explained earlier, is all-important in China, regardless of where you are employed. Teachers, more than researchers and students, depend on their work unit. It is their employer and pays their salaries, arranges their lodging, may help arrange schooling for their children and for travel to other parts of the country, and generally acts on their behalf with other bureaucratic offices in China.
As a foreign teacher, you will be responsible to one or more departments within your work unit. China's complex bureaucracy can be confusing, and many teachers do not know prior to arrival to whom they will be responsible. Most have a hard time understanding it clearly even after they arrive. Because this information is crucial to your work, it is important to clarify your place in the bureaucratic structure as soon as possible. Learning how to get things done within the system may require effort and patience for the newcomer. One teacher noted, ''It took us almost two full months before we knew to whom to talk about what."
The two major offices with which a foreign expert or teacher will ordinarily have contact are the foreign affairs office (waiban) and the academic department. The duties of and relationships between these two offices vary from unit to unit. Some have excellent communication and work as a team. Others have little or no contact with each other. Generally, the foreign affairs office handles administrative details: hiring; conditions of employment; your contract; daily living concerns; issuance of necessary documents such as the university identification card, expert privileges card, alien residence card and library card; assistance with travel arrangements; and the like. The academic department is responsible for teaching matters: curriculum, course assignments, teaching schedules, class size, room assignments, class materials, and so on.
Before you make a commitment to teach, reach agreement with your waiban on the following: salary, living arrangements, class hours, in-country travel allowances, vacation time, library use, and a "white card" (actually orange), which allows you to buy travel tickets at Chinese prices9. Even if it appears that the school has a set arrangement for foreign teachers, more likely than not, there is plenty of negotiating room. Once an agreement is reached, hold them to it. Just as they will stick to principles at times during your stay, you must make clear that
In early 1993, the Chinese government issued a new regulation barring foreign teachers from buying travel tickets at Chinese prices. The regulation is not consistently enforced, although its implementation appears to be stricter in the eastern urban areas.
you, too, have principles. If you ever break your side of the agreement, you might expect that they will feel at liberty to do so.
Some teachers have found the staff of the foreign affairs office to be extremely supportive; others feel they are not helpful at all; still others report they will only respond to specific questions. Relations with department personnel also vary considerably. It is therefore important to learn as quickly as possible how to get what you need. For example, one American teacher learned never to confront the director of the department about conditions of employment, as the answer would always be "no." But if he gathered all the official information about the situation and wrote a memo to the director outlining the regulations and stating his specific request, he always received an affirmative answer. Similarly, many find that information they felt should have been communicated to them was not. One teacher arrived in his regular classroom to find it empty. The room had been changed and no one had informed him. His students were waiting in the newly assigned classroom. Another teacher who had sent a box of books in care of his foreign affairs office was never informed that the books had arrived. Others, expecting to be informed by their departments of upcoming activities, such as a lecture by a visiting American scholar or the showing of a movie, often learn of the event only by accident and sometimes after the fact. Other foreign teachers at your own or neighboring schools will be a major asset in this regard. You probably share many of the same successes and frustrations. If several of you are at one school, you might select a "representative" to talk with the administration on everyone's behalf, even if a problem affects only one of you.
Many U.S. teachers speak little, if any, Chinese when they arrive, and official discussions between them and their departmental or institutional sponsors are in English (through an interpreter, if needed). Many teachers note that their departmental colleagues often speak far better English than do administrative cadres. However, while they indicate that language is not a key problem, most find that speaking some Chinese is extremely helpful.
The problems typically noted by U.S. teachers are cultural and social organization. "Americans are used to a high degree of independence and self-direction. The Chinese are not. There are a lot of banquets and other displays of friendship which cover up some very hard bargaining. One needs to go along with all the formalities and rituals and still be very assertive concerning one's own interests." Another teacher recommended that two important cultural characteristics be kept in mind:
Chinese work through intermediaries. Americans like to talk things out face-to-face. This means that rather than talking over problems or concerns with the head of the department directly, you may have to work through a third person who will carry messages back and forth.
Chinese prefer compromise. Chinese do a lot of horse-trading, bargaining, and exchanging of favors. In regard to classes, teaching loads, and academic responsibilities, this is an ongoing process.
Workloads and class size often vary substantially from one institution or program to another, but all teachers report that they do far more than teach assigned classes. Additional activities include work on special projects, such as helping to write or edit textbooks and dictionaries, editing university publications in English, giving informal English lessons to colleagues, conducting oral exams, overseeing thesis projects, and assisting students with writing papers. Teachers also may lecture to their unit and to other units about specific academic topics or about cultural and social aspects of the United States. English teachers may be asked to record tapes, and everyone may be asked to help students and faculty write applications to colleges and universities in the United States. Some teachers have even been offered bit parts in movies! Remember that it is easy to become overcommitted. Be very clear about what is required by your job and what is being asked as a favor. This will help in winnowing down the demands on your work time. As one teacher says, while it is important to be as helpful as possible, "How much work you do will depend on how much resistance you put up—you must not become chronically fatigued to the point of illness."
As a foreign teacher, the number of hours you spend in classroom teaching can vary from as few as six per week to as many as twenty. Teachers of English conversation often have particularly heavy class schedules. Additionally, you may spend several hours weekly holding "office hours"; perhaps five to six hours cutting tapes (if you are teaching English), and numerous hours preparing materials for class, correcting papers, having unscheduled or scheduled meetings with students and teachers, and doing editorial work. As one teacher put it, "No matter how many hours you are scheduled for, your actual work week will average between 45 and 50 hours." Another commented, "The work week is six days, and teachers can count on being busy almost all that time." As a rule of thumb, allow two to four hours of preparation time for one hour of class time.
Class sizes also vary radically. You might teach a seminar of only three or four students or give a lecture course to 75 students. The average class size seems to be between 20 and 35 students.
Some teachers report being told they will be teaching one course prior to their departure for China only to learn upon arrival that they are expected to teach something totally different. Others find that their host institution is not clear about what subject matter should be covered
in a course or, alternatively, is adamant that what the American considers to be proper course content is not what the Chinese want at all. Still others may discover that they have been assigned to the wrong department to teach the wrong subject. For example, one economics professor was assigned to teach a course in international trade law. This is often the result of different nomenclature used by Chinese and Americans in titling courses.
American teachers generally have found their Chinese students to be bright and able. They have also been surprised by how perceptive students have been in discussing a situation far removed from them in distance and experience. They have also been pleased that after overcoming an initial shyness, many students become active class participants, asking questions and presenting ideas for consideration. Many teachers described their Chinese students as extremely candid and friendly: "very friendly and a pleasure to work with"; the "brightest aspect of my experience in China"; "just about everything a teacher wants. . . . [they] make this assignment one to be envied and coveted; outstanding, extremely diligent, and highly motivated." One American wrote that he was "privileged to have students who are hungry to learn, who help themselves to knowledge the way harvest hands used to reach for mashed potatoes at my grandfather's table."
Other teachers have not been as enthusiastic.
About 60 percent of undergraduates had a good attitude, but they looked at their classes as a requirement to get a degree to graduate. They were not highly disciplined. They completed their assignments, but they didn't work up to their potential.
Chinese university students are not all hard working, disciplined, intelligent, and well prepared, which is the stereotype Americans bring to China.
Extensive demands are made on students that cause them at times to shift attention from class work to other things such as preparation for TOEFL [Test of English as a Foreign Language].
Students performed better than expected; it was difficult to get critical discussion in class as the students wanted to be told what they need to know; they like lectures.
Chinese students are mostly quite intelligent, but I was surprised by the lack of motivation of some; absenteeism is a big problem.
Recent reports from Fulbright faculty in China reveal several common problems Americans face teaching Chinese students and the cre-
ative ways Americans have found to overcome them. Several of the more frequently encountered problems and the means by which other U.S. faculty have coped are discussed below.
ENGLISH LANGUAGE ABILITY
Most Americans will be teaching in English without an interpreter, even in courses such as journalism, law, and economics. Faculty find that the aural comprehension of their students varies widely. Some will understand 90 percent of what the American says; some will understand only 50 percent. Most Americans have discovered that their students' reading ability is much better than their aural comprehension. One way to promote learning, then, is to make lectures available to read. Frequent handouts are useful, and faculty find themselves using the blackboard much more often in China than in the United States. Some begin class by writing a detailed outline of their lecture on the blackboard, making it easier for students to understand the lecture. Similarly, teachers have found it useful to use the blackboard while introducing new concepts.
Knowing that some students understand more easily than others, several U.S. faculty found it useful to take frequent breaks to encourage students to discuss the lecture among themselves. Students often gather together at the front of the classroom, speaking in Chinese and writing on the blackboard, and discussions became more and more animated as the students who had been having trouble understanding finally catch on. Faculty have thus found that encouraging cooperative learning and interaction among their students can be very productive, even when the teacher does not understand what the students were discussing. To encourage conversation during class, some teachers have recommended making the classes student-centered; that is, shifting the teacher's role from "instructor" to "facilitator." They note, "Giving the students more responsibility for the class' success will likely result in a better class for everyone."
In the early years of academic exchanges, teachers of courses other than English often relied on an interpreter. The widespread teaching of English in recent years has minimized the use of interpreters. But some teachers still rely on them and the experiences of these teachers have been mixed. One U.S. law professor reported that he had a regular interpreter through whom he did all his teaching, including dialogues with his students. He encouraged his students to speak English as much as possible. Without a good interpreter, however, teaching the course would have been impossible. Others have found themselves with an interpreter who speaks less English than some of the students and who sometimes challenged the U.S. teacher even though the interpreter knew little about the subject.
Grading papers is also difficult when courses are taught through an
interpreter. Because the exams are written in Chinese, the teacher must depend on the interpreter to understand what the students write. Teachers have handled such problems in various ways. One began using an interpreter who proved less than satisfactory and later tried teaching the course without the interpreter. Although comprehension was sometimes difficult, he found that both he and his students were happier. In this case the students discussed particularly difficult topics in Chinese and then reiterated their understanding to the teacher in English.
Other teachers have tried using simpler materials—switching from complicated texts to short articles. Others provided outlines of lectures that could be followed while the lecture was being given—a time-consuming effort but one that had worthwhile effects. Some found it essential to spend time outside of class with the students to give them enough exposure to a foreigner speaking and to overcome typical language problems such as lack of confidence, shyness, misuse of verb tenses, and omission of pronouns and articles. The teachers found that once the students gained confidence, their rate of learning increased dramatically.
The U.S. style of teaching tends to be much more interactive than the Chinese style, and many Americans encounter difficulties encouraging their students to speak up in class. Not only do most courses in Chinese universities tend to be lectures, but the voice of the teacher is the voice of authority, and most students work on the premise that there is only one right answer to any question. Students thus are accustomed to memorizing but not to discussing and debating.
Some foreign teachers report real fear on the part of their students when they were called on in class and asked to discuss, debate, or dissent. Some foreign teachers, faced with such reluctance, finally opt to give lectures. Others find ways to draw their students out. One professor begins his courses by asking each student to write a short autobiographical introduction and include a picture and brief statement about why they are taking the course. This teaching helps the professor link names and faces so he can call on students individually in class, allows him to get to learn something about the students' backgrounds and their written language ability, and gives the students an opportunity to introduce themselves to their teacher while maintaining a degree of anonymity. Then the faculty member meets the students, first individually and then in small groups, again drawing them out and hearing their views in a relaxed, nonthreatening atmosphere. Finally, after explaining his teaching style and his belief in competing interpretations of the subject matter, he begins encouraging his students to speak out in class, calling on them when necessary.
Other faculty set up debates and panel discussions where students are asked to play roles and take sides, expressing opinions that may not be their own-thus relieving students of the burden of presenting the "wrong" answer. One teacher, for instance, had her students stage a congressional hearing and a mock news conference, both based on real issues, with great success. Many teachers report that as the semester progresses, their students become more and more comfortable with class participation, and some students even come to relish it.
STUDENTS' PRIOR BACKGROUND
Some teachers find their students do not have the necessary background to understand the subject matter they were planning to teach. As a result, what was planned as an intermediate or advanced course may become an introductory one. Others have been amazed at how well trained their students are. There is almost no way to know how well prepared your students will be, but U.S. faculty should be prepared to spend time early in the semester readying their students for more advanced work.
HOMEWORK AND WORKLOADS
American teachers report that their students do not expect to do homework and complain about extra reading and assignments outside of class. There are several reasons for this. Chinese students may be taking more than five courses a semester and spending more than 25 hours a week in class. Time for homework is limited. Moreover, the use of library books is restricted. Often, books that the American teacher wants to assign students are not available. No one has suggested eliminating out-of-class assignments altogether, but Americans need to get a sense of their students' schedules before deciding how much outside work is appropriate.
In fact, after initial complaints, many Chinese students have been proud to have studied with "strict" American faculty.
THE CLASS MONITOR AND GROUP PRESSURE
Some faculty report that while their students are quiet in class, they are often quite effective making group requests to the teacher, sometimes in the form of communications through small groups of representatives or the class monitor, who is responsible for representing the students and conveying communications from the administration to the students. Often these communications are complaints about too many tests or too much work, and some teachers have complained that such group organization seems manipulative. Students on the verge of graduation seem to have a greater tendency to organize themselves. American teachers must find the right balance between accommodation to the realities of their students' limited time, the requirements of the course, and the other responsibilities of their students.
Teachers often receive visits from their students, not only at the office but also in their homes, and sometimes three or four students will arrive together unexpectedly. These informal exchanges are a good way for both the teacher and students to learn more about one another. If informality and close relationships with your students are important, one way to break the ice is to throw a party for them early on. Teachers report that a good party can be held very inexpensively —some beer and soft drinks and a few bowls of peanuts are sufficient. Bicycle or bus outings with students (the whole class or a group of friends) to a park or scenic site are welcome. Teachers also learn to make it clear that "friendship" is no substitute for hard work and cannot be the basis for the students' final grades.
PLAGIARISM AND "CHEATING"
A few faculty have found that papers submitted by their students contain long passages copied verbatim from published texts without attribution. While the initial reaction of some teachers is to treat this as plagiarism and hence to discipline the student, others recognize that Chinese students have usually not been taught the same academic codes as Americans. With so much emphasis on memorization and the "one right answer," copying from books may be seen as simply getting the right answer. Both the rules on plagiarism and on copying during exams need to be spelled out early. Some U.S. faculty have found success by encouraging group learning and interaction among students until they write their papers or take their exams.
Designing writing assignments and questions for which the students must create an answer based on the material learned can often prevent this problem. While an assignment to write a fable may produce many familiar tales, an assignment to write about a childhood memory will not. Dreams are a fascinating topic.
Most school buildings are austere, unpainted, damp, and virtually unheated, which is why dressing in many layers is so important in winter. Usually they are also relatively clean and supplied with adequate lighting, blackboards, chalk, and standard classroom furniture. In some locations, electricity is erratic. Classes are occasionally rescheduled because of the lack of electricity. Upkeep on some buildings may not be adequate, and broken doors or windows may not be repaired promptly, allowing cold air to enter classrooms in the winter. Most classroom buildings are not air conditioned in the summer, but in some places electric fans are used during the hottest months.
Some institutions assign private offices to their foreign teachers; in others, foreigners share a single work room. Offices are "not Madison
Avenue plush, but they are embarrassingly spacious compared with those of our Chinese colleagues." Some teachers discover that many of their Chinese coworkers must give up their own work space to make room for a foreign expert.
Availability of books and teaching materials in China is also a problem. Fulbright faculty are given a generous allowance to purchase books for their classes. Most foreign experts and teachers suggest bringing your own teaching materials, although in some English-language classes the course material is dictated by the school. Check with your department before arriving about whether you will be using materials provided by your school, what materials are available, and whether you will be able to duplicate materials you bring. (See Chapter 2 for some advice on types of teaching materials.) Explore your town for alternative sources of materials and technology, such as the Foreign Language Bookstore, private copy shops, and stationery stores. Check in advance about whether other teaching aids—like video equipment and overhead projectors—will be available for your use. Many schools do have equipment, but others do not. Also, check into the type of video equipment. Most Chinese videos use the PAL system. Bear in mind, however, that you should not rely on slides, video, or any other equipment for a lesson plan; even if the equipment is there, you may encounter a power blackout. Always have a low-tech backup lesson plan.
Despite the austerity of their physical surroundings, most foreign teachers adjust. Not only does the foreign teacher live and work in better conditions than his students and colleagues, the rewards of teaching ordinarily far outweigh the physical discomfort.
Most Americans report remarkably little interference in the content or method of their teaching. "I have been given complete freedom regarding methods of instruction," writes one. "While the dean, Chinese faculty, and students did not agree with all my views, I was given complete academic freedom," he says. A few incidents have occurred, but most Americans, while being polite and sensitive to different cultural and political views, attempt to teach and conduct themselves "American style," recognizing that there are different points of view and encouraging those different views to be aired.
American teachers report a range of relationships with Chinese faculty members and administrators. Some had excellent relationships with faculty in their departments and became good friends. There were visits by Chinese faculty to classes conducted by U.S. teachers and vice versa.
Relationships with all administrators, faculty, and students were thoroughly professional and friendly; assistance was given and returned freely. . . . Contact with Chinese faculty was abundant, frequent, and very cordial. I only wished I had spoken more Chinese, as collegiality was limited only by the language barrier.
Other U.S. teachers, however, report constraints on interactions with their colleagues.
All relations with officials. . . have been cordial, helpful, and distant. I am regularly invited to department social functions. However, any professional discussions about collaboration and exchange of research very quickly run into barriers. This is frustrating. Just when you meet someone who has similar professional interests, the relation cools. I have had some private conversations that reveal the constraints imposed from above. It is simply not in their interest to collaborate with you.
Another American teacher, who had very good rapport with his students and a very successful teaching experience still lamented the absence of professional contact:
I have no professional contacts with anyone in the department. For a generally outgoing and friendly person, this has been a serious personal disappointment. I have been here for more than four months, and to date no one in the department has asked me a single question about American studies, no one has asked me a single question about American culture, no one has asked me a single question about American literature, no one has asked me a single question about my own work, and no one has asked me a single question about why I came to China.
Explanations for the failure of professional contact are varied. Many Chinese faculty have heavy teaching loads and teach extra classes to earn more money. With the new pressure on universities to earn their own way, faculty also are being called on to contribute to these efforts. Many have significant family responsibilities. But many feel constrained to minimize contact with foreigners.
Many teachers develop rewarding informal relationships with colleagues and students. Just as a professor in China is expected to take an interest not only in his students' class work but in their overall development as well, so students' obligations to their teachers extend beyond the classroom. Your students may well offer assistance in dealing with difficult mundane chores—by introducing you to local shops and markets, making sure you see points of interest, serving as an interpreter on occasion, and keeping you informed of activities that might be of interest—lectures, movies, band concerts, basketball games, and plays.
Some teachers eat with their students periodically and are often invited to participate in activities such as dances—where the tango and waltz are as popular as disco and other contemporary steps. Teachers also suggest bringing along books of American folk songs and Christmas carols. Social student gatherings often require the participants to perform, and you may want to use the occasion to teach your students and friends some American songs.
Many find their students visiting their homes for help with English or schoolwork—or to visit the American toddler who lives there, too. Occasionally, teachers are invited to visit their students' homes.
A few teachers noted, however, that their students seemed hesitant to have informal contact with them. These teachers believe it is best to let Chinese students take the initiative in establishing relationships outside the classroom, and a student's offer of help should be accepted with a certain parsimony. ''The teacher's pet" may face problems with his or her peers, and the teacher who takes too much advantage of helpful offers also runs the risk of being seen as exploitative.
Similarly, many students and some faculty are eager to attend schools in the United States and many teachers find themselves called on for advice and help about how to get to the United States. Students want to know more about the U.S. educational system and may ask for letters of recommendation. Most teachers are delighted to write letters of recommendation and advise other Americans planning to teach in China to be prepared to serve as an adviser. However, they also caution against making overly optimistic comments about the possible assistance they or their home institution can give to Chinese students.
Many students have an exaggerated notion of what "help" their foreign teacher can provide, sometimes assuming that their teacher will have the power to place them in the right school. Offhand encouragement may inspire unrealistic hopes for acceptance and funding. Teachers also caution newcomers in becoming involved with the selection of students being sent abroad by the work unit, as the word of a foreign expert or teacher may be given a great deal of weight.
Relationships with Chinese colleagues are generally cordial but a bit formal by U.S. standards. Contact outside working hours may be limited to special ceremonial occasions, banquets, and outings planned by the host unit or department. Some foreign teachers have developed close relationships with Chinese colleagues, frequently visiting their homes for meals and evenings of discussion or inviting their colleagues to their own homes. If the foreigner speaks Chinese, relationships tend to develop fairly easily: "knowing the language opens up an entirely different realm in relationships with Chinese people." Conversely, those who do not speak Chinese may interact most frequently with their English-speaking colleagues.
CHINESE LANGUAGE LESSONS
Many teachers in China use the opportunity to learn or improve their Chinese language proficiency. As one Fulbright scholar writes, "I would strongly urge all Fulbrighters to work hard to learn the language. My wife's success at becoming conversant demonstrates that a lot can be accomplished with a tutor and determination, and believe me, your whole perspective, your relationships, everything will be different if you can communicate in the native language."
Many people, though, find that learning Chinese requires enormous discipline and determination. Teaching obligations can take up all your time. Most work units, however, will help you find a language tutor upon request. The American pays the teacher's fee. Most people recommend bringing your own teaching materials and tapes from the United States, since many tutors may not be language teachers and good teaching materials may be hard to find. You can set your own pace, but meeting several times a week, either in your apartment or in the departmental office, will speed your learning.
People caution the student of Chinese to make certain the tutor speaks standard Mandarin. There are many dialects and accents in China, and most people want to approximate the "standard spoken language."
Many warn that "trading" English lessons for Chinese can be tricky and is usually not worth the effort—a tutor is inexpensive, but tutoring is costly in time and effort. Many "traders" end up in an unbalanced relationship.
GENERAL ADJUSTMENT ADVICE
Every teacher encounters problems in adjusting to life in China, but the individuals who provided information for this book believe the satisfactions of working with intensely dedicated students, participating in Chinese life, making a contribution to the quality of Chinese education, and feeling their way through the subtle nuances of friendships with Chinese people outweigh the negative aspects. Some general pieces of advice offered to future Americans going to teach in China include the following:
Get a good English-language map of the city you're in, and explore the city early and often. It quickly makes a very alien-seeming place begin to feel comfortable, and the feeling of ease helps immeasurably with the inevitable major cultural transition.
Perhaps the greatest adjustment problem was having to learn Chinese-style decision making through consensus reached in informal discussions conducted before a formal meeting. Also, information and ideas came to
me indirectly through the class monitor rather than directly from students. Everything happens slowly in China, so I had to learn to be more patient after making a request. And, although I had an apartment to myself, I had to learn to expect visits from students, colleagues, and the department chairman as early as 7 a.m. and as late as 10 or 11 p.m.; American-style privacy is nonexistent in China!
Be as open and informal as your personality allows. Learn about and be sensitive to cultural differences. Spend as much time as possible with Chinese people.
One U.S. teacher's summary of the experience of living and working in China seems particularly appropriate: "Go planning to learn more than you teach, expect a challenge, and above all, expect to enjoy China and its people—you won't be disappointed!"