Teach English in Madao Zhen - Hanzhong Shi

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Teaching English especially to non-English speaking students is really a big and challenging task. You need to be really full of patience, understanding and passion as you decide to enter this vocation. For me, it’s like you are in a “jungle survival” competition. This was exactly my experience when I worked for ten years in the Middle East as a Kindergarten Teacher. I had students with zero-English and it really gave me a hard time to understand each and every student in my class. I was really in shock when I entered into the classroom on the first day of classes and saw Arab parents sitting around near their children who were crying and having tantrums. Normally, each class should have an Arabic Assistant Teacher but at that moment, the school was still in the process of interviewing local applicants, so I was alone but I tried my best to cope-up with the situation. As an experienced Montessori and Preschool Teacher back in the Philippines, I thought of the best strategy that I know which I can apply that time to win children’s attention. I smiled, encouraged them to stand up and sing with me assuming that what I sang was a popular Nursery rhyme. But there were two kids who were crying that time looking for their moms. They were left in the room with their nannies only. Their yelling and crying encouraged other kids to do the same. It was really like a jungle! I left the room fast for a while and looked for a rescue. Fortunately, I saw one new English Teacher coming and I asked her to come with me in the room while she’s free and help me handle the kids. Honestly, we were like crazy aliens talking to the moon! I got a picture book from the shelf and started asking the kids if they know the picture that I was pointing at. Whoa! The parents were the ones answering! I’ve learned that the kids were all zero-English and most of the parents too! Thank God, that day was just a shortened one because it was more of orientation. The class was dismissed and told myself that I can’t ever forget that “jungle survival” experience in my life. I’m so thankful that on the following day the Arabic Assistant Teacher assigned to my class came. Unfortunately, this teacher understands just very little English like “yes”, “no”, “Thank you”, “eat”, “cry”, etc. Just very basic! To make the long story short, I really exerted a lot of efforts just to really cope-up with the enormous challenge that I was facing that time. Every day that passed was a test on my patience. I told myself that I need to do something so things could go smoothly and easily. First thing that I did was I asked permission from the Arabic Teacher teaching my class if I could stay during her period so I could learn some Arabic words. She allowed me to stay and I keenly observed at one corner, writing everything that I hear based on the gestures that I can see. During the break, I ask the Arabic Teacher if my guess on the words and gestures are right. She was amazed how good I was at guessing! Second strategy that I did was during our free time every day, I diligently and patiently taught my Arabic Assistant Teacher communicative English for free. She was so happy and excited about it for she’s the only one having tutorial among the assistants. She learned basic skills fast for a month only. She became better and better the following months and one day we’ve found out that we’re already helping each other in explaining difficult words to the kids. That time children have already learned some English vocabulary as well as simple instructions and commands. For the third strategy, I took courage in mingling with the Arabic Teachers during breaks. I conversed with them and observed every little gesture that they do and every word that they say. Then I frequently asked for confirmation if my understanding was right. I was already learning more! As another strategy, I also took time to mingle with higher grade students for they are already well-conversed in English. I asked them to translate words for me while holding my weapons: my notebook and my pen. Every day, I felt that handling my class was lighter and easier. I felt many things were improving. Parents were happy for the results on their kids. They were praising me during our Open Days and these things motivated me to go on exploring. I did not stop there. Last thing that I did was I bought a book of Arabic terms, sentences and conversations. I read and studied it during my free time. That book also contained Arab cultures and traditions. I’ve also studied about them. I even tasted and patronized Arabic foods. They were actually good and I really crave for them until now that I’m already back to the Philippines. Honestly, my colleagues were so amazed how fast I’ve learned the Arabic Language because most of them did not pay any interest on it especially those who are handling higher levels. My Principal and other Arabic Teachers were shocked when I suddenly spoke and commented while they were conversing in Arabic. “Oh! She understands us. Let’s be careful!” they jokingly said while laughing. Over-all, I can say that my Foreign Language experience was really helpful and rewarding. I was able to connect to my students and understood them more. I was also able to use it in malls, market and gatherings. Please take note that I don’t speak Arabic in class. It’s forbidden! That means an offence which may cause my termination. It’s just that my teaching became smoother and easier and learning became more improved and successful. My supposed to be one year contract reached ten long years. I really loved the school and Arab people but I needed to go home to take care of my sick mom. Until now, I know how to converse in Arabic and I won’t ever forget my experiences living, working and surviving in a place where I was a total stranger.