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Teaching English and Aiming for Progress

As a partner and teacher at an English training center, Sandra Chen comments on Chinese parental pressure and the importance of motivation in education.

When and why did you start teaching English?

I have worked in a training center since 2010, but I started to teach since 2018 when we had an English reading club for kids. My teaching career started from reading storybooks for the kids. Teaching them how to read is enjoyable and great fun.

Is teaching English a good job in China? If so, why?

From my point of view, all teaching jobs are good in China, so teaching English is a good job for me. First, we can always earn respect from parents. Second, English is a language, and teaching is using it. Third, from its demand, English is one of the most important subjects at school, and kids would like to learn it well. There are a lot of other reasons like a high salary, opportunities…

Is English a difficult language for Chinese kids/people to learn?

I don’t think it is difficult for kids or adults in China; we have so many ways to study this language, like online classes, apps, social media like TikTok and other short videos you can learn from, English TV and movies you can watch. There are so many ways to learn this language besides the class at school. Also, the method of teaching in school now is very different from my generation. When I was a kid, we learned it for tests, and we could barely speak any of it. But now, we focus more on listening and speaking.

What’s the most challenging part of teaching kids?

For me, it is discipline management in class. In the beginning, I was so afraid that if I’m nice to my students, they will be naughty in class. If I was too strict with them, they would lose interest in my class, and I’m not a strict person. As I got more experience, I learned that I need to have my rules for them. I need to build my routines for them, so that they will know what to expect and follow.

Why are some kids better and some never get good at learning a topic?

I think that’s normal. As training center teachers, we aim to help kids make progress. We always have good kids and not-so-good kids in a group, and that’s mostly related to their study habits and family background. I would say that they don’t have to be good at everything—every kid is different, and they all have different talents. If they [do not understand a topic], then they keep trying.

What is your opinion on Chinese kids’ parental pressure? Is it justified?

I think the pressure is not just from their parents, but also the school and even friends. Just like us, we all have stress from work and society. Depending on how you deal with it, I think it’s a good way for them to learn how to face it. The school and parents should also teach the kids how to release stress, because when they grow up, they will still need to face this problem. When I was a student, running and cycling was my way to relax. So, pressure is not a bad thing all the time. Some kids need the pressure to motivate them to accomplish their goals.

How difficult is it to deal with the students’ parents?

It’s true that it’s difficult, but I’m lucky, because most parents I have met are really nice people. Parents become difficult when you can’t meet their needs, because many parents want to see kids’ improvement in a short time. All you need to do is tell them your plan and how to help the kids, then communicate efficiently. It’s very important to [keep the parents updated on] the performance of their kids. So, we need to pay attention in order to give feedback. We request all teachers to talk to parents about their kids’ progress for every single class.

Why did you decide to open an English training center?

I got invited to a partnership with my university’s English teachers (Joy and Angel) when they decided to have their own training center. So, I gave it a try, and now here I am.

Is an English training center good business in China? What are the challenges?

Most people who have never worked for the education industry think it’s a great business as we have such a huge market in China, especially with the second child policy and now the third child policy. In my eyes, it’s a good business but with many competitors.

The challenge for me to run the business is marketing. We are all teachers, so we don’t know how to make sales. Even when we hire people to do marketing for us, it is not really helpful at times. We now aim to make all our kids progress, then their friends and relatives will hear about us [through referrals]. That’s the way we get new students. Most of them are from parents that recommended us. We are so grateful for that.