I have taught my last class of the semester. At the end, after the exam, I gave my students a feedback sheet I’d produced myself. This is so I can get some insight into what they have enjoyed, what they haven’t, why, and what they would change. Students are often reluctant to give criticism, but I point out that it is useful to me if they have not enjoyed something or understood something, because it means I can improve on it for next time (the pictures below are not from the feedback sheet; they are WeChat messages from my students).
It is clear, though not surprising, that students enjoy our (i.e. foreign teacher) classes over Chinese English teacher classes. I already knew that, because we encourage students to actually speak. The students seem to have enjoyed doing improvisation (which was the same at RDFZ when I got feedback there), which is, I guess, not unexpected if you realise that students have no drama education in schools and so it is very rare for them to do this sort of stuff.
One of the frequent comments was ‘a place to relax’ (in relation to the class). This is a nice compliment given the fact that they have relatively little time to relax. Another common comment was that their teacher (i.e. me) was very handsome or humorous or, as one person said, ‘Mark is sometimes just like an actor, your face expression sometimes looks so fun’. I’m not sure what my facial expressions are, but I’m glad they are providing students with some entertainment!
Some of the comments about my teaching were helpful (and things I am already conscious of), such as speaking clearly and slowly. One person said they enjoyed many activities, but a few were a little boring which was a fair point. At the start of class recently, I played a game of catchphrase. I had some pictures on the screen and the students had to guess what the words or phrases were. The first one they did not get, but when they understood how to play it, they seemed to get into it. A couple of the comments specifically mentioned this as something they had enjoyed.
Recently, little things have been niggling. Nothing major, but just little things I’ve been frustrated with. The internet, for instance, and traffic. Where people park here, baffles me. They seem to stop wherever they want, often in an inappropriate place, such as in the middle of the road or on the pavement, preventing pedestrians from walking past. And then the exam fiasco didn’t help. But then, on Tuesday, on the subway on the way home, a student sent me a WeChat message saying, ‘first of all, you are a very very good and perfect teacher … when I look back on every 8am class now, I really miss you and the people there. To be honest, your class is better than most of the Chinese teacher, and I have learnt lots of new things there. I like sleeping, and sometimes I will be late for class, but you were always smiling and never punish me …’ and so on. That was lovely. Another said that they were shy but that their oral English had improved a lot. A third said she had more courage to speak English now.
Despite all the niggles and irritations, messages like those above make it worth it. When the student told me they now have more courage to speak English, I thought, ‘job done’! (In the photos below, some have artwork on them. There is a popular phone app people here use to add it to photos. I’m not overly a fan, but they insisted, haha).