Teacher journey from China to Snider
By John Anderson
Ms. Abigail Madison, one of nine new teachers at Snider, has spent two years teaching English Language Learning (ELL) in China. Madison graduated from Huntington University, where she majored in English literature and secondary education. Madison knew in college she wanted to do something that involved reading, writing and talking to people. The obvious choice for her was teaching.
Teaching ELL in China was much different from teaching regular English at Snider. Madison said students who are learning English here are using the language daily, so it’s easier for them to remember what they learn. Children in China learn English starting in kindergarten, but they don’t use it often.
When Madison taught at a private school in China, half of her day was spent teaching and the other half was spent planning and grading. Teachers at her former school didn’t have their own rooms. Students stayed in one homeroom all day, while teachers moved from one classroom to another. It left room for students to get acquainted, while teachers were the outliers.
“It’s the students’ room, not the teacher’s. They get to know each other well, so you’re the odd one out,” Madison said.
Lunch for students in China is an hour and a half long. Students spend their lunch break doing what they like, as long as they don’t leave campus. Students may play basketball or do homework. Madison spent her time taking naps.
At Snider, many students have school spirit, but, according to Madison, her Chinese school had none. They didn’t have sports teams or many clubs. The priority in China is on academics.
“In China the focus is on memorization. Just know the facts and pass the test. There’s very little thinking about creativity and creative thinking. In America we’re test-focused, but in China it’s done much more often,” Madison said.
Madison was in a different culture in China, and it took a while for her to become acclimated to her surroundings. In China, teachers don’t plan ahead in school, which has made her learn to be flexible. Making new friends in the culture was tough, since she did not know the language, nor the culture.
Madison gave some advice about being in a new culture, something she said she’ll remember when she travels again.
“I’ve learned to be flexible. In China they don’t really plan ahead. So sometimes I would come into work and they’d tell me I had to do this, and I’d just do it. Just relax, go with the flow, and learn to be flexible,” she said.
Teaching ELL in China was tough for Madison, and she didn’t participate in any of the school clubs, since they were in Chinese, but the job of a teacher was much easier than it is in the United States. If a student failed the test, she wasn’t held responsible for it; the student was held responsible.
Most of Madison’s students at Snider speak basic English. It is her job to teach them to use the language so they can interact well in school and have a deeper understanding in class. Madison says her goal is to prepare the students so they will be ready to move out of her class, and into the mainstream without her help. She wants them to understand English so fluently, she said, that they don’t need her class anymore.