Number one for English language teachers

Simon Greenfield

At the time of writing this diary, Simon had taught in the South-West of China for 11 months and was just about to start a further six-month contract. The city he was living in rarely receives Western visitors so his diary often takes in the experience of being a bit of a star attraction.

Note: These diary entries have not been censored and contain adult themes. Please bear this in mind if you are thinking of sharing the diary entries with a colleague.

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    To get into the Pagan swing of things the teachers chose a Christmas play which seamlessly manages to blend all those elements which the West commonly associates with Christmas into one debutorial masterpiece. That's right, they chose Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs. Or, if you want to stick more closely to the script, Snow White and The Seven Little People.

  • When foreign teachers go wrong

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    As a group, foreigners (that's teachers abroad) can often be a little bit hit and miss. As you can imagine, when you're one of only an handful of aliens out of a population of 500 000, having someone you can relate to or just enjoy a little bit of banter with over a beer, is a very important thing indeed. In some cases it can alter your entire experience of a country. On the whole, to an outsider, these makeshift international communities can look an incredibly disparate ...

  • The invitation

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    China has the uncanny knack of being able to lull you into a false sense of security and then manages to pack your ass full of Columbia's annual coke haul, smile, and push you into customs and immigration. When it's not you it's quite a magical process to watch. Unfortunately, after a particularly trying five lessons straight, I received my calling. On opening an envelope which had been casually thrown on my desk (accompanied by the deliverer donning a fake beard and ...

  • Differences

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    Since I seem to be flitting away money with the same regularity that the average human being breathes, I've decided to take on additional classes to boost my 'Simon must go travelling' fund. These additions have manifested in the form of senior classes whose main preoccupations seem to be growing downy fluff on their upper lips (both sexes), giggling, and staring at my crotch (disconcertingly, the latter two usually go together). As my teaching sphere had previously ...

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    This class is full of extremely capable kids with that frustrating combination of those who talk more than they should and those who talk less than they could. To kick off the class I ask them to tell me what they did at the weekend with the strict instructions that it is to be interesting i.e. not involving 'cleaning my room' or 'doing my homework'. Because I understand that as a teacher I am also a role model and moral guide for my children, I heartily encourage my kids to lie if ...

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    I think it is too easy to lump kids into separate camps of 'good' and 'evil'. Remnants of a former foreign teachers' reign may give you some indication as to which way the child sways e.g. finding out a child's English 'name' is 'Tinker' or 'Satan spawn'. But I also think this divide comes down to a teacher's failure to isolate talent. As a teacher it is your job to identify and then nurture (exploit) a child's talent. By adopting this mode of thought even the most migraine-inducing ...

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    My other role at the school was to teach art via the medium of English. This is actually harder than it sounds given the absence of pens, paper, and concentration. Since the children had just returned from their winter vacation, I asked them to draw where they had been, what they had done, and with whom. This is a good warm-up exercise to real work and once order is restored in the classroom, often yields some positive results. As usual there were the tranquil scenes ...

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    One of the beautiful things about living in a small Chinese city away from the clutches of even the most intrepid western explorers, is that you suddenly become 'handsome by association' due to the extreme lack of exposure to foreigners. Association, in this case, being my skin colour. Simon Greenfield is white. David Beckham is white. Therefore, Simon Greenfield equals, quite naturally, David Beckham. The first time I was told that I looked like David Beckham I was ...

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    The standard duration of the average lesson (at least in China) is 40 minutes. Depending on the age group that time is generally broken down into 20 minutes of getting the kids quiet enough to listen/sit down, and then 20 minutes to administer a swift dose of education before they notice. So, we're looking at 20 minutes a lesson to fulfil my raison d'etre here - to teach -so at the very least I can return home at night and say "Yes, I am making a worthy contribution ...

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    As someone who has lived here for a year now, I can safely say that Chinese people love singing. And, maybe because it's a tonal language, most of them are pretty good at it. Obviously you get the odd deviation from this, usually the drunk guy sobbing into the microphone (which projects sound out of the building) of a karaoke establishment at 2 in the morning, but I'd say it's a sure bet that if a Chinese person opens their mouth pleasant sounds will come out. And, therefore, ...

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    When I was in primary school there was always a time when one of my school mates would bring in something unusual, more often than not, an overfed gerbil. As I entered the classroom one morning I saw a large circle of children gathered in quiet fascination. This usually means a grasshopper has been liberated of it's limbs and is trying to rock its body out of harms way, or one of the children is dead. As I looked down at the source of interest I was confronted with a ...

  • Chinese tour groups

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    One of the perks of my job here at the moment is that my bosses (Grace and Roger) seem extremely keen to show me various famous scenes around the area as a means of furthering my cultural development and not at all to do with the fact that they want to show off they have a pale face at their school. Not at all.... So anyways, they booked me on a tour of a rather famous place called Jiuzhaigou, and after a rather uneventful 8 hour bus journey (along a road of all things) ...

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    One lesson I'm particularly pleased with I've creatively christened 'Bank Robber'. The basic English curriculum at my middle school is based around a rather thin book which I was asked to base my lessons around. It contains the usual uninspiring crap - largely song orientated, I might add - but there was one section based on learning how to describe the face. I don't know whether I'd had a particularly bad day but for some reason I felt the inclusion of a gun would spice ...

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