My first teaching job was at a primary school. I taught mathematics to standard four children in rural Nyeri. Teaching in English, was especially difficult in this case since the kids spoke mostly in their native tongue. That was when I decided to teach kindergarten children. To provide the basis they so strongly needed. And as fate would have it, a spot popped up for a kindergarten teacher in China.
The change was huge for me. I moved from classrooms with desks and chalkboards, to rooms strewn with toys and crayons. The children, mostly between the ages of three and five, had extremely short attention spans, and so my classes lastly only about twenty minutes. The children had two tea breaks and an hour’s nap after lunch before they went home. That meant trying to squeeze all my activities into about four hours in a day. Anyone would jump at only having to teach for four hours, but no one tells you just how much work that is.
The emotions were through the roof. A child could easily move from singing one second to crying if he didn’t get the toy he wanted. Some children were also not potty trained, which meant you had to take a few trips to the loo. I found my patience tried one too many times. One look from those huge brown eyes was enough to dissipate the frustration though, and slowly I was able to make the sessions more interactive.
We moved from singing and dancing games to flashcards and show and tell. You find that you have to move around a lot which I must say was helpful in my fitness struggle. And you gesticulate a lot too; a habit you will find goes home with you every day. Flashcards came in handy, though I found in some instances, having the real items was a major help. When it came to the games, I found that the simpler it was the better for them. I cannot reiterate how many children songs and games you need to know. “Head, shoulder, knees and toes” was particularly useful when teaching body parts.
My favourite parts of the day were rewarded time. When a child got a word right or did the right thing, we gave them bright and colourful stickers. The smiles on their faces could easily melt your heart. The knee hugs were also absolutely amazing; maybe even something to look forward to.
All in all, teaching kindergarten children is a lot of work, but it is richly rewarding. I mean, who wouldn’t want to spend a whole day singing, dancing and colouring?
Teach English in China and Begin the adventure of a Lifetime!