My first experience being an English teacher was in 2011. I had lived for 6 months in Nepal and was a teacher at a primary school. Because I really enjoyed teaching children, I decided to continue my volunteer career in another country. I went to China due to its rich history and also to learn the basics of the Chinese language. Because I wanted to be better prepared to teach a foreign language to Chinese children, I attended a TESOL course that provided a basic introduction to language teaching methodologies. It was very useful because I now better understand the language issues Chinese children may experience.

I arrived mid April 2012 and together with another volunteer we were picked up by the principals on the Chongming Islands near Shanghai. I agreed to work four days a week at a primary school and 1 day a week at a Kindergarten. The difference in teaching methods between Nepal and China are significant. As I was used only to make use of a blackboard and some chalk, the current schools provided all kind of high tech education means varying from projectors to smart boards. Extremely useful as I extensively made use of PowerPoint presentations with a lot of English animations.

When I walked in the school, I felt like a celebrity. They shouted my name (Erika instead of Erik, still do not know why the suffix “a”) and each child insisted that I had to sign my signature at least 4 times on all kind of papers. There are approx 350 students so I recommend the next volunteers to bring some pre printed cards. Their English is – compared to many other students from Asian countries - of a high level, so I mainly focused on the oral part which can be quite challenging as for example stress is an important part in the English language while an unknown aspect in the Chinese. I was also surprised by their creativity. One activity we carried out was building a bridge between two desks with only paper. Although I developed a bridge of more than a meter long, some of the kids far surpassed my “golden paper bridge” creation.

Not only were the children extremely friendly, but also the principals, teachers, guards and cooks were exceptionally helpful. Every morning I was being picked up by the principal at 07:00 and when he arrived 10 seconds too late he always extensively apologized. Being on time is a very important aspect in the Chinese culture which I really appreciated. The schools provided me with an office, computer and printer and both the kindergarten as well the primary school assigned some teachers to me who supported me in many ways.

At the primary school I taught English 3 times a day and classes vary from 20 to 40 kids. Besides teaching English, I also taught them soccer and basketball so in 10 years, the future world champions basketball and soccer will be from the Chongming Island for sure.

At the kindergarten I always started with a short cartoon “Gogo” a little dragon who explained in very basic English all kind of topics as “colours, shapes, time”. After the cartoon, I elaborated more about the topic. They really liked the cartoons for reasons that my name is now Gogo instead of Erik.

One of the most important days in China is “Children’s day” so the principal asked me to do a performance. Because I cannot sing, I decided - under certain conditions- to do my favorite game “balletje balletje” in which a small ball is hidden under one of the 3 cups and the children had to guess “where is the ball”. The conditions were of course that the children who volunteered to guess where I had hidden the ball should be very young so I was sure that my magic trick didn’t fail. Well the children never guessed right but that was because there was never a ball under the cup. Anyway they really liked the trick.

Food is excellent and I was fortunate that I had lunch at the primary school and dinner at the kindergarten. Sometimes when I longed for a real western breakfast, I bought real baguettes in one of the Carrefour supermarkets.

The island is very beautiful and if you like riding a bike, this is the place to be. The island is flat has excellent bike paths and riding along the coast is a very beautiful experience.