First Impressions - Don Holloway

I've been in Nanyang (Henan province) a little over two weeks now, and can say that I have settled in very well and have been met with only the utmost of kindness from staff as well as from students. From the time of touching down at the provincial airport to help recently fixing a leaky pipe in my kitchen, I have to say that the school has my best intentions at heart. My flat is comfortable, the food wonderful, the students eager and cheerful. What more could an English teacher want?

Nanyang is a moderate-sized inland city where few foreigners have been. I am a novelty in this region of China, and the Chinese consider me exotic. I get curious stares and lots and lots of smiles. Walking around the campus of the school where I work, the people saying 'ni hao' ('hello') are endless. I have been placed at a polytechnic, and my students are between the ages of 18 and 21. They are full of energy and enthusiasm for English. Unlike my experience in inner-London secondary schools, discipline here is not an issue whatsoever. The students genuinely want to learn English, and learn it well, and this year will prove to have lots of chances for them to improve their English, both inside and outside the classroom.

I teach four groups of around thirty students. I have each group twice a week, and each lesson for one-hundred minutes. Classes focus on spoken English and on reading English. Most of the students have never had a native speaker of English before as their teacher, so my aim this year is to improve spoken fluency and pronunciation. Lessons are kept fun, and the students have no problem participating.

I am overwhelmed with the kindness shown to me. If I need to buy something, I always have at least two students to volunteer to help me. If I need to have something in Chinese explained to me in English, there is always a student wanting to translate. How do I operate a Chinese washing machine? Explained. And the water heater? The same. I already have had many lively discussions about the differences between English and Chinese cultures. You couldn't ask for kinder or more eager students.

Originally I came to China for a career break. For years I worked in software before my arrival at Nanyang. Years ago I used to be a qualified teacher in England, but stopped because of the bureaucratic demands and behavioural issues. In the last few weeks I have found again that inner teacher in me. I already consider China in general, and Nanyang in particular, my second home.

Don Holloway - donaldkholloway@aol.co.uk