Why My Chinese Students Freak Me Out. A little.

Its only been close to close to 2 months of teaching, but I’ve formed some opinions and impressions thus far. I should also preface that I do adore my students, even the vaguely evil ones who refuse to speak English and mess with my powerpoint when I’m not watching.  These are just observations of specific school in the middle of nowhere Sichuan, I’m not sure they can applied to all Chinese students.

1. They have a freakish ability to memorize things

They can seriously memorize a page of textbook in a short time. They know all the vocab words by the end of class. I teach my kindergarteners a new number or a new color every class and they can always remember last weeks. However,  while they can memorize vocab words until the cows come home, they can’t use those words in sentences. They memorize it but don’t always truly understand it.

2. They touch me

That’s not as creepy as it sounds. But the little ones are always sticking their hands in my hair, touching my face, or touching my arm hair. I swear I have a normal amount of Caucasian girl arm hair, probably a bit less but its still substantially more then Asian girl arm hair and so 4 year olds love to rub my arms.

I have a little 3 year old in my class who gets  close to my face and giggles hysterically. I rarely make it through story time without at least 3 reminders to keep their hands to themselves. Kids older then 9 do not do this, though my Chinese co-workers love to play with my hair. They describe it as “big and fluffy” which is really every girl’s dream.


3. They’re dirty little cheaters

My Chinese friend and I were talking about college and I mentioned I still have flashbacks to all the papers I had to write. She casually stated that writing papers must be harder in America since “You’re not supposed to copy things off the internet”…. no, we do tend to look rather poorly on plagiarizing.

When I gave my students a test I got frustrated when they all tried to copy each other, but no one, including the Chinese Assistant knew why I wanted to automatically fail the students. I play a lot of games with my kindergarteners and in a game where we go bowling or play a ring toss, I make them stand a certain distance away. They will consistently try to get closer and I always make them repeat it if they cheat, which again, they don’t understand. I really don’t know if that’s just how things work in china and I should let them do it, or if I should insist on honesty.

They also freak out for any kind of computer game

Forming lines isn’t one of their strengths either

4. They take SO many classes

My students take classes on the weekends and the evenings in addition to regular school. My middle school students study Physics, Math, English, Chinese, Art, and some sort of sport. My kindergarteners are all in dance or Tae Kwon Do as well as English and who knows what else. They consistently complain that all they do is work and they just want to sleep. So I find it hard to be a strict teacher in class and sort of run my class like a support group in English. Social work habits die hard. The educational system here is brutal, I’ll probably write more about it when I understand it better.

5. They get intense over worksheets

All my classes have a worksheet component. My kindergarten class traces letters, my primary 1 class write sentences and so on. We always do this at the end of class and NONE of them leave until they have finished. They take it really seriously. Even the 4yo’s will refuse to get up until they trace all their letters. They’re so intense about it. When I hand them out the room goes silent and they race to finish first. I’m sure I was like that at 4 too….


Teaching has been an adventure thus far. I have no idea what I’m doing. However knowing what you’re doing does not seem to be a pre-requisite for teaching here. I never really got any training, I was just told to make sure the kids have fun and learn new words. I’m enjoying it though, everyone tells me I’m in the honeymoon phase of China, and I’m going to ride that out for all its worth. My students are a constant source of entertainment for me.

In other exciting news, I’m going to Chengdu this weekend. Its a 90minute train ride from Nanchong and from what I hear its basically like re-entering the universe. Another foreign teacher has to go for some visa business and a Chinese teacher is going to translate for him and I’m going for the Starbucks  to see the ancient part of the city and visit some temples. Chengdu is mainly famous as the place to go to see the pandas, but I don’t think we’ll be doing that this trip.  Still very excited!

Dalai Lama



5 responses to “Why My Chinese Students Freak Me Out. A little.

  1. This is all so interesting. I’ve heard from other people that cheating / copying is very common in China, which is sad. Hopefully you can explain to them why it’s better to figure things out for yourself!

  2. Yes, it was the same in Korea…The touching, though…all kids do that, even American ones. It’s something that you definitely have to train them…stand back, give the teacher some room, NO Touching! I think the arm hair one is pretty funn!

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