skip navigation

Article by New Confucius Institute Teacher Zou Ke Published in China

The following article by Zou Ke, a new Confucius Institute teacher in the Lewiston Porter Central School District, was published in the Confucius Institute journal and then republished by the People’s Daily (Overseas Edition). Teacher Zou describes her initial experiences in America and explains the process of adapting to the American school setting. The article appears below, first in English, then in Chinese.

An Observant and Conscientious Chinese Teacher Comes to Buffalo

On August 23, 2018, with my heavy luggage and best wishes from my family and friends, I arrived in the United States and started my new journey of Chinese education as a Confucius Institute guest teacher in Lewiston Porter Primary School.

Lewiston is a quiet and beautiful town near the famous Niagara Falls. As an adventurer thrust into a new work and living environment, I have needed to adapt actively to so many things.

Time always flies so fast with fulfilling work. It’s hard to imagine that I have been in the United States for more than a month already. With the warmhearted support provided by directors of the University at Buffalo Confucius Institute and my colleagues, I am settling well into my daily life and education work.

Before I came to the United States, I had been an English teacher for 12 years. But here I am very green. As a newcomer, more observation and more questions become the most direct way for me to gain more experience.

At the same time, I have been trying my best to draw on my previous language teaching experience to help with the present teaching tasks. I have put a lot of effort into the details of establishing a positive learning environment, managing the classroom and teaching Chinese. I hope my methods can help ignite students’ interest in leaning and facilitate study of Chinese language and of China itself.

Elementary educators in the United States pay lots of attention to the learning environment of the classrooms. Every classroom reveals something about the unique style of the teacher. Even though there is a big diversity of styles, there are some common elements of classroom settings, such as colorful decorations and clearly-divided areas in the room.

After observation, in addition to the original Chinese-style classroom, I decorated the classroom with more colorful frames and English letters, and the favorite Chinese animal of American kids—the panda. I also divided the classroom into different areas in order to make the classroom clearer and more vivid for students, so it will be pleasant when walking into the Chinese classroom.

Lewiston Porter is a highly-regarded local public school in which teachers provide clear rules and expectations for student achievement and behavior. However, kids can still be little trouble-makers in the class. After observing classes of the former Chinese guest teacher and American teachers, I established the classroom rules on the first day. Those rules are very detailed, including how to properly raise hands to answer questions and excuse themselves to go to the restroom. I reinforce those rules with my students in every class and consistently enforce them.

Since I need to teach 20 classes, I write down special comments on the roster for each class in order to be able to recognize my students’ names as quickly as possible. Practice has proved that’s very helpful for management of my teaching. During class time, it’s common to see two or three students sitting together on the carpet and having side conversations that can distract the class. At the Confucius Institute teacher workshop at the University at Buffalo in September, a teacher shared a very useful method of keeping students in their own spot. The method is basically to use tape to divide the carpet into grids and have students sit inside assigned grids. That method efficiently prevents students from squeezing together or having too much physical contact. I found this method is very useful after I tried it in my classroom.

In addition, I greet or have simple conversations with my students in Chinese outside of the classroom before class, or use a rhythmic Chinese song to start class. Those steps are all helpful to quickly getting students into a learning frame of mind and increasing their sense of ritual.

I teach 20 classes in Lewiston Porter. The majority of my students are from 5 to 8 years old, including kindergarten and classes with multiple ages. Students who are young in age generally can only concentrate for around 20 minutes in class, and then tend to feel very tired if they keep studying beyond that time.

I try to design every class with interesting activities based on the students’ age range. These students are very actively participating in class activities, so teachers need to be patient in giving opportunities for every student to present his or her own ideas instead of shutting down students during the class period. Organizing hands-on activities serves this function. Besides providing detailed instructions in the beginning, more patience is needed in guiding students so that every student can successfully finish the work and enjoy the sense of achievement.

American teachers in the school are very enthusiastic. Sometimes, I will also go to the school cafeteria after class, taste each kind of food, and praise the cook for the delicious chicken they cooked the day before.

Besides that, having conversations, sharing funny stories with local teachers, and participating in all kinds of cultural and charitable events are all helpful for me to blend into American culture. As a new teacher, I hope I can make a positive contribution to Chinese education. As long as you always observe and are attentive to details, there are always new and fantastic experiences waiting for you.



邹可 孔子学院院刊 《孔子学院》2018年10月14日
2018年8月23日,我拖着行李,带着家人和朋友沉甸甸的祝福来到了美国,在纽约州立布法罗大学孔子学院下设孔子课堂Lewiston-porter 小学部做中文访问教师,开启了汉语教育的新旅程。Lewiston是一个美丽安宁的小镇,离著名的尼亚加拉大瀑布不远。初来乍到,新的环境,新的工作伙伴,有很多事情需要主动去适应。充实的时间总是过得飞快,不知不觉已经在美国工作一个月整了。在孔子学院院长和各位同事的热心帮助下,目前生活与教学已经基本稳定下来。接受汉办的委派前,我只是一名普通的小学英语教师。作为一个并不年轻的“新人”,多观察,多开口问成为我获取经验的最直接途径,并力求能与自己原有的语言教学经验结合起来。基于儿童心理、生理和认知特点,我在环境创设、课堂管理和教学等各方面上着重细节,希望能激发学生的学习兴趣,有助于更好地开展汉语教学。