By Pat King, English Teacher at Various Universities in Nanchang and Shenzhen
Jiangxi Agricultural University
After about 18 years teaching in China, American veteran educator Pat King still remembers the touching moment when she celebrated her first Teachers’ Day with her Chinese students.
That happened just one week after she moved from the United States to Nanchang, Jiangxi Province in September 1987 to start teaching at Jiangxi Agricultural University.
“I didn’t realize it was Teachers’ Day until some students from the class I was teaching sent me some cards as surprise gifts although they still didn’t know me very well,” King said.
History repeated itself in September 1998 when King left Nanchang to teach at Shenzhen University (SU).
Once again, she was surprised to receive a special card signed by all the students from a class she had taught for only a week.
In America, there are all kinds of festive days but there is “no such thing as Teachers’ Day,” King said.
“I like it. But instead of just having Teachers’ Day, China should do more to improve teachers’ living and working conditions because, as far as I know, although teachers in Shenzhen are relatively well paid, teachers in many parts of the country are still very poor,” King said.
“Without teachers, China cannot be developed,” she stressed.
Born in Houston in 1949, King received her master’s degree in education from Eastern Kentucky University in 1973.
After spending 13 years teaching in high schools in Kentucky, Ohio and Houston, she decided to do something different.
In 1986, she took part in a conference on education with the English Language Institute (ELI), a non-profit U.S. organization promoting English language programs around the world.
After receiving some training, King was placed by the ELI in Nanchang, thus starting her teaching career in China in 1987.
King taught three years at Jiangxi Agricultural University, four years at Jiangxi College of Finance and Economics, two years at Nanchang Aeronautical Engineering Institute and two years at Jiangxi Huadong Transportation College.
In 1994, King published her first textbook “Professional English for Finance and Business.”
“I don’t teach for money. I teach for people,” King said. “When I was in Jiangxi Province, my annual salary was equal to one month’s salary in the United States,” King said.
Her most unforgettable experience during her stay in Jiangxi Province came in 1990 when she caught hepatitis, which kept her in hospital for 39 days.
Because she lived alone in China, King was deeply touched by the care her Chinese friends and the hospital gave her.
The hospital even bought a TV for her. Friends took turns to send food to her every day and one friend at the hospital volunteered to wash her clothes.
Even today, King still keeps in close touch with quite a few of her Chinese friends in Jiangxi Province.
Since she moved to Shenzhen in 1998, King has been returning to Nanchang every year to spend the Spring Festival with her friends.
This semester, King is teaching 14 hours a week at SU. She teaches about 300 junior and senior students four different English-language subjects, such as advanced reading, short stories, tourism and culture, and writing research papers.
During the past seven years, King has enjoyed working with her students at SU.
“Different from their American counterparts, Chinese students are reluctant to talk in class, it usually takes a long time for them to ask and answer questions in class,” King said.
King often takes a lot of extra reading material, handouts and pictures to her class, encouraging her students to gradually get used to her Western style of teaching.
To enable her students to have more opportunities to practice English, King volunteers to keep office hours after she finishes her regular classes.
Besides work, King likes reading books on Western history, modern Chinese history, biography, animals and mysteries.
One of the big things she does when she goes back to the United States every summer is to buy various used books and have them shipped to China.
She also goes to Hong Kong once a week to buy books and magazines.
With the help of the university, she has managed to build a small library of her own, which is open to all her students who want to do more English reading.
This June, King joined the CD recording for the English 100 for Shenzhen Citizens, a book compiled for the Speak*Shenzhen campaign.
Last November, King won a Guangdong Friendship Award, a special prize set up by the provincial government in 1991 to reward foreign experts who have made significant achievements in their fields while working in the province.
(Source: SZdaily. Please note that ISAC re-post this article from years ago in order to let foreign teachers know more about teaching in China from others’ experience. Some of the information in the article might still hold true for now but not all)