In the previous episode, we talked to James about his new job at an international school. Today, we’re gonna continue with that talk.
Okay. I'm just gonna be quite difficult and say what if I were your students and I write an answer that you really personally do not agree with, what happens then?
You just mark, you based on the rubric, students have… there's a rubric like and… did you hit those points on the rubric? Yes, you did, you get the points. My opinion doesn't matter. I don't share my opinion with my students.
Kelly Roell what is a rubric?
I see. Rubric is something I guess a lot of our audience if they don't teach, they probably don't really use that word very often. Rubric is kind of just like a marking like grading standard.
Yes. It's just a grading chart, so it just what are the things that teachers grading you on. And like, what does an outstanding look like？What does a good look like？What does fair and neat work…it's just highlighting, it's like what you did is like, did you hit these things? Did you do these things？
I see, actually very interesting that you mentioned how you grade. Is it a point-based system or is it ABC or is it? How do you grade your students in like exams or essay？
Like the grades I give them is a number. But the grade in the system is letter.
Letter. I see, I see, are you a tough grader？
No, not really, although my students may disagree. Because in my class, they I mean, homework is graded as complete or incomplete, regardless of whether the answers are correct or not.
Because I want to see that do you understand it？Are you putting an effort？Are you trying? You are, okay, you get full points in that.
Projects and quizzes are graded more strictly.
I see, apart from these subjects, the major subjects like you said, like Chinese, English, Math, maybe Science, History, what are the sort of more, let's say extracurricular things or perhaps more the artsy, sporty things, do you have that offered？I'm sure you do, but what kind of things do you offer to your students at the school？
At this school I work at, there is music programs, art programs, technology programs, a very robust science program. So we have different programs available for students who have different interests, who plan on going into different areas when they finish school.
So it's not all just academic. You learn Math, History, English, Chinese. So there's a lot of other things and all students every student at the school has to take arts, all students have to take some kind of performing art. All students have to take…
Yeah. Other performing art could be drama, this could be singing, this could be band, it's required for all students here.
Do you have like design classes because I think that's very popular right in a lot of private schools？
Yeah, we do have design classes. There's an in-depth design program that students can take part in. They can do arts, sculpting, graphic design. I think we also have clothing design.
I think we do, I'm not entirely sure because I don't work in that department.
Okay, sounds fantastic.
But what about the students? I'm getting a bit gossipy here. We know a lot of these international, especially good international schools in Beijing or Shanghai, they're quite costly, in terms of tuition.
So these students they are all from relatively well off families, I would imagine, what's their family backgrounds, based on your observation?
In general, a lot of these parents tend to be business people. They run businesses, IT, things like that. Some of them got money through real estate, a lot of people they lived in China over the past 23 years. There are few kids that are children of professors from various schools, but in general, everyone here is upper middle class and higher, because the tuition is high.
Money is definitely a thing, but it's also the education level. It's also how you are educated, like how you perceive the world.
Because a lot of these what you were talking about, obviously they're preparing for these kids not really to take the college entrance examination in China; they are more like trying to get into probably top schools around the world when they graduate.
All of my students will not be taking Zhong Kao and will not be taking Gao Kao. Their goal is to go abroad. Every single one.
I noticed that you mentioned that there’s international students which I'm assuming their foreign passport holders?
But you also talked about bilingual schools which I'm assuming are Chinese students, right?
Yes. The school I work at for has a bilingual program and an international program. In international program, you have to be a foreign passport holder to be in, the bilingual program is for a Chinese students.
Now the curriculum is different slightly. In middle school, the difference is Math. The bilingual students still take Chinese national Math curriculum, whereas the international students take the Singapore curriculum.
Also the English curriculum is a bit different, because the bilingual students tended to have a bit more ESL support. That's why they have, they tend to have higher English than average. Some of them still struggle. So they need more language support.
Because all of the classes apart from Chinese, I assume are taught in English, completely in English.
Yeah. The official numbers are if you're in the international group, 80% of your classes are in English, only 20% are in Chinese. The bilingual students, it's about 70/30.
I see, they do have interactions though, although they don't sit in the same classrooms, the international students and the bilingual students.
Yeah, so they're not in the same classroom for academics, but for club activities, the after-school activities, lunch, they all socialize together, they’re friends with each other.
I have students in my international class who are friends in my bilingual class. So they're all friends with each other.
Oh, so you teach both.
I teach both. I teach them both programs.
I see. So now a little bit of more personal question, how do you feel about teaching in the school, any particular challenges? I mean, we talked about the amount of effort that you need to put in the extra responsibilities. But what about the general style of education of an international school? Do you find it challenging?
Yes. I enjoyed a lot, because I'm actually teaching something I'm interested in. I love history. I've wanted to teach history for a long time, so that I'm loving. I was a little bit nervous at first coming to teach middle school, but I'm actually really enjoying the middle schoolers. They have a nice balance of energy and interest.
So they still have some of that interest and energy that a primary school student has. But they have a bit more maturity that a high school has. So they have kind of a nice balance. So you can have fun with them and play games. And sometimes you can still do more serious stuff. So I like that balance.
Yeah. Honestly, a teacher to another teacher, that's what I like as well. If there's nothing… I don't care what level you are when I teach students, I really don't mind if you're at very, very low level, but you got to have the interest. There's nothing worse than going into a classroom knowing that the entire class have absolutely no interest in being there. They're just being forced to be there, because they need to pass an exam or they need to get some certificate. That's the worst.
I'm sure your students are not like that.
Middle school we have…well, some of them are. But there we have solutions for middle school. It's called Contact their parents.
Your child has not been doing their schoolwork. I have talked to them about it. Could you please talk to them about this? And usually 99% of the time when you talk to the parents about that, their kids start turning in their homework.
Yeah, if their parents are like you said with their educational background and everything, they would definitely focus a lot more on their kids' education.
I can totally imagine that influence. Yet, I don't have that option of informing because if I'm already teaching adults, I can't call their parents.
No, that doesn't work in university, but it works in middle school.
Yeah, what about the style of management? Do you find anything challenging there? Because it is still a school in China, right? So is the management style more Chinese? Would you say, is there more Chinese elements to that?
So the management style at the school is mixed between western and Chinese elements.
So a lot of new teachers who come into the school who have not worked in China for a while, there can be sometimes clashes for them not understanding why things are done the way they are.
For me, I haven't been bothered by it, because I've been working in China for a while, and I kind of understand the norms of how schools are run, how you should talk with your superiors when you have ideas, or if you want things to change.
So like a common thing is some new teachers come in and they just complain to the higher ups, that doesn't work in China. It's like you need to rephrase it as like you have something that you want changed. You need to recommend it as a win-win type of idea. Like if we do this…
It's a lot about…
It's about respect.
And it's about a different style of communication, really.
So complaining doesn't help, but if you work things as like a positive and how your change could improve things, they're much more receptive.
Yeah. I'm sure you have a lot more experience in this and I know so, actually. Okay, as we're coming to the end of today's discussion and you have certainly given us and given me also a lot to think about, and actually also informed us about how international schools are in Beijing, which I'm assuming, probably the same in other big cities in China.
And I just want to say again congratulations on the new job, and then I hope you continue to enjoy working there.
Thank you for sharing with us. Thank you, James.
Thank you for having me, and thank you for listening. If anyone has any questions, feel free to drop us in the comments.
And also, if any of you are actually in international school or have kids in international school, share your comments in the comment section. We'll see you next time. Bye.