It’s September, which means across Beijing students and teachers are returning to the classrooms for an exciting new school year. Previously we have heard from an international school teacher and a training centre teacher, but I imagine a day in the life of a kindergarten teacher is quite different. Joining us today is Wiwi, a sister with a big heart for small children!

Wiwi, how long have you been working as a kindergarten teacher? And what do you like about teaching kindergarten?

I have been working there since April last year. There are so many things I like about teaching kindergarten. It can be so challenging and exhausting but thrilling and rewarding at the same time because I know I’m investing in the children’s future.

I love how children learn and grow every day. Their progress motivates me to grow in teaching.

Teaching little kids is not boring. There’s always something going on and I can do various things such as reading, acting, singing, dancing, baking, painting, or just being crazy with them. It’s fun!

Young children need physical affection when they need to be comforted. Pouring love on them means filling my love tank too. I love holding their hands, stroking their hair, and giving cuddles when they need to.

It sounds like there is a lot that you like about it! Is there anything that you dislike?

I don’t like when it’s time to say good-bye when a student needs to leave.

I have to deal with pee, poop, saliva, snot, spilled food, and more every day. That’s part of loving the kids and their imperfections.

When the new kids can’t sleep well and interrupt other kids’ sleep, I need to stay with them. Their nap time is my rest time and I feel tired when I don’t have enough rest.

Many expats who come to China to teach typically start at a kindergarten and transfer to a different school once they have enough teaching experience. Do you think you will do the same?

I don’t think so. In my first two years I was teaching Grades 1-8. During the next two years I taught online classes to students that ranged in age from preschool to adults. After that I started teaching in the kindergarten and it has been two years now. I feel more satisfied teaching kindergarten because I love bonding with kids.

That is so great because not everyone has it in them to be a kindergarten teacher. However, I think many people have misconceptions on what teaching kindergarten entails. Would you agree?

Yes. One misconception is that kids need help all the time. They are humans with brains and their brain structures are different than older children. Sometimes they can learn to do things better than adults can such as observation and facial expression recognition. Teachers don’t have to do everything for kids, but they must teach and train the kids with guidance.

Another misconception is that there is no need to plan. Planning is essential no matter what grade or subject is being taught.

Some say that it must be fun and easy to play with the kids all day. I have students who come in literally not knowing any letters or numbers and I have to start teaching them from zero. In a kindergarten, it’s not only about academics such as English and Math, but also things that we often take for granted in a classroom such as sitting down, putting things away, lining up, going to the bathroom, taking turns, and other social skills. Those are very challenging at the beginning of the year because the class can be like a zoo.

Many believe that extracurricular activities are always good for children. It’s crucial to explain to them the purpose of learning a certain thing so they can have the purpose-driven learning. I believe if a child is interested in learning something then it’s good, but if the activities exhaust the child then it’s better to not do it.

Finally, many have a “one size fits all” understanding of how education works. Kindergarten literacy instruction cannot be the same for everyone. Teachers need to know what kids need to learn and prepare the time and place to teach them.

Would you say that it takes a certain type of personality to be a kindergarten teacher? Or perhaps a certain skillset or level of experience?

Some personality traits that are important to have are patience, passion for kids, and stamina.

Skills that are important are lesson planning, classroom management, organization, creativity, resourcefulness, and communication skills.

Experience varies. Some bad schools desperately need teachers and recruit people who have no teaching experience. The standard here is two years of teaching experience. Some schools are stricter and require teaching experience in early childhood education.

It is said that if you want to understand a culture, you should observe how it treats its children. How do you see cultural values reflected in the treatment of children in your classroom?

I have noticed that people here speak loudly and it’s considered normal. Most of the kids are used to noise when they are having lessons or activities. However, it’s very disruptive for the class when there is noise or more than one person speaking at the same time.

There was a one child policy here, so parents tend to spoil their only child. However, this is very unhealthy for the child’s behaviour development.

In many families here, both parents work so children grow up spending long hours at school. Compared to the past, they study harder and have more pressure in exams because the growing population leads to higher competition for university entry.

If you ever wanted to move from China to teach elsewhere, what wisdom from your time teaching here do you think you would bring with you?

I believe that kids are from God and that they are the future of the nation like arrows in the hand of a warrior. (Psalm 127:4) If we train a child in the way that he should go, when he or she is old, he will not turn from it. (Proverbs 22:6)

However, God also told us that our body is our temple (1Cor 6:19). I learned the hard way that it’s good to keep a balance of working and resting. It’s good to say no when we know our limit.

I think every Beijing teacher has learned about a work-life balance in the hard way! Finally, what have been some of your most rewarding moments as a kindergarten teacher?

One rewarding moment is when I recognise how they improve in their characters in the way they treat others and in the way they manage their emotions.

Second, seeing their progress in learning, especially when I look at the track record of their learning process and realize how significant their progress is.

Finally, when the kids initiatively pour love on me through hugs and words. There was one girl who would always jump like a kangaroo with a big smile when she saw me arrive. She would run to me to say good-bye with hugs and always say “I love you!” a couple of times before I would leave every day.

Those are rewards from God that I didn’t ask for but have blessed me and engraved in my heart deeply.

Amen! Well Wiwi, thank you so much for all you do for the children and thank you for sharing with us today!

Last week’s article: Ask a… Translator!

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