Teaching in Rural China: A Once In A Lifetime Experience

By Renee Gagne

This summer I spent two months in Shanghai as an intern teaching English. In addition to leading lessons in Shanghai, I was also blessed with the opportunity to go on a trip to teach English at a rural school in Anhui province for one week. This trip was my very first teaching experience!

Giving high-fives after class!

With exams and summer break both around the corner, I collaborated with my teaching partner to create review lessons for multiple grades of elementary school students. I enjoyed the freedom and space for creativity that I was granted while crafting my lesson plans. I sought to strike a balance between being engaging, educational, and fun for the students. After having invested a couple of days into lesson preparation, I excitedly gathered my teaching supplies, packed my bags, and boarded the bus to Anhui. 

Leading a sentence and vocabulary review game.

As I walked into the classroom on my first day of teaching English, my tinge of nervousness immediately dissolved upon being greeted by a burst of enthusiastic “hellos”, “welcomes”, and waves from smiling students.

It was in these few yet memorable seconds after the bell rang that I realized the full extent of my passion for the journey I had just begun to embark on, and that I had the potential to inspire and teach students on the other side of the world.

Each day I was in Anhui, I began my mornings by reviewing my lesson plans before waking to the school, excited to see the students. Whether my lesson consisted of reviewing vocabulary, teaching a song, leading a drawing activity, or overseeing a game, the students were full of energy and participated in every activity.

After class, I would return to the office to prepare for my next lesson or take a break, depending on my class schedule for the day. My lesson partner and I would reflect after each class and discuss what went well and what we could improve upon for the next class. The school generously invited me to have lunch and dinner in the canteen, which allowed me to spend recess time with the students after eating.

Students waving hello.

In addition to my time in the classroom, the school had also invited me to partake in activities such as making zongzi, joining in on a martial arts lesson, and helping to administer English exams.

During the week I spent in Anhui, I felt incredibly welcome and appreciated all of the opportunities I had to be involved with the school’s daily endeavors.

Looking back, my teaching experience in Anhui was a blessing that I will always carry with me and cherish throughout this lifetime. Having the ability to interact with the students and to see the positive impact I made was rewarding beyond what words can articulate.

Spending recess with the students.

I will always value the knowledge and memories I collected from teaching in rural China. It was a once in a lifetime experience that has given me a new perspective. If given the opportunity, I would highly recommend that others consider teaching English in a rural community. 

Renee Gagne

Renee was an intern at an education-based non-profit in Shanghai during the summer of 2019 where she taught English, refined her professional skills, and practiced speaking Mandarin Chinese. Renee will graduate from the University of Colorado Boulder with a degree in International Affairs with minors in Business and Mandarin Chinese. Pursuing an internship in Shanghai has allowed Renee to garner a new skill set while improving her language abilities-both of which have been a critical step in her path towards leading a successful career. Renee is passionate about her endeavors abroad and excited to share her experiences.


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