Teaching in Asia Profile: Nick Lenczewski, SJU Alum '07
Name: Nick Lenczewski
School: Zhongshan Institute of Science and Technology
City, Country: Zhongshan, Guangdong, China
Year you graduated from CSB/SJU: 2007
Major/Minor: Math major, writing minor
How did you decide to teach in Asia? I wanted to have another abroad experience. I studied abroad in Europe, so after that I just wanted to come to Asia. I heard about Maryknoll through some friends of mine and through St. John's (there are actually lots of St. John's people associated with Maryknoll). Furthermore, I had no idea what I wanted to do after college, so I figured right after graduation would be a good time to explore another country. I also wanted to try teaching at some point in my life so I figured this would also be a good time to try.
How is your program designed (how often do you teach, living arrangements, what is your daily schedule)? My program is called Maryknoll. I teach oral English. It is based in Hong Kong, and they send teachers to schools in different parts of China. At my school I teach about 14 hours a week. I have over 700 students, and I only meet with them 8 times a semester so that is kind of a bummer. But the upside is you don't have to worry about lesson planning so much. Classes are usually 100 minutes with a ten minute break in the middle. The students are very good, but it is difficult to get them to speak English (and when it is an oral English class this can be very frustrating, but usually it is alright). There are classes at 8 AM, 10 AM, 2:30 PM, and 4:20 PM. There is a two and a half hour siesta in the middle of the day. Some days I have no classes, but some days I have 3 or 4. So the schedule varies greatly. You must learn to be very flexible in China!! This is good though, because then when you have an interview for a job down the line, and they ask if you are flexible you can laugh and tell them to ask you the next question.
Describe a memorable experience in the classroom: Anytime a student volunteers. When the whole class is singing songs I pick out, like Stand By Me, Gangster's Paradise, and Stacy's Mom (usually only a few sing, but when you can get all 60 students to do it, it is awesome!). Also, I love Seinfeld so I played an episode in all 14 of my classes and they loved it. It was great to share something I really enjoy with others. I would say incorporate as many of the things you love as you can into teaching. Although this is still hard to do because their vocabulary is limited.
What advice do you have for students who are considering teaching in Asia? What should underclassmen be doing now to prepare for a career in Asia? Try to go with some kind of program rather than go into teaching alone. It is nice to have other foreigners around sometimes. However, the Chinese students and people are very nice and friendly as well. China is pretty unorganized compared to the US so be ready for that. I didn't find out my class schedule until a few days before I started classes. Start looking at different programs and specific places you want to travel to. Basically just get pumped.