Rebecca Colles is a teacher from Australia currently working as an English teacher at RDFZ King’s College School Hangzhou.
Here she talks about living in and traveling around China, and about her experience of working in a truly international learning community.
You have worked as a teacher in a few different countries around Asia. In which country have you enjoyed working the most?
“I’ve actually enjoyed China the most. I think Thailand is brilliant for a holiday, but probably not so great for working. Japan was great. I mean, Japan is an amazing country, but the cost of living is quite expensive. But China has been great, because I’ve been able to save a lot, and I’ve also been able to travel a lot. Even with COVID, not being able to travel outside of China so easily, but being able to travel around China itself, has been incredible. So I’ve definitely enjoyed China.”
What qualities do you think you need to succeed as a teacher in China?
“Open-mindedness. Acceptance. Communication. Humor. Just to be aware of the fact that you are stepping into a different culture. As a teacher at RDFZ you just need to talk to people. Communicate. Get to know people. Work hard. No-one likes a shirker!”
Visible learning in a wall of words
Is it hard work?
“Yes, it is. We have quite a few classes. There are high expectations. This is fine, there should be high expectations if you are teaching children anyway. It’s nothing that you wouldn’t expect from a school that really values positive student outcomes.”
Are there any teachers or educators who have influenced your teaching style?
“I think I’m probably influenced by a great range of people. We have quite a few really good teachers here, and when I’ve gone in and observed them I’ve picked up some really good teaching tips.
“Thinking back to my own primary school teachers I remember a couple of teachers that were really horrible to me. You always remember the horrible ones. But then I remember another one who was really funny, and he was kind, and he was a good teacher.”
How would you describe your students?
“They are great! They are really good. I wouldn’t say that I’ve got any naughty students. I’ve got some that can get a bit hyperactive sometimes. In my experience, most of my students are quite hardworking, and they enjoy studying, and they enjoy succeeding, so it’s not hard to get them to do their homework. Every now and then someone forgets, but it’s never on a consistent basis of not doing the work.”
You can tell how much the students love Rebecca’s classes by the smiles on their faces
How do you interact with your Chinese colleagues in your daily work life?
“We have tutor group every morning, and so my co-tutor is Chinese. Some of our English teachers are Chinese as well. So we work together quite closely. We have a teacher from Singapore. We have teachers from all over the place. America, UK, Turkey, Serbia, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa. It’s interesting, to get to learn about different countries, different cultures.”
What would you say to someone to encourage them to come to RDFZ Hangzhou to work?
“I would say that you will never be bored here. It’s a really stimulating environment. You will learn a lot. You will develop as a teacher. And there are always opportunities for leadership so, if you want to develop in that area, there will be opportunities for that. The school has got a really great professional development program. Also, if you start doing some post-grad studies, they will also help you out with the cost of that as well depending on how long you have been working for the school. It’s a really good salary. All in all, it’s a great place to work.”
Can you give an example of some kind of professional development training that you’ve taken?
“We have regular PD days. For a whole day, there won’t be any students here, and there will be a series of PD sessions that we can choose from. For some of them, we get Dipont instructors to come in, and others are from our internal teachers who want to develop their training skills and share their ideas. The last PD session I went to was about Socratic Questioning. It was really good. That was led by Leanne Grundy, from Dipont HQ.”
What do you like to do in your free time?
“I love walking around where I’m living. There are little tea plantations, and I went for a long walk one day, just roamed endlessly, and I ended up in this tiny little village surrounded by tea plantations. And there was a big reservoir, and I almost stepped on a snake. It was great.”
What is a special memory that you have of traveling around China?
“Last summer I went on an Amdo art tour, that’s a place on the Tibetan plateau. It was with a very small group. We started off in Xining, and we ended up going to a far-off Tibetan city that is basically considered the home of Tibetan art. We went there, and we did a two-day workshop on how to paint in the style of Tibetan art. That was really special. And then we did a little hike in Ganan, so we were up quite high.
“I also went to Shangri La. I did a great hike into Yubeng village. That was pretty special as well. Just to see a small place like that. It was amazing.”
Yubeng village in Yunnan province with Meili Snow Mountain in the distance