I recently finished my summer job, providing professional development for 160 primary school English teachers in Feicheng City in the Shandong Province, China. There were four of us in the team, each one teaching 40 teachers at a time. One of the trainers focused on lesson planning and American culture, another taught active student engagement strategies and reading strategies, a third focused on proper pronunciation, and I taught the teachers writing strategies to use with their students. Two years ago, we trained 160 high school teachers; last year we worked with middle school teachers, and this summer we trained primary school teachers.
The secondary and middle school English teachers usually have 70 students in their classes but teach only two classes a day, with a total of 140 students, less that the typical American teacher’s workload. However, most of the primary teachers have the same large class loads and teach four classes, which means that they have 280 students each day, because they have a shortage of primary English teachers.
After work one day, we toured one of the primary schools (several of their teachers were participants in our workshops). I am not sure what I was expecting, but it was certainly not the high level of active participation that was evident in the school. The campus is huge, housing approximately 4000 students.