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In general, how much prep time for writing English courses?


Beijing2012
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From my research, people have generally said it is best to stay away from writing courses and stick to oral English if you are looking to keep your workload light, but if a public university has a position that is mostly oral English, American culture, etc. with some writing classes then how much extra work am I looking at in terms of grading papers etc.?

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Actually it's a myth that teaching oral classes entails a light workload.

Of course, you can walk into the classroom and say 'OK, today we'll discuss xxxx', or 'Today we'll look at page yyyy in the textbook'. But if you do that, you will quickly become bored and so will your students. That will lead to the kind of thing we often read about - students playing with their phones, reading magazines, ignoring the teacher etc.

On the other hand, if you take the trouble to plan interesting, varied, fast-paced lessons, then your students will be very attentive and enthusiastic, you will have fun and your teaching will be a real pleasure.

If anything, writing classes take a little less time to prepare, although it is true that 'grading' the work takes time. However, 'grading' in the sense of giving a percentage or a letter for the work is largely pointless. It is much more important to give the students feedback on how they can improve. The best way to do that is to underline errors and get the students to correct the errors themselves. Use error codes to point out the type of error (for example VF = verb form, VT = verb tense, ID = idiom). That saves time.

I'm saying this not to the OP in particular, but to anyone: if a light workload is your main criterion, then maybe teaching is not the right job for you. If you teach Chinese students to communicate well in English, it will make a huge difference to their life chances. That is a big responsibility.

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if a light workload is your main criterion, then maybe teaching is not the right job for you.

I'd have to disagree. Most teachers I know are teachers exactly because it is one of the easiest jobs. You never really have to work overtime, you get a ridiculous amount of holidays and your job is very stable. How many normal jobs can you think of that offer a comparable or higher salary but require less work? I don't know that I can think of any.

I have been teaching for almost 3 years now. I think I spend maybe 3 hours per week planning lessons. At most. And my tests are all interviews, so I never have to grade anything outside of class. I spent more time on it when I first started though.

Writing classes do involve more grading, but are less prep. Also, you can say things like "Write this essay, you have 40 minutes", then while the students work you are grading the papers from the class before. So ultimately I don't really think it involves that much more work than Oral English.

Business English classes are the worst IMO. If the students are not freshman, they either (A) know more about business than I do or (B) do not care about business in the slightest. These require the most planning for me, since I am not a businessman and I don't know much about business (and what I do know I learned from reading the students' textbooks).

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"Most teachers I know are teachers exactly because it is one of the easiest jobs."

I can make that more factually correct by editing it to say...

Most shit teachers I know are teachers exactly because they think it is one of the easiest jobs.

It can sometimes seem like an easy job in China, simply because you're not being employed as teacher - you're being employed as the token foreign monkey to dance around and generally entertain. It isn't really teaching. If you were a real teacher, which includes caring about the progress of your students, then you'd be working hard. An hour in the class can require an hour of prep, or sometimes more. If you think it's easy, then you aren't doing it right!

And.... breathe :-)

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Also, you can say things like "Write this essay, you have 40 minutes", then while the students work you are grading the papers from the class before. So ultimately I don't really think it involves that much more work than Oral English.

You can get away with that once a semester if you're hungover or really have a ton of other stuff you need to do. Otherwise, you should be teaching them HOW to write (what does an introduction look like? A conclusion? Linking language? Topic sentences?) in class and then they do any actual essay writing outside of class.

Preparation time shouldn't be that different to any other class, I think - ie, anything from twice the length of the class for a nervous and conscientious novice teacher, to absolutely zero for a confident and experienced teacher who actually doesn't care any more.

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You can get away with that once a semester if you're hungover or really have a ton of other stuff you need to do. Otherwise, you should be teaching them HOW to write (what does an introduction look like? A conclusion? Linking language? Topic sentences?) in class) and then they do any actual essay writing outside of class.

I did this literally every week last year while teaching in the international business program of a first tier university. In my experience, in China, giving the students any writing to do outside of class will generally result in half of them copying something off the internet. Hence, they write in class only. Go ahead and call me lazy, all the other teachers I know do the same thing when they teach writing classes. My class was 90 minutes and for the first 40-50 minutes would I teach, then they had 40-50 minutes to write papers, which I would critique and return for the next week.

if you're teaching the same lesson to eight different classes each week that's only an hour or two of preparation. Obvious really.

This. Also, if you have been teaching for more than one semester, you can reuse some of the lessons from the semester before. I don't need to spend 4 hours writing a lesson on how to give directions in English or write section 1 of the IELTS exam when (1)I've already taught those lessons 5+ times (2)those lessons are in the textbook and (3)there are already dozens of lesson plans floating around online telling you exactly how to teach that material.

Sorry, but if you seriously think teaching English for 20 hours a week in China is a difficult job you are either incompetent or a drama queen. No matter how much lesson planning and grading you do, there's no way you can seriously tell me that teaching is more difficult than being a computer programmer, or a construction worker, or a lawyer, or an ER doctor. I know people in the US and in China who are half dead because they work in an office for 60+ hours a week, every week. Really? Teaching is harder than that? Even if you think those jobs are easier than teaching, those people don't get four months of paid vacation each year along with half a dozen government holidays. Go ahead and name 10 normal jobs that pay more than teaching and are easier. You can't, because teaching requires less work than most other jobs.

It can sometimes seem like an easy job in China, simply because you're not being employed as teacher - you're being employed as the token foreign monkey to dance around and generally entertain.

I don't disagree with this, but even if someone is a real, 'hard-working' teacher, I still have a hard time seeing how it is more difficult than the other jobs I mentioned.

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I'm teaching ~200 writing students this semester and I've found that using the website lang-8.com and having all of your students turn in their assignments that way saves a lot of time. Depending on how much (little) work you want to do, you could even make it up to the students to find language partners to correct their own homework. This also makes it very easy to confirm suspected plagiarism by copying+pasting into google. A google chrome word count extension also saves me some time.

I teach using some textbooks that I selected which makes preparing easier than the oral english classes I taught last year, for which I had to come up with original ideas.

Rather than correct all of each paper individually, I will focus on a few things at a time, giving them credit for doing x or y, then when I notice common mistakes appearing in several papers, I'll copy+paste some examples and whip up a short part of a lesson on how to address those mistakes.

Overall I'd say that the work load is similar in my case, although it's hard to compare this year with last because the number of classes, number of unique preparations necessary, and number of students are all different this year.

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"if you're teaching the same lesson to eight different classes each week that's only an hour or two of preparation. Obvious really"

Fair enough, no argument with that. (Though I do disagree that just because you've taught a class before means that you don't have to prepare for the next time. Are students in all classes identical? Was the class perfect the first time round? No need to alter/update anything?)

"Sorry, but if you seriously think teaching English for 20 hours a week in China is a difficult job you are either incompetent or a drama queen. No matter how much lesson planning and grading you do, there's no way you can seriously tell me that teaching is more difficult than being a computer programmer, or a construction worker, or a lawyer, or an ER doctor. I know people in the US and in China who are half dead because they work in an office for 60+ hours a week, every week. Really? Teaching is harder than that? Even if you think those jobs are easier than teaching, those people don't get four months of paid vacation each year along with half a dozen government holidays. Go ahead and name 10 normal jobs that pay more than teaching and are easier. You can't, because teaching requires less work than most other jobs."

Where do I even start with this... At no point did I suggest it was more difficult that any of those jobs, in fact I didn't say it was difficult at all. My point is simply that it shouldn't be "easy" either. In my experience the people that do think that it's easy are the people that don't take it seriously and do a less-than-excellent job.

I suppose what I was thinking when I typed my previous post was that I'd seen a few really great teachers, and quite a few absolutely awful ones during my time in China. People who'd walk into the class first thing in the morning, take a seat, and ask the students which chapter they were up to. Zero preparation, no clue what they were meant to be doing, making it up on the spot = a really low-quality class. And yet these guys were earning the same money as the dedicated ones, and still got to call themselves a "teacher".

Going back to the original question, I think Arlo answered it pretty well in the first reply so I'll leave it at that.

For the record, the "you" in my previous post was aimed at teachers in China in general, not you specifically.

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I suppose what I was thinking when I typed my previous post was that I'd seen a few really great teachers, and quite a few absolutely awful ones during my time in China. People who'd walk into the class first thing in the morning, take a seat, and ask the students which chapter they were up to. Zero preparation, no clue what they were meant to be doing, making it up on the spot = a really low-quality class. And yet these guys were earning the same money as the dedicated ones, and still got to call themselves a "teacher".

It's a environment where poor behavior is widely tolerated and dedicated, high quality teaching is typically rewarded with nothing but a smile (i.e. no room for advancement). I'd argue that those putting a lot of energy into it are the foolish ones; they would be better off where their efforts are appreciated. (And yes, I am aware that better school administrations exist in China, but mostly in fables.)

I have nothing against teachers putting the time and effort in if that is what makes them happy. Putting that time and effort in and then complaining about it just seems silly; the effort isn't generally expected from them.

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