Teaching and Living at Baihe No 1 Senior High School
A new modern high school built about 3 years ago in a small quiet town surrounded by lovely mountains was the perfect match for me. Add the friendly people of the town together with the wonderful teachers and students who work very hard but value family life as very important and you will have an idea of this little known hidden gem of Baihe and its people in Ankang, Shaanxi province China.
Baihe has the original “old downtown” and also the “new downtown” and both seem small but are quite spread out. Both have the main shopping areas for food, clothing and restaurants within walking distance of the school. Most people live in apartments of which many are currently under construction. The 2 areas are linked with a main road which is also a nice walk with good views of the mountains.
The older area is bigger with its own unique charm and character and a variety of shops line both sides of the main road. It has a brand new gym fully equipped and yoga classes are also available. The main supermarket is very modern and there are a good choice of food places close by including both Chinese food and fast food.
The newer area has an outside vegetable and fruit market if you prefer to make your own meals. There are similar but fewer shops than the older area but sufficient for Baihe and quite a few small restaurants. It does have a cinema in the shopping centre which is great for a night out with friends and both KTV and hotpot meals are also very popular. Taxis are available at 10yuan per trip.
Ankang and Shiyan are the 2 closest cities to Baihe. Ankang is about 90 minutes and Shiyan about an hour’s drive by car. They are both popular day trips or a weekend away, especially for shopping and eating some different foods. Both are easily reached by bus or train. Xi’an is the biggest city in Shaanxi province and worth the 5 hour bus trip from Baihe. Shiyan and Xi’an are also serviced by airports.
The school is built above the town area and has some great walking areas around it. One of the most popular is to climb the mountain behind the school and another is a road which has such beautiful views of the town and surrounding areas if you take the time and have a good long walk. The school is modern and functional yet beautiful. The teaching building is linked to the administration building and also to the sports ground so it is very easy to walk around.
The sports field has an athletic track, football field and 12 basketball courts which is a very popular sport at this school. There is more than enough tiered seating for all the spectators and an enormous screen for outdoor viewing of videos etc.
Each classroom the average is about 50 students . The best thing is the computer smartscreen we can use for our lessons done on Powerpoint and also to show the students music videos and other teaching videos which they really enjoy and makes for a more interesting lesson.
The canteen provides breakfast, lunch and dinner about 7yuan per meal and soup is for free. The meals are good and tasty and more than enough with 4 dishes to choose from with rice or noodles if you prefer and also a selection of breads.
The supermarket is quite big and sells almost everything from stationery to toiletries and a huge variety of snacks, bread, instant noodles, all types of drinks from water to tea to milk, but no fresh meat and fresh vegetables and clothing, but it does have socks, slippers and even some underwear. There is also a vending machine outside the supermarket which sells a variety of cold drinks. There are 3 small shops outside the school should you run out of anything.
The pharmacy can also help with medication for minor ailments, but if serious each downtown area has its own hospital.
School security is strict and the front gate is monitored everyday by 2 security guards from 6am until 10.30pm when it is locked for the night.
The school has about 4000 students and 300 teachers and most live at school.
Most of the students are hardworking and disciplined. They know what is required of them and their work/study ethic seems ingrained in them from an early age. .
Naturally there are “poorer level”students, but I feel we as teachers must try and adapt and work out the best teaching method and style which is suitable for them. Again the smartscreen is really helpful and useful as it provides both visual and auditory stimulation and even some movement goes a long way to explain or demonstrate something which words might not be able to do.
There are also very original, creative and smart students who are a joy to know and a pleasure to teach. They like to participate and continue to surprise me with their
understanding of the spoken English language. Each class has its own ‘personality’ and level of energy and I simply work with how it is which benefits both them and me.
It has been a wonderful time to get to know the students in general and like any typical teenagers they enjoy time with their friends, their families are very important to them, they can be shy but are really funny, can show and speak about their feelings, are so kind, helpful and generous (I was given so many gifts at xmas time and often throughout the teaching week it still surprises me and makes me happy). They have a rough study schedule and naturally can be tired during their classes so be firm but with understanding. It will go a long way in how they perceive you and also help you teach your lesson as effectively as possible.
Baihe Chinese-English Teachers
The Chinese-English teachers are the best I could have wished for. I consider myself very fortunate and so lucky to have met and to work with every single one of them. They work long hours on a daily basis, from early morning to late at night, yet they remain so friendly, helpful, kind, generous and all round lovely people. They always have time to listen to any questions or concerns I may have and their suggestions and inputs continue to help me improve as a teacher. They are amazing and I will always admire them and also their teaching which is an enormous responsibility.
The School Day
Foreign teachers give lessons from Mondays to Fridays, 8.20 am to 6pm. Some days can start later and end earlier depending on the schedule, but the average is 21 to 24 lessons per week ie about 4-5 lessons per day each 45 minutes long. There is a 2hr lunch break from about 12pm to 2pm, more than enough time to enjoy your meal and have a good rest (typical in China), before the afternoon classes start at 2.10pm. Dinner is anytime from 5.30pm to 6.20pm and that’s our day done. We are free to come and go as we please if we don’t have class and our time is ours once the last lesson is done. We do sometimes teach on a Saturday or Sunday to make up for an extra day of holiday, but it hardly ever happens, maybe 3-4 times a year.
Our lessons are our responsibility which is great as we can choose the topics and materials we feel are necessary and what will benefit the students. We are given 2 textbooks one for each semester but we are free to use it entirely at our own discretion or not at all and/or change or adjust any suggested topic as we feel.
The students' and Chinese teachers' day starts earlier and ends later, the students at 6.30am with their early morning run and the teachers at 7am with the morning reading. They have evening classes which start about 7.20pm when the students do homework and revision and their day ends at 10.30pm and straight back to their dormitories. They go home every 2nd weekend. As you can see a lot of studying.
We are the only 2 foreign teachers at this school and we each have our own apartment with Wi-Fi. I'm on the 3rd floor and have such lovely views of the surrounding mountains and some of the downtown area, so my apartment has a great feeling of openness yet private at the same time.
It is more than spacious for one person and has a big livingroom, one bedroom, kitchen and bathroom with shower, basin and western toilet. It is more than adequate with a couch, double bed (incl bedding), built in bedroom cupboard (wardrobe), flat screen tv, automatic washing machine, bathroom heater, aircon in the bedroom, fridge, microwave oven, kettle, gas, gas cooker, wok, crockery, cutlery and other utensils. There is a small balcony with 2 washing lines and hangers for your washing. Fully tiled with all that you need, it is more than sufficient to be your ‘home from home’ while you are away from your own home.
The apartments are located within the school grounds (safe and secure) so it is a quick 4 minute walk to the teaching building. This makes the living area nice and quiet. If you don’t want to cook the canteen is a quick 6-7 min walk.
Foreign Affairs Officer (FAO)
I am very fortunate and so glad that William Chen is my Foreign Affairs Officer.
The most important is that he speaks and understands English so well and so clearly that whatever you need done or are not sure about, you will feel assured that it will be done and explained and sorted out more than you could have wished for. And he will do all this so easily and naturally and efficiently without you having to think about it further.
The fact that he is more than helpful, friendly, understanding, kind, reliable and considerate of any situation helps to make any foreign teacher’s life here so easy and comfortable. He is so smart yet humble and modest with anything you need done on the computer and is willing to help you that you never have to worry about this part of your teaching work or schedule as he knows exactly what must be done and how it must be done which again makes our lives easier.
He will inform you about school information and help you with everything which requires his attention as FAO and also anything, from the food selection and getting soup in the canteen, to booking tickets and shopping online if you need help with this to sorting out computer and internet problems. Any foreign teacher who is placed at Baihe school will be very lucky to meet and know our FAO.
The staff at Buckland are organized, efficient, reliable, helpful and friendly. They take care of the foreign teachers and are always available via email and wechat should we have any queries, concerns or anything which needs their attention. They are open to discussion and respond in good time to any request or query.
As they work with visas and Chinese legalities they are knowledgeable about these matters and we can be assured that the necessary paperwork is processed correctly and in the required time frame. They also inform us of any news or information which we need to know about, e.g. changes in banking issues which are important and necessary for us.
Each staff member deals specifically with their own function e.g. salaries, visas, so they have the knowledge and experience to assist us. My experience with Buckland remains open and positive and I know they are there to assist me. I can recommend them to any foreign teacher who is thinking about teaching in China.
I am very grateful and happy to be teaching and living at Baihe No 1 Senior High School. The school with its students and teachers matches me and the small town with its genuine and friendly people make every outing there more enjoyable. Also I love mountains and nature and quiet places with a stillness and calmness about it and especially the genuine and simple way the people live their lives.
Being in a small mountain area the air is not polluted as in the bigger cities which makes for a healthier lifestyle. If you prefer this way of living where you can hear and enjoy the wonderful silence, then Baihe will give you all of that and more. It is not a place with lots to entertain you in the general sense, but if it appeals to you, you will discover the wonderful gem that it is.
Baihe No 1 Senior High School
Shaanxi province China 725899
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