You will have different challenges depending on the age of your Chinese students.
Young students in China
Younger students are active and noisy. A lot of your time will be spent on behavior management and controlling the class.
One of the most important things you can do is to lay some ground rules early on, preferably in the very first lesson. Write some rules on the board, or draw pictures if you have to.
The students need to know that you're the boss!
You may have a teaching assistant (TA) in the classroom or there may be a strong presence of other Chinese teachers.
If that’s the case, you’ll be able to focus on actually teaching the kids and won’t have to worry about managing their behavior (that’s the TA’s job!).
In public schools in China, class sizes are large. This makes it challenging to conduct certain activities and to give individual attention to weak students. You may need to use lots of drilling.
Young students in China need to know who the boss is.
If you’re lucky, you will be given a textbook and have a set syllabus. However, many public schools aren’t very structured and you will have to design your lessons from scratch.
You may be asked by the school to show English movies or cartoons with Chinese subtitles.
As one of your main goals is to get the kids to speak English, you’ll have to use this as an opportunity to create lessons around various characters, and act out parts, etc.
Private training centers
It's a little different teaching at private schools.
Class sizes will typically be small (by Chinese standards), with about a dozen or so students in the class.
You'll probably have a TA who will manage behaviors while you focus on the teaching. This makes it much easier for you to just get on with the job.
Often the teaching materials are provided to you, or it's a fairly set structure with some ability for you to insert your own creativity.
Whether you're teaching in the public or private sector, it’s crucial that you pitch your lessons at the right level for each age group because children are incapable of giving feedback.
Teenage and adult students in China
Older students in China tend to be quieter, respectful and less confident.
By this age, they will have learnt that complaining or making mistakes in public is culturally unacceptable.
They won’t admit to not understanding your lessons and will be reluctant to ask questions.
To keep students engaged, you'll need to vary your lessons by using things like videos, stories, pictures, jokes, student projects and role-plays.
At the same time, you’ll need to keep your lessons simple enough to be understood while ensuring students are continually learning.
Chinese university students are easier to manage than youngsters, but may not ask any questions.
Some of your students may sleep, play with their phones or do Chinese homework in your class.
You’ll need to be on the front foot and stamp out behavior that you deem unacceptable. Chinese students respond well to rules because they’re used to them!
By the time they’re adults, Chinese students think in a fairly rigid fashion. They struggle with critical and lateral thinking, problem-solving and even voicing an opinion.
This may have an effect on the kinds of lessons that you want to deliver, so you’ll need to prepare well.
The key to classroom management in China is to earn your students’ respect.
Put some serious thought into lesson planning, establish some ground rules early on, conduct yourself in a professional manner, and strike the right balance between being strict and easy-going.