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Characteristics of a Good Chinese Language Teacher

Kong Laoshi in a Washington DC school. Photo: Asia Society.

Kong Laoshi in a Washington DC school. Photo: Asia Society.

Districts and schools seeking to hire a Chinese language teacher will have to keep several things in mind beyond standard hiring procedures.

Almost needless to say, does the candidate have a solid background and spoken fluency in Modern Standard Chinese (putonghua)? If the school cannot determine this, ask for help. See if a local college or university has a Chinese language program and whether an instructor there is willing to serve on a seach committee, and take on the responsibility of evaluating a candidate's Chinese abilities. There are many who speak dialects and have accented Chinese, or simply do not have a grasp of grammar to be a teacher.

The ideal candidate should be well-versed in American-style foreign language pedagogy. Can the potential teacher lead a class in an engaging way, and compel students to practice their communicative, interpersonal and presentational skills in the new language? Chinese language teacher associations do a lot of work in this area; by joining, educators get the most of professional exchange and continuing education.

One of the grestest challenges facing visiting teachers from China is classroom management. Without the ability to settle students and develop a culture for learning, language instruction cannot happen. Many new teachers need help with this, and a seasoned teacher from China is no exception.

A Chinese language teacher have a natural willingness to engage with other faculty to plan and integrate instruction and activities. Arguably, with integration, learning is compounded. If a student can learn relevant vocabulary words from other subject areas, and can master ways to ask questions or compare statements, a student can think in Chinese throughout the school day.

A candidate should have ideas about engagement with the school community and community at large. By setting up field trips, cultural partnerships, activities during parent nights, culture and language comes together and enriches classroom practice. A good teacher should have creative approaches.