Parker Returns From Year Teaching In China

china_camel.jpgWhen Tim Parker first arrived in Beijing, he entered his hotel room to find a mat on the floor. It was his bed. “I was expecting more of a Western hotel,” Parker said. “It was culture shock, right off the bat.” Parker, 30, is a Calhoun Academy graduate who earned degrees from ICC ,
and Mississippi State, before completing his graduate work at Southern
Miss. He was teaching 10th grade English at Corinth when he decided he
was ready for a new experience. Parker said he had become dissatisfied with the experience of teaching
in Mississippi Public Schools where the curriculum was so
“test-focused.” He found what he was looking for with Education First – an international leader in foreign study programs.


By JOEL McNEECE
When Tim Parker first arrived in Beijing, he entered his hotel room to find a mat on the floor. It was his bed.
“I was expecting more of a Western hotel,” Parker said. “It was culture shock, right off the bat.”
Parker, 30, is a Calhoun Academy graduate who earned degrees from ICC , and Mississippi State, before completing his graduate work at Southern Miss. He was teaching 10th grade English at Corinth when he decided he was ready for a new experience.
Parker said he had become dissatisfied with the experience of teaching in Mississippi Public Schools where the curriculum was so “test-focused.”
china_pict0060.jpgHe found what he was looking for with Education First – an international leader in foreign study programs. Parker had always been fascinated by the Chinese culture, and China happened to be the fastest growing market with Education First due to a government initiative to teach English to as many of its people as possible.
“I had always been interested in the history and culture of China,” Parker said. “This was an opportunity to experience that and work at the same time. It was very appealing to me.”
He left on June 15, 2008 for China and was hit with the stark contrast in culture the moment he arrived.
“I exchanged $1,000 for 7,000 yen,” Parker said. “I wasn’t prepared for my wallet to be three inches thick. Fortunately some co-workers showed me how to deposit money into an ATM.”
Parker knew virtually no Chinese upon his arrival, so navigating the subway system to find his school was a bit challenging.
“It was extremely crowded,” Parker said. “There are 11 million people in Beijing. It seemed like every one of them was riding the subway that morning.”
The personal space issue was among the biggest adjustments, he said.
“The people there are used to the crowds,” Parker said. “I value my personal space, but that’s hard to find in Beijing.”
He said food was a big challenge in the beginning, but he was fortunate that most of the restaurant menus included pictures.
“The pictures didn’t always best illustrate what the dish was,” Parker said. “The food over there is not like the Chinese food we have in the U.S. Meals in China are really more about fellowship than the food.”
Parker said most places delivered the food to a large table surrounded by guests. The food was placed on a “Lazy Susan” in the middle that would spin around. You didn’t have individual plates, you simply used the chopsticks to pull a bite off the main dish when the portion you wanted spun around to you.
Rice, which is such a big part of Chinese meals in the U.S., isn’t served until the end of the meal in China.
“You eat the rice at the end of the meal just to make sure you’re full,” Parker said.
He did find one Western restaurant near his school where they served typical American foods. It was also the only place he found where he could get a Dr. Pepper.
“I became such a regular I would just walk in the door and they would automatically bring me a Dr. Pepper,” Parker said.
Among the many Chinese dishes he ate, Peking Duck was his favorite. He described it as roasted and served on a tortilla-like pancake with a plum sauce.
“Most Chinese food is very basic,” Parker said. “Simple meat and vegetables.”
He eventually learned enough Chinese to negotiate the city, but did struggle with some of the lack of freedom provided by the Chinese government. Parker said there was a lot of internet censorship. Anything that reflected poorly on China was not accessible online. When videos appeared on You Tube about the protests in Tibet, You Tube was blocked from view for everyone in China.
“It had been blocked for three months at the time I left,” Parker said. “It was very difficult, because it was china_last_class.jpga great teaching tool in my class.”
Parker said his classes were very enjoyable. He had up to 40 students at a time in computer workshops, but when it came time to teach face-to-face he would never have more than four students.
He said most of his students were either from the nearby university– business professionals needing to learn English to qualify for a promotion, or citizens needing to learn English to travel abroad.
“Most people there are very welcoming of foreigners, especially the students,” Parker said. “I experienced some stares on the streets, mostly from children, but I didn’t experience any discrimination. They seemed eager to get to know foreign people.”
Parker said the teaching was very rewarding although sometimes more challenging.
“The Chinese are very non-confrontational people,” Parker said. “If you have a work or student issue, you have to come up with a more diplomatic way of handling it. You don’t just come out and say something negative or accusatory.”
Parker did manage to work in some traveling while there. He visited the Great Wall, the Terra Cotta Warrior Museum, several Buddhist temples, and was in attendance for the Olympic Games.
“The Olympic period was a great experience,” Parker said. “There was a lot of excitement there, and it was incredible to be there and see the pride people were taking in their country.”
Parker attended an Olympic baseball game when the U.S. played China.
“I was the only one in the section cheering for the U.S., but the Chinese fans surrounding me treated me very well,” Parker said.
When his year was up, Parker really wanted to stay and continue teaching, but opted to come home to work toward earning a position with an international school in China, where he would be teaching foreign nationals rather than Chinese citizens.
“I have to be back in the U.S. to apply for that kind of job and get placed,” Parker said. “Ideally, I’d like to get a job teaching at an international school in Hong Kong, where you have more freedom like in the West but can still experience all of the Chinese culture.”
Parker, the son of Quincy and Martha Parker of Pittsboro, arrived home last week and has accepted a job at Desoto, Ark. academy in West Helena, Ark. for this fall while he continues to pursue another international position.

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