Aston English in Donghai, Jiangsu Province

Aston English, together with other youth activity businesses, is located on the 4th floor of the building adjacent to the Science and Technology Museum in Donghai.

It’s a private enterprise, in fact it’s a franchise under the name of Aston English, operating under the umbrella of Aston Educational Group.

Aston opened its first school in Dalian in 1996 and it is now operating in more than 100 English schools in 22 provinces, in more than 88 cities within China, plus the Aston Vietnam branch based in Ho Chi Min City since 2008.

My boss, Mr Zhao (Joe in English) had invested 9 months of hard work locating, negotiating and preparing his new school for the opening before my arrival. This is his first educational enterprise and I’m to be his first foreign teacher. It's a brand new school - one can almost smell the fresh paint on the walls. Colourful, brand new chairs, too. There's a medium size whiteboard in each of the two classrooms and one in the presentation room. The latter is for demonstration classes to new prospect students and their parents, with a capacity of around 50 people.

There are no projectors in the classrooms and there's no computer for the teacher to use in class. Since they are paying for a foreign teacher, she should read, write, talk, sing and dance with the students - there's no need for technology! And there's no way to convince Joe otherwise. One has to adapt, so ... back to good ol' days traditional teaching.

None of that fabulous environment over here, that I saw in Xi’An during my TEFL training week, with an electronic white board and linked in computer, accessing the Internet as well. Also, sadly, as soon as our whiteboard markers ran out of ink, it became obvious that we were to suffer another cost cutting strategy –  re-filling the markers with ink, which would run, blackening my hands within minutes.

In spite of using the air conditioning heater in the classroom, nobody would take their coat or jacket off, in fact I wore both a feather jacket and an extra long woolen coat! It was a great shock for me to see all the students, in every school I went to, keeping their coats on during all their classes, during the breaks - in fact ... never even considering to take their coats off during their schooling hours.