Justin Jiang is a 15 year old Chinese student from Fengtai who attends Harrow International School Beijing. You can find a related interview with Justin’s tutor, Zak Elmasri here.
Do you like English?
It’s funny, I used to hate English and I was very nervous before my first class with Zak because I had never met a foreigner before. When we do classes we work hard but we still joke a lot in class. Chinese teachers are not like that so I have really started to like my English classes. I really love speaking English now. I especially enjoyed the summer camp in England where I made friends with so many people from different countries; I couldn’t have done that before.
Do you find English difficult or easy?
At my new school all the classes are in English so I have to work very hard because a lot of the students are native speakers or have better English than mine, but I know if I work hard and keep doing extra English classes I will be okay because I have already improved so much in such a short time.
Do you think tutoring is helping you at school? How does it help?
It helps me a lot, I often write down words I don’t understand at school and when I do classes Zak helps me to understand the new words. He also looks at my homework and explains things if I don’t understand anything. I have to study all my classes in English and there is a bit of pressure but after studying with Zak I feel like I can keep up, he gives me a lot of confidence.
Do you have enough energy for English tutoring as well as school work? Are you ever tired?
I live in Fengtai so it is very far away from my school and my teachers house, but I usually do extra classes on the weekend and after class I stay in the city to have some fun like watch a movie or go to a museum, Zak gives me ideas for things to do after my classes as well.
What else do you do in your free time?
I like swimming and making models, my new school has a really big swimming pool and sometimes I stay there after school with my friends.
Do you like your new school?
I love my new school, it is so different from Chinese school and I have made lots of friends from different countries, I know my English will improve a lot here.
What do you like about learning English with Zak? What do you dislike?
Zak makes me do a lot of work in classes, but he always makes sure I can keep up, he also makes a lot of jokes in class so its always fun studying with him.
We also spoke to Justin’s parents, (who did not wish to be identified in the post).
How did you find Zak?
I travel abroad a lot for work, and I have an English teacher who helps me practice language for when I travel. I asked her about my son’s education and she recommended a company called TSL. I contacted them and we discussed the different options for Justin, they set us a program including a trip to a UK summer school and Justin also did private classes with Zak for about 3-4 weeks.
What references did you ask Zak to provide? What questions did you ask him?
I trusted the company and didn’t ask to see any references but they told me it was policy to send a copy of teachers qualifications out to all new students and their parents. Before Justin started lessons I received an email of Zak’s profile.
Why did you want to engage an English tutor?
Justin had never had a native English speaker as a tutor before, we didn’t trust any of the big schools here and I knew from my classes that 1 to 1 lessons were really effective.
What were you goals for the tutoring? Have those goals been met?
I wanted Justin to attend an international school in Beijing but when we inquired all the schools told us his English was not good enough, we needed a way to help improve quickly so that he could start this year. We were a little nervous the day of the interview, but when Justin passed the entrance test for Harrow International we were so happy.
What advice can you give to Beijing parents who are looking for English tutors?
I can’t say I’m an expert, I think we were quite lucky in finding a really good tutor first time through a recommendation, maybe talk to people and ask their opinions. Don’t just look on the internet, it’s full of adverts for different teachers but I wouldn’t trust them.
Have you had any negative experiences with English tutors in Beijing? Could you tell us a little bit about them?
No we were lucky, this is the first foreign teacher Justin has had and he has helped Justin so much.
If you’re happy with Zak’s tutoring, could you say why that is so?
Justin is a much more optimistic boy now, the first week studying with Zak he would come home and ask me English questions and sit there going over his notes, I’ve never seen him so eager to learn, he was like a different person. Nowadays we accept it as normal, he’s always asking his sister questions and making notes while watching English DVD’s we never would have imagined his attitude to studying would change so much.
Teach Me More is a series of blog posts outlining various aspects of tutoring, with particular emphasis on the services available in Beijing. The series is intended as an aid to parents in weighing up pros and cons, and steering a steady course through the various options available. Future posts will cover topics such as SAT and GMAT prep, look at tutoring for specific subjects, and ask broader questions about the tutoring industry in general.
You can find the interview with Justin’s tutor, Zak Elmasri here.