Posts Tagged ‘Middle School’

Before you teach in China, research!

January 20, 2012

Before you start looking for a teaching job in China, it’s important to be aware of the different types of employment available to you. Where you teach, and the style of place you’re working for can have a very big impact on your overall experience. While there are many people who head to China looking for a career style teaching position (ie: armed with a proper teaching qualification – looking for a proper income earning job), most English teachers will be going more for the chance to live in another country and experience a different culture – kind of like a working holiday. The below information is geared towards these types of people.

First and foremost, you need to determine where you wish to teach. While I will write about this separately in another post (as there’s simply too many factors to consider), it is important to decide whether you wish to work in a city style environment, or something smaller, possibly even rural.

You then need to consider what kind of teaching style or environment you would feel most comfortable in.

  1. Private language schools: You will find these absolutely everywhere, offering students anything from small classes to one on one tutoring. You’ll likely be working with a number of other foreign teachers (which can be a huge benefit in China) and the small class sizes will also be appealing. Many of these are in great locations so might suit someone looking for a job in one of the big cities. It is important to remember that these places are in fact businesses, and some schools unfortunately are more interested in making money than providing quality education. There have been numerous complaints from teachers who have had issues with being paid on time, or employers not sticking to pre-agreed contracts arrangements. Of course on the flip side, there are many people who have nothing but good things to say about these places. The key thing is, if you’re going for a private language school, research it in advance.
  2. Kindergartens: These are another large employer of foreign teachers. The Chinese like to have their children studying English from as early an age as possible to give them an advantage later in life, and the kindergartens/pre-schools are the best place for this to start. You will be dealing with young children (obviously), and possibly large class sizes. This is more suited to someone who enjoys working with children, but can be an incredibly rewarding experience, as Chinese kiddies are crazy cute!
  3. Middle Schools:  The Chinese equivalent of a western high school and where I spent my year. The biggest benefit is that you will be working for a government run, legitimate education provider. Classes can be anything up to 55 students in size, teaching anything from 11 to 18 year olds. While the class sizes might scare some people off, you have to remember that in China, teachers are treated with absolute respect, which can lead to an incredibly rewarding experience. I still enjoy corresponding with my students, some two years later. The downside is you’ll likely live on campus, which can mean impromptu requests from the school (hello English Corner on a Saturday evening!)

Regardless of where you end up, it is important that you research it as much as possible in advance. The absolute best way to do this other than trawling through forums such as at Dave’s ESL café, is actually asking the place for the contact information of a former or current foreign teacher.

Other things to consider:

  • Salary – For around 15-17 hours teaching per week I was making 5000rmb. In Australian dollars, this only equated to a very poor monthly wage (around $850ish), though considering everything in China is very cheap, it was enough to comfortably get by. The more the merrier of course, but you have to have realistic expectations. Your employer will potentially provide you with fully furnished, rent-free accommodation too, so your salary is largely food and play money.
  • Teaching hours – Very important! Clarify exactly how many hours you will be teaching, and whether there are any non-contact hours. They may want you to teach for 15 hours per week, but also want you in the teaching office for a further 20 hours – you do NOT want this if possible. We were contracted to teach for approximately 17 hours (in reality it was around 15), and we were free to leave the school grounds when not teaching. Chinese teachers will often start around 7am, and stay in the office until 9pm. While much of their day involves simply browsing the internet and chatting on QQ, you do NOT want to be bound to something like this. Clarify!
  • Class sizes – Exactly how many different classes will you be teaching and how many students per class? What age group? Male and female or is it a single sex school? Find all of this out as it can help you plan classes in advance.
  • Class materials – Are they provided? Will you be working from a book or are you to come up with your own classes? What exactly will you be teaching? Find out if its just English conversation or whether you’ll be teaching reading/writing too. Will you be required to conduct exams? Regardless of what you are told, take some of your own materials – such as a book containing lesson plans, and things like photographs/magazines/newspapers from home – they can be invaluable if you’re pressed for ideas. Can also be a great idea to take some small gifts, like little teddy kangaroo’s or something reflecting your home country – the students will LOVE this, and it can be an awesome incentive to get them to work!
  • Accommodation – Is it provided? Rent free? Does it include free internet access? Will you be required to pay any money towards utilities such as power/water etc. Do you have your own apartment, own bathroom etc? Ensure it has proper heating/cooling installed as depending on where you live in the country, you’ll likely need both in a big way. We had to pay several hundred yuan per month for utilities, with the School agreeing to pay half.
  • Perks – What else do you get as part of this whole arrangement? Will they be reimbursing your airfares at the completion of the contract? If so ensure you find out exactly how much as it will likely be a set dollar amount and not actually what you paid. Do you get any free meals such as lunches? Does your accommodation come with free internet access? Will they provide free Chinese lessons? There are many things that will come as part of the deal, make sure you check out everything and get it in writing in case they decide you don’t actually get them once you arrive!

While the above all sounds complicated, in reality, it’s not that bad. The key thing to take away from  reading this is before you head to China, research!  If you have any specific questions or wish to add to the above, feel welcome to leave a comment.

Tian Yi Middle School, Wuxi

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