If you’re interested in teaching English abroad, and Asia is where you want to be, then consider living and working in China. Check out our interview with Richard, a 21-year old who taught in Hubei Province, China.
What job were you doing?
I was an English Teacher. The school is a beautiful private boarding school of 8,000 students located on the banks of the Yangtze river. It is a very poor area but like the rest of China it is steadily improving. There aren’t many other western people in the city so it was quite strange as I quickly became a celebrity.
I had a fantastic experience teaching classes of between 70 to 500 students, and about 3000 students in total. Now I am responsible for recruiting foreign teachers to the school.
How did you find the job?
A search on Google for “teach english in China” showed how high the demand is for English teachers in China. I sent my CV off to a number of different schools from TEFL websites and received 100s of replies – such is the demand.
What was the package like?
I wasn’t too happy with the contract they first gave me so I spent a while going over it and ended up writing a brand new one. It’s common to hear bad stories of English teachers getting into trouble because of their contract. I wrote some new clauses giving me much more flexibility and coming to an agreement as to what we should expect from one another. Chinese companies expect much more from their workers than English companies, so take note of what is expected of you when you start teaching. The contract included a very large apartment on the school campus with free meals, and 4000RMB (£280) per month.
Would you recommend teaching abroad?
I would recommend this type of job to anyone who wants a challenge. Its very tiring teaching kids English and how good the lesson is depends entirely on the teachers performance. On an average day I teach about 800 kids. Its one of the best feelings when you walk out of a class knowing that you’ve given an amazing lesson and think how much difference you’ve made to so many people.
Do you need to get a TEFL qualification to teach in China?
I think it depends completely on where you want to teach and for how long. Many teacher training companies tell you that you have to be TEFL qualified in China and I can tell you this is not true at all. There are 1.4 billion people in China and they aren’t in the position to be picky as to which English teachers they employ because there just aren’t enough to go around.
The main goal is to give the kids confidence and get them to practice speaking English. For me I didn’t want to sit in a classroom learning how to teach when I could just start right away and learn as I teach.
On the other hand I can really see the value in getting TEFL if you are planning to teach English long term, and you will need to get a good understanding of how foreign people learn English. A TEFL certificate may be required to teach English in some developed countries, but it is definitely not essential in China.
What was your day-to-day routine?
I normally had about 4 hours of lessons per day and a sleep at noon. Everyday was different and in the evening I liked to play basketball and football with the kids – a good way to improve my Chinese! I also liked exploring the area, meeting teacher’s friends, going on trips and having meals out.
What’s the nightlife like?
Nightlife in rural China is never going to compare to the UK, but what is great is that everything is so cheap, Taxis cost about 10-15p and a bottle of beer about the same. Outside the school we would have big dinners where everyone drinks this revolting baijiu or rice vodka and the occasional karaoke, which is quite an experience compared to any British karaoke bar!
Where are the best paid teaching jobs in China?
In the larger cities especially Beijing and Shanghai. I did some lessons in Beijing, which paid at least £10-15 per hour. Teachers at English First and Wall Street English can earn at least £1200 per month. You can supplement this with a few hours tutoring a week to make your salary go a long way in China. Rural schools pay less but the lifestyle is cheaper and it still counts for an incredible experience.
What was the highlight of your experience teaching there?
The first one was when I invited an American friend to come and teach with me. We got into a debate about the differences between America and England, and had 500 students lining up to shake our hands and take our autographs after the lesson.
The second was probably on the last day of school when I was leaving. I spoke to the whole school in Chinese and told them an account of a man I had met in Beijing. He came from a very very poor farming family. He worked really hard and managed to become a leading scientist in China. It was pretty amazing standing over thousands of Chinese students and telling them this story.
What qualities do you look for when recruiting?
We are looking for hard-working, fun and enthusiastic people who are looking for a challenge. This is great for anyone who wants to step outside their comfort zone, learn new things and have an amazing experience in real China.
How can they apply?
The best way to apply is via a school’s website. Often, they’ll want you to send in your CV and other information via email.
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