When I first started teaching in China, it was a little rough to say the least. While I was obviously excited to start a new career in a new country, after only a few weeks on the job I felt like I was completely out of my element. I specifically remember beating myself up over every bad class I had and pulling my hair out for days trying to think of good activities for my classes. If only someone had told me the things I am going to tell you today. Maybe then I would not have been quite so hard on myself.
- It’s going to be tough…
… but it does get better. Most people might not want to hear this right off the bat as it might scare them from trying to teach in China in the first place, but I honestly would have felt a lot more comfortable if someone had told me this. It would have made me feel not quite so alone, as every time I came out of a bad class or finished a day of teaching feeling exhausted, I could have just reminded myself “it’s ok, it’ll get better.” Speaking of bad classes…
… and that’s ok. Having a bad class is all a part of being a teacher – even an experienced one. The key thing is to not blame yourself. A class can go bad for a myriad of reasons. Maybe a student is in a bad mood, or hungry, or tired, or did not do any work at home. Bad classes happen, and when they do you just need to keep your chin up and move on.
- Lower your classroom expectations
Once I got more comfortable in the classroom, I started setting myself expectations for what my students should be able to do by the end of each class. Unfortunately, I had a nasty habit of expecting my kids to be able to get the content immediately. Do not do this! Not only will you stress yourself out when the kids do not instantly get it, but it will also stress the kids out too. As such, start off slow with all your classes and gradually build your expectations with the student’s growth.
- You might need to prepare a lot of your own materials
While many schools will come with some teaching resources (flashcards, books, and some toys and games) anything extra will need to be prepared by you the teacher. Worksheets, props, craft activities, and so on – all of these are the teacher’s responsibility to prepare. Add lesson plans into the mix for good measures. All these materials need to be prepared. Most teaching jobs in China will have office hours, and they are there for a reason. Use them.
As stated before, when teaching English in China you will more than likely have office hours. With the amount of time you will be given at work to prepare for classes, it is unnecessary for you to take that work home. Work hard during your working hours, but then make sure you leave it at work when you clock out at the end of the day. Striking a healthy balance between homelife and work life will go a long way to ensuring you do not get burnt out.
- Never be afraid to ask for help
Initially, everything is going to be overwhelming. Living in a new country and all the challenges that presents aside, you will surely have many questions related to teaching. If you are lucky enough to find yourself in a school with other foreign teachers, be sure to learn from them! We have all been new or relatively new teachers before, so we all know how daunting it can feel. As such, any teacher worth their salt will be more than happy to help a teacher in need.
- Parents may have high expectations
In China, training schools are after-school classes that parents pay for to have their children attend. Subjects can vary, but one of the most popular is English. As such, if you come to teach English in China, there is a high chance you will work in a training school.
For the most part, parents will be happy if the price is reasonable the child enjoys the class. Saying this, you will get the occasional parent with lofty expectations. They will want their child to remember all the words they learn in class and speak full sentence without any work at home and will blame the teacher if these expectations are not met.
Just like you need to taper your expectations for the students, so too do parents need to do the same for their kids. If you get parents giving you grief despite the rest of the kids in the class doing well, do not blame yourself. Just smile, offer suggestions, but do not let it get you down. These parents, while they do exist, are one in a million and do not represent most parents.
Teaching in China is most assuredly an amazing experience, and with the knowledge laid out in this article at hand, you will be better prepared to face some of the common pitfalls faced by teachers when they first arrive. Interested in teaching English in China? If you want to learn more about it, talk to one of our recruiters via email or find out more at our Instagram @i2_education. Through Instagram you can connect with us directly or find teachers that are already here to find out more about their experiences.
By Connor Ferguson