At the moment, the demand for native English speakers is huge in China and other parts of Asia. This means that it has become fairly easy for people who interested in moving to China to find a job and settle down. Teaching pays well, offers plenty of opportunities for development, and it is a great way to experience the country and the culture.
So, you want to teach in China? The question is, where do you start? Well, I’ve been working as a teacher, at Chinese schools, for a number of years and I can give you some helpful advice on the best steps to take. I can also give you some tips on how to really enjoy the time that you spend out here.
Step One: Get Your TEFL Qualification
The first thing that you need to do is earn your TEFL teaching certificate. This will qualify you to work as a full time teacher in China and give you the right to a work visa and residence approval. You don’t have to have a TEFL certification if you have spent at least two years working in registered teaching institutions.
Some people make deals with employers in China and accept a lower salary, in exchange for having their TEFL course fees covered. However, this isn’t the best option, as landing in the country with a ‘ready to go’ TEFL qualification will secure you a much better position. It is worth taking the course first.
Step Two: Find a Suitable Position
People will be curious and ask, ‘So, you want to teach in China? Why? At what kind of school. For what type of learners?’ You’ll only be able to answer them once you’ve found yourself a suitable position. This can be tricky, particularly without the assistance of a reliable recruiter. So, get affiliated with a trusted company; a recruiter that has a great reputation and lots of experience placing TEFL graduates in good jobs.
Working with a recruiter will secure you a better salary and there’s less risk involved. You want to be working with somebody that you know is hooking you up with the right connections. This is a huge transition and it is important to have the necessary resources in place. For instance, a reliable recruiter will make sure that you have suitable accommodation to move into and that the chosen school is ready to receive you.
Step Three: You’ll Manage Fine with the Language
I strongly advise taking basic Chinese lessons soon after you start the new job. Picking up the language will be hard, but it is worth the effort. What you shouldn’t do is worry too much about being a fish out of water, lingo wise. You’ll get along just fine without knowing any Chinese for the first few months.
It is okay to point and gesture, in order to make yourself understood, particularly in restaurants. Do be aware of your mannerisms, however, and try to be polite. It will be intimidating at first, but this is the nature of moving to a culture that is entirely different to your own. The key is to be confident, friendly, and open to making new friends.
Step Four: Get to Know the Schedule
Just like at home, teaching schedules can vary wildly. It all depends on what kind of school you’re working for, how many classes per day you teach, and what age the students are. For instance, ESL academies (special language schools) tend to stay open longer, because they teach children after they have attended regular lessons.
On the other hand, conventional schools have more traditional schedules (ending at around 4pm). Make sure that you know how long you’ll be expected to work before you accept a position. If the hours are subject to change or must be flexible, this should be discussed with you at the earliest convenience.
Some Helpful Advice for Aspiring Teachers
Relocating to China is a huge adventure and one that can’t really be put into words. The country is vast, diverse, and endlessly exhilarating, but you’ve got to embrace its unique quirks as well. Teaching is a wonderful way to get to know its culture, as it places you right at the heart of the action – you’re teaching the young and upcoming generation how to be citizens of the world.