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  • Ins and Outs of Working for a Private Institute in Seoul August 15, 2011
    by David Cox Six o’clock on a winter morning. The temperature bottoming out at around -20 C. A tall, not altogether awake Englishman makes his way to work through the dawn streets of Seoul; just another chancer wanting to teach English and taste a bit more of what the world’s got to offer. The tall Englishman […]
  • How to effectively prepare for the CAT, GRE and GMAT August 15, 2011
    The CAT, GRE and GMAT tests are a cause of anxiety and concern for many, many people around the world who are striving to pass these tests and further their careers. Many companies and businesses now require that their employees have professional qualifications and have these tests under their belts, so it is natural that the […]
  • What you need to do to land a TEFL job in the Arabian Gulf August 13, 2011
    A brief to do list by David Vincent. For many who teach English to speakers of other languages, the job merely represents an enjoyable career break. However, for those who choose to forge a career in this profession, there comes a time when the need for financial stability becomes a reality. Some find that moving abroad to […]
  • Teaching in Thailand June 21, 2011
    By Alex Smith English is the official language of ASEAN – The Association of South East Asian Nations. It is the language of international business and now it is the main language of the internet. This means that in Thailand there is a big demand for native English speakers to teach all age groups how to speak, […]
  • How to Become a TESOL Teacher April 10, 2011
    TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) is a specialized course that helps students become proficient in teaching the English language. As the world experiences a huge surge in demand for English language teachers, Kathleen Chester notes that ESL (English as Second Language) and TESOL courses are becoming quite popular with residents of place […]
  • An online or onsite TESOL course… which is best? March 19, 2011
    Thinking of doing a TESOL course and can’t decide between doing it online or not? Mich King investigates the pros and cons of the options available to you. Why Choose an Online TESOL Course? Online TESOL courses are designed to offer a flexible and cost-effective method of gaining a professional TESOL qualification. Why Choose an Onsite TESOL Course? Flexibi […]
  • Can TEFL make you more employable? January 24, 2011
    So you’re thinking about making the big move and traveling half way around the world to become a TEFL teacher, but you are starting to have doubts about whether all the hassle is really worth it? You don’t really want to make a career out of teaching kids, so how will it help you? This, suggests […]
  • To Teach Grammar or not to Teach Grammar January 14, 2011
    William Lake poses the eternal TEFL question. This article is about teaching grammar to ESL students. The advantages and disadvantages of teaching grammar to ESL students will be discussed. At this point, it must be noted that different people learn English for a huge number of different reasons. It is my opinion that a vary degree of […]
  • Do I need a TEFL cert to teach English as a Second Language? January 11, 2011
    William Lake poses the question and proposes the answer. So, do you need a TEFL certificate to be an English Teacher? The simple answer is no! There are many options available to you with regards to qualifications and this article is going to look at the TEFL Certificate. TEFL stands for Teach English as a Foreign Language. A […]
  • The History of English Grammar December 12, 2010
    Want to know how it all began? John Lismo explains. The first stage of development of the English grammar started during the early 16th century. William Bullokar wrote and published a book entitled “Pamphlet for Grammar” in 1586. Bullokar wrote the book to purposely address the development of the English language in Latin America. The book contained […]

The First Teaching Job in China

By Mark Dykstra

Its February 24th, 2003, in a 40 degree humid heat, i stepped off the train in Hangzhou City. I gasped for breath, as i dragged my western worldly belongings trying to maintain a fix on where my Teaching Manager was. Void of a teaching certificate, void of speaking any Chinese and having absolutely no teaching experience or confidence, to be able to stand up in front of 10 students, let alone what would become 2000 students at one time, i was at the mercy of the elements of Chinese society. My sleep deprived eyes gazed out as i covered my ears from the speakers above me that blared at 100 decibels. Like a small spaceship in Saturns asteroid belt, i just let the millions of frantic chinese citizens meld around me and i was lost in the fray, however after a miracle of bearing i found my Chinese Manager, (I shall call him Jack) the man himself who was to trust my blaringly ignorant and drastic lack of qualifications, i was whisked into his run down Mazda Coup and taken to the nearest restaurant to feed on the latest of the day live prawns, swimming in Rice Wine, and bouncing about like gipsy moths, hardly able to grasp my chop sticks after my train lagged trip from Guangzhou, i navigated my teeth over the best place i would take my first bite of the struggling and squirming prawn. It was then i realised i was making my first crunching bite into the unknown of what Chinese life was all about.

Having gained some equalibrium if you can call it that, i made my journey to Huzhou City where i would begin my first 6 months teaching assignment at the Huzhou Technical College where Hundreds of students waited patiently for me for my arrival. My pre booked and paid up 3 bedroom apartment was luxurious compared to my flat back home in Auckland and everything was clean and tidy with wide open spaces. I have never felt so dignified and honored to have such new and wonderful decor and fittings that represented China so well. A beautiful, large pane of smoked glass showed the elegant engrained potrait of a Dragon intertwined in a woods seperated the living room and large bedroom. My office itself had the floor area of a 2 bedroom house. Does China really have such fantastic, modern, and lavish western standards built into its current day architecture.? The answer i found was a resounding yes, and what i found as time moved on was this clash of culture with western traditions that China had so intricatly developed in house and apartment design.

I found my life style within China expand dramatically , and i was able to travel first class by air, and by train and to travel by taxi and buy the best food available. It was in many ways better than my flatting life in New Zealand, except for the once in a week delve into my favourite fish and Chips shop and cream lamingtons at the bakery, and not to mention cherries and berry fruit which China dont grow, that i started to pine for home. Not bad for a guy who didnt have School Cert. English and the only certificate i had with me at that time was a Male Modelling Course i passed in Christchurch.

Yet, the Chinese School establishment welcomed me with open arms with a student dinner that became a culture concert put on by the students. I was King.! I made my introduction speech in the best simple English i could, spoken so slowly that i was at the limits of remembering what i was going to say next. Then came the dancing with students lining up to dance with me. I was in heaven.!! I never had anyone want to dance with me in New Zealand and to have 20 female students line up to take their turn was incredible. Can i say before i go any further that when you step outside your comfort zone and take on the unknown, little miracles can work their magic and destiny can take its path.

Having got through my first successful introduction i started to plan my english lessons. I had no TESOL ability and i had very limited english ability to teach 14-20 year olds, let alone understand Chinese, yet despite all this i became successful and popular with the students and having gone through the 3 months of the SARS crisis, and deciding aginst returning back to New Zealand despite the advice i got from the New Zealand Enbassy and family back home, i decided to stay. Wearing the white gauze mouth mask was an interesting, yet scary aspect of living in China at that time, and it was of real concern. Then the daily spraying of classrooms with Industrial grade Chlorine, while teaching added to the very interesting life i experienced while inside the Bamboo curtain.

There is so much more i could write about, but my aim is to at least make a few suggestions to those who wish to embark on a Teaching career in China.

1-I learnt that it is NOT important to have TESOL or a teaching Certifiate to teach English in China. It is important however that you have a certificate or qualification to present to a school of a subject, to verify that you have had college or University education.

2-It isnt important to know Chinese, but it does help to learn a little while you are there so you can get through. A student can help you if you pay them something. It isnt a lot of money and in fact you can pay them $100.00 RMB a week and they will be very happy for a couple of hours a week. Try and pick a student or Chinese teacher who knows some english too so they can understand you.

3-The misconception is that all Chinese only know the 1000 different dialects of Chinese and dont know English. In fact there is a large proportion of Chinese who do know basic english, and this is self assuring. Something i learnt to know as time went on.

4-If you have no teaching experience and have never taught english before, start with a small class of 30 students first who have some english understanding. This will build your confidence. Its good if you can meet them before you start at the school.

5-The biggest hurdle you will face is the ability to plan your lessons. This should be done at least a couple of weeks before your classes . This means that you are prepared on whatever the subject matter is. Remember for the 45 minutes that you are required to teach in each class that it doesnt take a lot of time for that class to teach a simple english subject.

6-Keep your subject simple and to the point. Make it a small lesson on a subject and remember to speak slowly and clearly. Some schools or students for that matter prefer American English than UK english, and so this is important to know which style of english the school prefers.

7-If the school has computer audio visual technology like a DVD player or computer screen displays make use of them. Chinese love technology and if you use it they have your attention. Get the students involved and have them participate as much as possible so they get practicle learning.

8-About student attention in the class, it is important in China, that you make yourself understood. You can do this by reflective language techniques that worked for me a lot. You will get the odd boy or girl who will try and disrupt others in their class, and so its really important that you lay out some ground rules if things get “untidy”. Explain that it isnt fair to other s in the class that this behviour is happening and explain in front of the class in slow meaningful terms that if this continues that that boy or girl will have to go outside. By doing this you gain the respect and attention you deserve from others and in 99.9% of the time you will get good results.

9-It is important to have good communication with other Chinese teachers and if you have any issues to go and speak with your school manager.

10-In a good school, correct behaviour is paramount as this impacts on the students learning ability. Its also a culture thing that when you need to administer correction, such as telling the boy or girl to leave the class due to continued disruptive behaviour that this brings about in itself a culture disipline that is seen by others and makes the correction more paramount due to the culture expectations of Chinese students. So in other words they learn quickly that disruptive behaviour is not tolerated.

11-It is a good idea to let the school know of your teaching style and they will most likely want to know your teaching curriculum. If you dont have one, make one up. Its that simple. Just be creative and patient, so they have the assurance that they know what you are doing, even if you feel you dont.

12-The other thing is dress appropriatly for class. Presentation is Communication to your students. They will have respect for you if you dress to the conditions and to a corporate level of dress.

13-Tell your students about your own culture. They are really interested in this. Many have never travelled outside of China and simply do not know what other countries are like. Many will in the future travel, but to tell them something about your own life with photos and video is really special, if you can have the ability to be open to them, they respond well. Remember the rule is to be Creative.

14-If the school has a cafe and the students go there to have Lunch/Dinner, go there and sit with them to have Lunch/Dinner. Dont segregate yourself. Become involved. The same goes when preparing lessons. Go and sit with your fellow Chinese Teachers. Chat with them and learn from them. Many will know english, and over time will become your best friends.

15-Try and avoid political debate. In China there are pockets of Moslem populations and there are Chinese Moslem schools. In one school i nearly had a class riot when an Iraq debate got out of hand, with students who were Moslem and with those who were not, got into a heated debate. Students who are chinese sit sperately from Moslem students in a cafeteria and vice versa. Its quite interesting. However i will give some advice on how to teach in a Moslem school like i did in the Henan Province, in a up and coming article.

In the mean time good luck for those preparing for their first adventure into the unknown, like i did. You will learn things really fast.

About the Author

The author has had extensive Travel experience through out the world and is a free lance writer on international and defence related affairs.

The writer has also wide experience in the Travel Industry having computer and Travel Law qualifications. I currently have my own website for anyone wanting to make bookings to New Zealand on:

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