Tag Archives: English in China

The Power of being a New Teacher

The Power of being a New Teacher
It’s certainly one of the most intimidating things crossing paths with teachers who have been at your institution for a few years and who seem to know everything and have it all under control. They know the ins and outs of the system and if you ever feel lost, then you most probably are. So why is it a good thing?

If you are still unable to fully grasp the basics of the system your school/institute has in place, then obviously something needs to be addressed or changed. Whether it is the training manual you received, the mentor and his/her guidance (or lack thereof), the resources, the admin, etc., you have the power as a new teacher to see things with a fresh mind and see it in an objective manner. If you can bring it under the attention of your senior management or Director of Studies, your input will be incredibly valuable. Never forget it.

Power in Progress
What do I mean with your input being incredibly valuable? It’s quite simple – It helps contribute to the continuation of progress. If your management is open to listening to you, you will most likely find your opinions and input appreciated and taken at full value. You can see what is working and what isn’t. You bring new and fresh ideas to the table as a new teacher. If you struggle adjusting and understanding any of the systems, it could mean that there needs to be a closer inspection of the mentors and programs they have in place. Do not be afraid to voice your concerns. Without it, there will not be any advancement in the school or institution’s system. This ultimately leads to stagnation and that is something you do not want happening! A happy teacher makes for happy children and satisfied parents. If the parents see progress in class and that there is innovation and satisfaction amongst the teaching staff, they will be more than eager to pay for their children’s tuition fees in learning a second language.

Out with the Old, In with the New
As confident as those senior teachers are, they won’t always be there. Their contributions aren’t useless, and has definitely played a vital role in ensuring the continuation of the institute and its successful retention rate of students. However, with each new group of teachers, the “improved” version of the old ideas with be built upon and so on and so forth. This is how progress is ensured. Only once you speak up about your views and concerns, can you achieve an optimal learning and teaching environment.

A progressive learning environment will contribute to the overall success of the school/institute in the long run. Don’t be complacent with the system. Don’t be intimidated by your position as “newbie”. In a few months or so, other new teachers will come along and will also have different views about the system.

Persuading Management as the Newbie
Now I know that talking to higher management can sometimes seem like a daunting task. The people who check your progress and confirm your pay check isn’t necessarily the same people you head out with on a Sunday night after class to go party with until dawn.
My advice here would be to consult any senior teacher in the staff, preferably your own mentor if the school has assigned you one.

Being able to approach a senior teacher or mentor about critical issues in your school takes a lot of the stress off of your own back and as they have substantially more influence, it is more likely that your views will be regarded seriously. It’s hierarchy, yes, but it’s the name of the game. As long as such a hierarchy is not abused and overused, it can be a helpful structure for fresh, new teachers who ultimately will only benefit from extra guidance and tips!

As a new teacher at a school, you may stumble a bit and struggle now and again, but your fresh view, added creativity and ability to be objective counts for quite a lot if you are keen enough to utilize it! Progress in teaching leaves everybody richer.

Apartment Hunting in Beijing

Bring More Money

I moved to Beijing to teach English since Jan, 2017 and one of the most challenging parts of moving to a new country is finding a place to live, especially if you don’t speak the language. Beyond that, some cities and countries have different customs when it comes to paying rent than what is common in the USA. In the United States, it is customary to pay a deposit equal to one month’s rent as well as the first month’s rent. Often, you will be expected to pay last month’s rent as well, so the equivalent of about 3 months up front.

Paying Rent in China

In Beijing, China (and I imagine it’s similar for the rest of the country) it is customary to pay three month’s rent at a time, which means that when you rent an apartment, you are expected to pay a deposit, and three month’s rent at once. If you go through an agency, you will have to pay an agency fee as well which is usually equal to one month’s rent, so that’s up to five month’s rent up front when you first move.

My ApartmentOf course, I wasn’t aware of that when I first moved which caused a lot of anxiety when I first got to China.  I wasn’t sure I had enough money since it would be a little over a month before I received my first pay check. As it turned out, there are landlords that are willing to be flexible, but you have to hunt for them.

Agents can be helpful with that if you are willing to pay the agency fee, which my new roommate and I opted to do as we found more agents able to speak some English than landlords. We got very lucky that some agents were willing to postpone payment for the agency fee and found us landlords who were willing to be paid on a monthly basis. This may have been because it was close to Chinese New Year, and agents were desperate to get their commissions before rental prices rose again, but either way, it was helpful to us.

Helpful Agents Are a Blessing

The agents that we ended up getting a lease with were wonderful. They found us a few places within our price range and spent the day taking us around the neighborhood to see them. This was made a lot more exciting by the fact that they took us around the city on their motorbikes, which allowed us a chance to see the neighborhoods in a way we wouldn’t have just riding the subway. I wish I had had a Go-Pro camera to record the motorbike trip as it was the highlight of apartment hunting, but I do have some good pictures of the neighborhood we settled in.

Finding Our Place

Living roomThey showed us two apartments and one traditional style Chinese hutong, all within the same price range. We ended up deciding on the hutong as it was the best commuting distance to both of our centers (about an hour each with public transportation, which in Beijing is about as good as you can expect), and the landlord dropped the price from 8,000 RMB a month to 7,500 RMB. It’s a cute and comfortable little place that we’re happy with, even with the lack of a proper couch. The previous tenant also left behind several useful things, like our shoe rack, food shelves, cubbies, and a full set of Harry Potter books for our enjoyment!

It took a few days to get completely settled in, and after a few months I can say I probably won’t want to live in this apartment forever, but it will be comfortable enough for one year. If I decide to stay in China longer, I now know I will have to save up enough money to pay up to five month’s rent in advance, and then I will have more options open to me. However, I do really like the area that I live in, as there are lots of places to eat and there are not as many skyscrapers so it does not feel so metropolitan all the time. As much as I enjoy big city living, I like that my apartment and neighborhood allows me to feel like I am actually living abroad, rather than in just any other large city.

Teaching Children in Beijing

It’s no secret to those who know me that I have limited experience with children, and I have to admit that I was a bit nervous that my first TEFL job would involve teaching them. My teaching experience had previously been with university students or older adults. After a few months, I have to say I have acclimated to teaching young learners easier than I thought I would. Teaching children is quite fun once you get into it and get to know the students.

Into The Fire

I ended up being thrown into teaching rather quickly. On my first day working at my school in Beijing, after about ten minutes of being there, I was asked by one of the Head Foreign Teachers to cover a class of pre-school age children because their regular teacher was running very late.  I didn’t even have a uniform yet but I wanted to make a good impression and be helpful so I agreed.

He could tell I was worried as I had no preparation, and told me if I got stuck the Chinese Teacher would help me, and that when it comes to that age group, you can always just put on songs and sing with them in a pinch.

Teaching Children in BeijingWhile that was far from the best class I have ever taught, it was good for me to get thrown in so quickly. I covered a few classes my first week, and then I was given my own classes to teach, of all different age groups. With the help of my Chinese teaching assistants I got to know the children in classes quickly and found that I was good at adjusting my lesson plans to suit their needs during class.

One of my classes had a “Parent’s Day” about a month after I started teaching them. This is when the school invites the parents to watch about thirty minutes of a class so they can see how the teacher interacts with their children. I was pleased that the majority of the parents gave me very high scores and no one gave me a low score.

Language Barriers

The most common question I get from friends back home is “how do you deal with the language barrier?” This is most challenging with the youngest children, of which I only have one class.  It involves a lot of TPR (Total Physical Response), repetition, and sometimes the Chinese teacher has to translate for them. Many of the children at that level have also never been to school before, so they aren’t used to following a teacher’s instructions, so you have to teach them that. This is when the Chinese teacher was very helpful, because even if we try to avoid resorting to translation, they can model following the directions so the children can copy their example.

Teaching Children in BeijingIn my classes of even slightly older children, their English level is high enough for them to understand basic instructions. My Kindergarten and First Grade level students can carry on a basic conversation, and they understand classroom instructions. The Chinese teacher is available to help them if they are trying to make a sentence and they don’t know one of the English words they want to say.  For instance, my Kindergartners were practicing asking “Do you like…?” and they understood what the sentence meant, but sometimes they would want to ask the question about a word they didn’t know, so the Chinese teacher could help them with that.

Don’t Be Afraid to Jump in!

My advice to any other new teachers who have limited experience with kids would be to just jump in. You will learn best by doing it. While my training with my school was informative, it only prepared me so much for what teaching children would be like.  By jumping in and just starting to work with the children, as well as observing classes and talking to other teachers, you will adjust to the new environment quickly and have a great teaching experience!

How to Overcome Language Barriers While Teaching English in China?

In China, there is an insignificant part of the population that speaks English. However, the country is fast gearing up to learn the language in order to do business with European and American countries that are primarily English-speaking nations. This is the reason why China is drawing the attention of English language teachers from different parts of the world. However, it’s a fact that one is going to come across several types of barriers while teaching English in China, such as cultural disconnect, poor English vocabulary, inadequate grasping power of students, and so on.

Here the ways you can overcome these barriers:

1. Your Patience is the Key: Remember you are in a foreign country and Chinese people don’t speak English. Your students could be slow learners and you need to be patient with them. Go slow, very slow, so that they can learn English at their own pace without any difficulty.

2. Emotional Connect: You need to present yourself as one of them, but not as a foreigner. If you could develop your own Chinese language vocabulary to communicate better with them. Of course, you are there to teach English, but not to learn Chinese, but this is the way you can establish a connection with local Chinese students to teach them.

3. No Anger Please! You could be a little fed up if your class is not picking up the speed with which you wish to teach them. But there is no place for anger, all you can handle with patience and love. If you shout at them and show your frustration, it may go a wrong signal among students and they could be more distracted from learning.

4. Control Your Native Slangs: They are not natives and thus can’t understand your native slangs. It could be more appropriate for you to use formal English and teach them using the vocabulary they are more comfortable with.

5. Use Creativity: Besides creating a formal teaching environment, you may also prefer to communicate with your students in an informal manner. This could be more encouraging for your students. At the same time, you can choose creative ideas, such as storytelling to help students develop a natural interest in the English language. You can also plan activities, such as a crossword for your students to build their vocabulary.

English Language Teachers

6. Are You Tech Savvy? Technology can always help you to teach English to Chinese students, as the majority of students owns smartphones, tablets and other modern devices. There are several language learning apps, vocabulary building apps, online activities available on the internet that you can take help to teach English to this tech savvy population. If you can use the technology you can better teach them in a more creative and friendly manner.

OnTheMarkTEFL.com is one of the best places to apply for ESL/TEFL jobs in China. Apply for: