Tag Archives: teaching job

Winning an Award for Having Fun?

For most expats teaching English in Asia or any other part of the world that has a demand for it, has been a way to travel the world,  explore new cultures and have fun while getting a consistent secure income to fund ones desired lifestyle. I am no different. However, unlike some I chose to do it later on in life after building a fairly successful career in broadcasting back in my home country (South Africa). Many people ask me, why would you leave the radio and TV industry to teach English in Asia? And I always say, that’s a good question but I just felt the need to do it and so before I settled down and had any really big commitments. Here I am, teaching English in Hong Kong. Here a glimpse of Avashnee’s old work

Avashnee Vandiar

I Won an Award!

As you can imagine, for me, teaching English in a foreign language has been  more of a life experience I wanted to tick off for a specific period of time before I eventually went back to the career I have years of experience in and settle down. Setting this background is important to understand why when I was given an award at our annual company awards and year end function, I was surprises; pleasantly surprised. Although I consider my passion to be a storyteller as a former Journalist, Producer and Presenter, teaching is something I do enjoy and when I am in my classes with my students I do strive to give off my best as an Educator because I understand the responsibility that comes with it. I did not know that this effort and enjoyment was noticed and translated to the point that I will be recognized as one of the employees of high performance value.

Like every other Teacher, I always make sure my classes are planned and executed well, my students learning objectives are met, my reporting and assessments are done on time and make the effort to find solutions or alternatives if situations warrant them. So I wondered why I was getting the award if I truly believed I did nothing different to my friends and colleagues. I also knew that I was not looking for a vertical progression within the company because this was a temporary career move for me.

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Going Extra Miles

I asked my Manager why I was nominated and then selected by upper Management to be a recipient for the award for our key learning program and his reply was interesting and taught me a lesson too. He gave me a few motivations and reasons but this was the one that stood out to me. He said that aside from performing highly in terms of meeting the key performance indicators, I always looked for different approaches to students who struggled academically, or some who may have needed special attention due to behavior issues and implemented suggestions.

By going the extra mile with classes and students, they saw the improvement in students and it was noted in their assessments over the 1 year period. The reason this impacted me was because I remembered how frustrating it used to be in the beginning with certain troubled students. I tried to be compassionate and empathetic but sometimes it can be difficult. In spite of it though, I remember giving myself a pep talk and telling myself that I need to challenge myself to do whatever I could within my ability to help these kids or at least manage them in class so that it doesn’t negatively impact others. By not just allowing the situation to get to me but rather being consistent in showing up as a good Teacher, it not only helped the student but garnered me, as an Educator, an unwanted but humbly appreciated recognition and accolade!

We Have the Power and Influence to Impact Lives

It also made me realize that just because my current job is not the one I plan on doing forever or my “dream” job, it doesn’t mean it needs to be performed with any less enthusiasm and passion because while teaching English as a foreign language does allow us the fun exciting life of travel and adventure; we do have the power and influence to impact some lives. After all, we are connecting the world; one English word at a time!

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How to Prepare For Life In China After Landing a TEFL Job

Did you just land your first TEFL job in China? Congratulations, you’re in for a wild ride. Your career just might take off. Your social life may explode. And your wanderlust may finally be satisfied. That was my experience at least.

The list of benefits that surrounds your new job is perhaps longer than The Great Wall. But, moving to China takes some getting used to.
In fact, life in China is something you may want to prepare yourself for.

So, while you’re getting your visa sorted out, and trying to decide how to condense your life into a single suitcase, here are a few others things to think about.

Google and Facebook Don’t Work in China

That’s right my friends. Both Gmail and Facebook won’t work while you’re living in China. You won’t have to rely on snail mail to talk to your mom though.

Before moving to China, make sure to get a VPN (Virtual Private Network.) You can pay for a year’s subscription (it’s very affordable) and use it to get on any website you want. It works by tricking your computer or phone, making it look like you’re using the internet from a country outside of China. I used one called Nordvpn, but there are quite a few to choose from.

You’ll Actually Need to Learn Some Mandarin

If you’ve traveled before, you know that it’s relatively easy to get around relying on only English. In China, not so much.

They speak their local language (as to be expected) and don’t stray away from it too often. Street signs, packaging, and restaurant menus will typically not have any English.

So, you’ll actually need to study up on some Mandarin. I ate stuffed buns for every meal during my first three days in China. I could point to them at the stall near my apartment and didn’t have to worry about speaking.

Learning how to say a few dishes is really helpful if you want a diverse diet. Also, it will help you avoid eating pig brain soup (honestly, it was an entire brain…in my soup) and other dishes that may make you cringe.

China teaching

You’ll Need to Practice Your Balance For The Squat Toilets

Squat toilets are not a thing of the past in China. In fact, you’ll find them even in the nicest clubs and restaurants.

While your apartment will usually have a western toilet, out in public, you’ll need to squat. Bend your knees and get low to the ground. The toilets even have two spots for your feet.

It may take a few tries, but you’ll figure it out. And, you may just learn to love them. I know that I did. Not having to sit on a public toilet seat seemed pretty great to me.

You Seriously Have to Learn to Use Chopsticks

At home, I ate sushi all of the time. So, I learned how to use chopsticks pretty well before moving to China.

In fact, I thought it was pretty obvious that chopstick skills were a necessity before agreeing to take the job.

However, I found that a few of my co-workers had never used chopsticks before. And, some of them admitted to thinking that the restaurants in China provided forks (just in case.)

Let’s just say that these coworkers of mine struggled. A lot. One of them couldn’t eat much during group meals, and ended up buying a little baby spoon to help him out. He carried that thing with him everywhere he went.

Learn how to use chopsticks; it’s worth it.

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What Are the Expectations When Teaching Kids in Hong Kong

It is said that “the creative adult, is the child who survived”. Whatever the status of your inner child, working with kids will certainly nourish that. It is a great privilege and even greater responsibility to be able to work with children and making sure you’re doing it right or at least try to is important. In order to get your working visa in Hong Kong as a teacher for young kids, it is a prerequisite to have prior teaching experience with kids. Although I did have that, a very new experience awaited me.

Working with kids of various ages from 3 to 11 may sound easy but it’s not. It’s not difficult in a stressful way by any means, it just require lots of preparation, energy and understanding.

Preparation is Key

In my current role I teach specific classes and have the same kids for every class. I have my own classroom and that’s great because it becomes your space and home away from home. You get to decorate it and make it suitable for your students and yourself. Preparing ahead of your lessons is a must. There are some ESL Teachers at our center who wing it but in time this catches up with you and is not the best approach. I find that preparing and mapping out how I will achieve the objectives for that semester at the beginning is so helpful and makes my life much easier. I go into my classes knowing exactly what will be covered, have all the materials ready and try to cover everything a few weeks ahead of schedule so that I have time in case there are any glitches. This is especially important when working with really young kids because they need your constant attention so preparing anything in class can be a nightmare.

Children can also be extremely unpredictable and finish tasks fairly quickly, however badly or wonderfully they do it…to them, it’s done and they wait for what’s next. As a Teacher, it’s best to anticipate this and already have other tasks and activities lined up so that they are not left to their own devices. Preparation also helps when dealing with Admin or parents because if there are any questions or concerns, you are ahead of the game and are able to provide suitable responses.

A side note, Hong Kong does have many T3’s (typhoon warnings) and this will cancel kindergarten classes (hooray! for a free class) but not so much when you lose countless days and can’t catch up when their portfolios for international school applications are due – this is where preparation and working ahead of schedule can save you!

Personality: Keep it Light

When teaching kids you have to constantly possess high energy in the class, be full of expression, fun and playful. Children are eager for stories and if you can make your instructions fun and animated, you will be a winner with them. We are adults and sometimes life happens and you cannot always be full of enthusiasm but if you can at least start your class on a high, it sets the tone and pace for the kids and gets them excited for the rest of it. Being stern may be a must to ensure discipline and rules are adhered to but this needs to be done in moderation.

Children are extremely sensitive and if they fear you, they won’t like coming to class and eventually won’t. This affects business and ultimately you. Aside from affecting your professional role, it just isn’t kind to be too stern with kids to a point that they don’t want to attend class. We have to remember, they are kids and we have no idea why some of them act out the way they do. Best thing to do here is, breathe, count to ten, wear that smile and try again…softly.

Classroom Management in Thailand

Teaching is an Art

Teaching is an art that not everyone can be prepared to do. It requires someone that not only has a big heart but, also someone that is disciplined and ready for any adventure that may come their way. With teaching, you can prepare yourself for what is anticipated like, lessons, grades, events, etc. but, you can never prepare yourself enough for the unscheduled events or acts of students that leave you with your mouth open or you questioning what to do next. With moments like these, there are some helpful ways to help prevent some things thrown your way. Some of the things that you can expect are students being unruly or misbehaving and for this, you can prepare for some of it.

Classroom Management

Teaching in any country can be challenging but, also rewarding. In class, you can expect to have various characters for students. Some may be very good and listen while, others may be unruly and misbehave. I have found that the students that are unruly need just a little motivation to help keep them on track. I have had students come in 30 minutes late thinking it was ok, others not paying attention, and some just being talkative and disruptive. Though these students may be defiant, they are still good and just need some extra attention.

My class in Thailand

I have found that my misbehaved students do better when they are motivated and know that you take them learning sincerely. Which is why at the beginning of the semester, I first layout rules. Some of these rules include: coming to class on time, being respectful of their fellow classmates and myself, and that when I give them work to do, they need to do it because overall, it is for them and their bright future. As a teacher, you will need to figure out what ways work best for you and how to manage your class. I have come to conclude, that there is not a one way that fits all and for this you need to be creative. When it comes to classroom management, every teacher must consider all of their students and because of this, I do not believe in punishing the whole class for one student’s actions or having a disruptive student destroy another’s ability to learn.

A Technique to Manage

So, the question is, “what do I do when I have a kid be disruptive or disrespectful to prevent future issues?” Well, I believe in managing it and containing to prevent further disrespect which, is why I think physical exercise helps. When I have student that behaves badly to their fellow classmates or myself, I don’t give extra work and keep my fingers crossed that they do it but yet give a physical exercise. By physical exercise, I am referring to jumping jacks, burpees, push-ups and sit-ups. These physical exercises have worked wonders, and not only do they learn from doing it by counting in English, they also get mental stimulation by the endorphins going off in their brains.

My Students in Thailand

Depending on what we are doing as a class, will depend on when they do these exercises. I do not want to quit teaching to handout jumping jacks, etc. so, I wait for the best opportune time, may it be at that moment or be before the class ends. Based on what the issue was, will base my decision on how many of one exercise that they need to do. Sometimes, its only 20 while, others have been 50. It just depends on them and what they did wrong. This technique has helped my class realize that I am not a mean teacher but someone that has their best interest at heart. The class overall finds this funny when one of their own must do an exercise while, the student doing it learns they don’t want to do it again. This has been a well thought and proven technique that I have shared with my fellow teachers. They all thought it was great and have used it to help manage their classes. When you have classrooms full of 40 plus students, it can be challenging to keep them on task and behaving right but, this has helped. Moreover, being a teacher for the past few years, this has become quite productive.

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My First Day Teaching in Hong Kong

My Journey Teaching in Hong Kong

After spending a semester in Thailand teaching English, I knew I wanted to live and work  in other countries in Asia and of course, Hong Kong was at the top of my list. Trying to find a job in Hong Kong was more difficult than I first anticipated and I was relieved to find On The Mark Education who assisted in finding me potential jobs and then setting up interviews with potential employers.

Hong Kong VisaI decided to accept a job from a school in Hong Kong that have language centres throughout the country. They were extremely helpful from the get go and were able to answer any questions I had about the company itself, the students and what I was going to be teaching. Before I left the UK they assisted me in the processing of my visa, including help with all the documents and paperwork.

Visa Process

I was in contact with staff from the school throughout my wait for me visa (which turned out to be a long 4 weeks wait) and then also upon my arrival into Hong Kong. I started work four days after I landed and I was instructed to attend their North Point centre. As I had arrived during the summer, the centre was running their summer programme of classes which are based around more fun and creative aspects of education. This was the perfect time for me to start as I was given the opportunity to observe a variety of different types of classes and interact with the full range of ages that the school currently caters for. It also gave me to opportunity to meet my co-workers and start getting to know everyone’s names and classrooms. My first day was a bit of a whirlwind and before I knew it, it was 6:30pm and time for me to finish up and to go home.

my classroom in Hong KongI woke up the next day to a message telling me that I was needed at another centre in Tai Koo to cover a class. It was not something I expected to be doing on my second day with the company but I got ready and headed out to find the centre. I was met at the MTR station by the head teacher of the centre who was surprised to find out I’d only been in the country less than a week. Nevertheless, I was taken to my classroom and given the lesson plan, materials and worksheet I needed for my cover lesson. So for my first lesson in Hong Kong I was going to be teaching about… ‘Africa and African Tribes’, not exactly the first topic that comes to mind when you thinking about teaching in a language centre. My first class had 5 students, 1 girl and 4 boys and throughout I was utterly entertained by the chit chat. I was surprised by how high their level of English was and how interested they were to learn about Africa. The whole lesson was going to plan until it came to the craft section and then the lesson hit a bump, the craft required was an African Tribal Necklace, the last thing the 4 boys in my class wanted to make. However, with a little bit of persuasion and the promise of playing a game (educational of course) the boys reluctantly attempted to make the necklace. All in all my first solo lesson was successful and although it happened a lot quicker than I expected, I was happy that it was done and I had survived.

My first two days as an English Teacher in Hong Kong was full of new experiences and challenges and went by in the blink of an eye. If the next 12 months go by a quickly I might have to renew my contract and stay a little bit longer.

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Hear from Our Teacher in China – Kirsty van Schalkwyk

Before Coming to China

Why did you want to teach in China?
To earn good cash and save money. Also, to explore the culture. Big things happen in China, this place plays a huge role in the economy. It’s great to be a part of the culture.  Also, my partner and I got TEFL certified and we would like to practice what we have learnt from the classroom.

How was your experience finding a job through On the Mark Education?
Fantastic. On the Mark Education is just fantastic. They were very thorough and honest. They helped us follow up on the visa process and communicate with the school. It took a few months for visa because of our nationality but it all came through.  I would recommend their service every time.  

How long did your visa process take? How was the communication with the school during the visa process??
From my end (my country), rather long, South Africa is like that. But from this side (China), it was very easy. The company sorts out everything for you. You don’t have to lift a finger. And when something is required of you, they write explicitly each detail; of the requirement.

What website did you use to book your ticket to China?
The company bought the ticket for my partner and I. We flew with Emirates. It truly was a lovely flight.

Teaching Life in China

What was your first impression of China upon arrival?
Cold, VERY cold. We arrived in the heart of winter in Beijing first. We stayed there for 2 weeks and moved to Nanjing. Apparently this was the coldest winter experienced in Nanjing too.

What was the biggest culture shock about China and/or in your current city?
People spitting all the time in public. Children wear pants without underwear and the pants have slits in. Exposing their front parts, as well as back-parts. This is used for potty training. Also, people do not stand in queues, cutting in front of people is tolerated.  

What’s your favorite memory to date of life in China??
Receiving my second paycheck. The first paycheck essentially goes to your landlord, because in China you have to pay 3 months rent up front. The second one was when I could start paying off debt. I’m in China for 6 months now. I’ve been to: Beijing, Nanjing, Shanghai, and in 2 weeks I go to Hong Kong. The opportunities are endless.

My students in Nanjing

What do you like most about working for your school?
The promotion! I’ve been promoted already at my centre, I’m now the mentor.

What three things do you wish you would have known or brought with you before you arrived?
– Bring more vitamins or at home medication, for cold, flu, chest infections etc,
– Bring warm clothes. We didn’t know China could get this cold.
– You will be started at everywhere, video recorded too.

Did you have the opportunity to save any money? What percentage of your salary were you able to save?
I would say 40% of my salary could easily be saved or go toward savings, depends on how you want to live. I like to travel, shop, invest in good laptops, cameras, etc.