Teaching abroad is one of the best options available to native (or in many countries, such as China, even non-native) English speakers who are looking for some international experience, or perhaps don’t have the best job options back home. I had so many friends in the United States who searched high and low for jobs at home without realizing that there are plenty of opportunities to teach abroad if only they could take the leap of faith into what could be an exciting new chapter of life.
If you’re looking to teach abroad in China, here are a few essential things to know that can help to you land the right job, help you make more money, and have the kind of experience that makes you want to stick around.
1) You Can’t Get Rich, But You Can Make More
Teaching salaries in China are typically enough to have a decent apartment, eat well, and survive just fine in your new surroundings. That said, if you want to have the type of lifestyle that many expats crave -- which involves nightlife -- you won’t be able to save much money on your teaching salary alone.
This is where taking on side jobs comes in handy. Chances are, a Chinese friend or colleague of yours will know someone who is looking for one-on-one English lessons. These can pay better, are done in the hours outside of teaching, and can be quite lucrative. If you are willing to work more hours in order to both save money and have the lifestyle you dream of in China, this is the way to do it.
2) Contracts Come With Perks
Most contracts are 6 months to one year, if not longer. In addition to giving you access to a visa that allows you to stay in China long term, there are other perks that come along with signing a contract to work with a school in China. Typically, they consist of reimbursing your plane ticket costs and can sometimes even extend to covering your rent. If you break your contract, however, you usually forfeit these perks.
3) But Don’t Be Afraid to Walk Away if You Hate Your Job
If you’re being asked to work more hours than you’re paid to, or are dealing with questionable management at best, overpowering at worst, don’t feel stuck in your job. ESL jobs are plentiful and walking away from a contract that isn’t working out for you may mean forfeiting some perks, but it may make you happier overall as well.
4) You Don’t Have to Be a Native English Speaker to Teach English in China
China is funneling a fair amount of investment into increasing English language learning in their schools. This means that, unlike South Korea which is looking to limit the amount of expats they let in, and unlike Taiwan which requires English teachers to be native speakers, China is only increasing the numbers opportunities. Even if you’re a non-native English speaker, if your English level abilities are at fluency, you can get a job in China.
5) Think Twice About Social Media
Facebook is banned in China, and, although you can get around it with a firewall, most of your students will not be utilizing it. This is great news for keeping your most active social profiles private. That said, WeChat is a huge social network in China and the way most people keep in touch. Think twice about giving out your details to your students. Your phone will never stop buzzing off the hook!
6) Think About Which Age Level You Should Teach
Should you teach children, teenagers, or adults? Do you hate noise or have trouble keeping your patience if students aren’t paying attention? Maybe teaching children isn’t the best option. Then again, if you like a lighthearted, play-type of environment, it could be perfect for you. If you want a position of authority where you’re helping people who are trying to advance their careers, and in many cases may be older than you are, think about teaching adults if that kind of pressure doesn’t make you nervous. Really weigh the pros and cons of each age level.
7) Keep it in English
Even if you speak Chinese, it’s best not to let your students know. Keep the dialogue in the classroom in English so that they have no choice but to learn the words in English if they want to communicate. It will help them out in the long run.
8) But Learn the Local Language Too
Living in China gives you the perfect opportunity to learn one of the most widely-spoken and useful languages in the world. Many teachers are used to speaking English all day, and then hanging out with only expat friends and speaking English with them on the evenings and weekends. Put that extra effort into learning Chinese. It makes life in China easier and gives you a new skill for when you’re ready to move on from your job.
China is turning into the land of opportunity for those looking to teach English abroad. The rich and very different culture, coupled with the earning, learning, and living opportunities make it a great option for just about anyone with fluency in the English language.