Updated: May 15, 2022
Wondering what it’s like to teach English in Shanghai? I interviewed Alexandra who teaches abroad in Shanghai. She shares her insight on how she got started and continues to teach in China to this day!
The traveling teachers series is all about people who travel and you guessed it – teach! Each interview features a different teacher, traveling to a different place, and teaching a unique group of students. So often we hear of people teaching abroad, but what is it really like? How do you find opportunities?
There are many questions surrounding traveling and teaching. Through this series, I hope you are inspired by the good work going on around the world, learn, and start to think about ways you can travel and teach abroad yourself. I’m excited to share this story of teaching English in Shanghai with you!
If you plan to be a traveling teacher, a TESOL certification is going to be necessary. I got mine through International Open Academy for just $19! Highly recommend this as a first step in your traveling teacher journey.
This week I am excited to bring you a story about a teacher in Shanghai! This is an interesting interview because Alexandra didn’t set out to teach abroad initially, but has found a love for supporting students by teaching English in Shanghai. Her site, The Adventure Classroom, helps people living abroad, shares information about becoming an ESL teacher, teaching tips, and life in China.
What inspired you to start teaching English in Shanghai?
I didn’t set out to start teaching English! I am a French as a Second Language teacher at home in Canada, but upon graduating from teacher’s college, I knew I didn’t want to stay at home. I didn’t want to get ‘stuck’ in one career path until retirement. I wanted to learn more about teaching in a different country, and working in a different culture and environment. I wanted to see what kind of strategies I could adapt from FSL to ESL since ESL is also becoming more in demand at home.
How long have you taught and where?
I’m only in my second year as a teacher. All of it has been in an international school in a small town outside of Shanghai, China!
How did you find your teaching position?
Two years before graduation, I met a recruiter at an international job fair at my university. I stayed in touch with her and once I was in my final year, we started talking. She explained everything clearly so I knew what to expect. My school is part of a much larger system that has more than 20 schools across China. From talking to her and knowing all this information, I understood that it was a safe choice and a good decision.
Are any of your expenses covered with the teaching experience?
Every year, we are allocated round-trip airfare (up to ($2000 CAD). Our medical insurance is also covered, and it’s quite extensive; it covers travel and emergencies anywhere in the world, so we can continue to use it during the summer. While housing is not covered, they do provide semi-furnished apartments as a starting point for new teachers to settle in. Rent comes out of the monthly paycheck, so it is a pretty convenient way to get started in China.
Are you able to spend time traveling and exploring the country while teaching?
Yes! We have more time off than teachers in Canada – about 7 weeks during the school year itself. This time off usually falls on the national holidays in China, so it is extremely busy to travel around the country. I did it for my first year, but soon realized that it was way too crowded to be enjoyable! For that reason, I usually visit another country in Southeast Asia during that time, and I save my exploring in China for short weekend trips or for the summer holidays.
What are interactions with students like?
My students are incredibly respectful. In China, being a teacher is an honorable job. I have minimal classroom management problems compared to what it’s like in Canada. I teach mostly grade 10-11, and they can still be silly and fun. They don’t get so serious until grade 12! We have established a relationship by this point that we can have fun but know when to focus too.
What is your favorite part of teaching abroad?
I like that I can gain valuable Canadian experience from my international school while working with students learning ESL. Because the student population is majority Chinese, their goal is to go to university in Canada, the USA, Australia, the UK, or any other English-speaking place. I think it’s a pretty unique situation that I would not have at home!
What is one piece of advice you have for someone who wants to teach abroad?
I would suggest finding an opportunity that can benefit you when you return home. I think most people intend to return to their home country and work after a certain amount of time abroad. If you can find a teaching position that can help you gain more experience that’s accepted by schools in your home city, then that would be ideal! Other than that, if you’re on the fence about going abroad, just remember that you can do it for a year and come back if you really hate it. What’s one year anyway? In the end, most people decide to stay for longer!
Want more stories of Teaching in Asia? Here are some stories that might interest you: