How do you become an English teacher in Beijing? I interviewed Jenn who taught in Beijing for 5 years! She shares tips and thoughts on how she became a teacher below.
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 the 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 Beijing!
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.
Teaching English in Beijing
This week I am excited to bring you a story about teaching English in Beijing, China! I was able to visit Beijing a few years ago, and China definitely has a special place in my heart! I loved this interview because Jenn is a traveler that goes off the beaten path, loves her food and wine (sounds like someone else you may know!), and she is still currently traveling the world.
On her blog, she writes about her travels, passion for food, and focuses on rare locations, which is awesome. For more about China and other awesome destinations, make sure you check out her blog A Map, Fork, and Cork!
What inspired you start teaching English in Beijing?
After graduating university, I jumped into the professional world and spent a few years working without really being able to save much or make time to travel. My boyfriend (now husband) and I decided we were looking for a big change, and we wanted to find something that would allow us to travel. This is why we decided to try teaching abroad.
How long did you teach and where?
I taught in Beijing, China for 1.5 years in an after-school program to kids that were between the ages of 6-9 years old. While I enjoyed teaching, I missed my former career of working in HR and wanted to get back into it while living in Beijing.
I was lucky that I was able to convince the CEO of the company that they could benefit from having a foreigner do the recruiting for the teachers, so I was later promoted to the position of HR Manager, where I was hiring and developing onboarding and training programs for all teachers. In total, I spent over three years in Beijing working for the same education company in two different roles.
Teaching is a great way to start working abroad, but there’s also plenty of opportunities to pursue your other interests as well. Many of my friends got into the marketing side, curriculum development, and leadership roles as they continued working at the school. Others also got side jobs working as comics, DJs, and bartenders.
Were any of your expenses covered by the teaching experience?
In the after-school program I was working in, the contract only required working 25 teaching hours a week, so I only received a monthly salary, 8,000 RMB bonus at the completion of the contract, and two days paid in a hotel when I arrived. Once I became HR Manager though, I changed the package to become more enticing with 5,000 RMB airfare reimbursement, 8,000 RMB completion bonus, five nights paid accommodation upon arrival, medical insurance, and six paid sick days during the academic year in addition to a monthly salary.
How did you find the program or opportunity to teach abroad?
The best way I’ve found to find teaching opportunities abroad is through Dave’s ESL Cafe, which is where I first found my teaching position. When I started recruiting teachers, I also found Serious Teachers and LinkedIn to be good.
Were you able to spend time traveling and exploring the country while teaching?
There are so many holidays in China, which gave me plenty of opportunities for traveling. The big holidays are Golden week in October, where I got one week off work, and Spring festival (Chinese New Year), which happened between January-February and I’d get three weeks off.
Every spring festival I’d go to SE Asia and have been able to visit the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and Indonesia. Some of the things I did there included snorkeling, learning to surf and scuba dive, kayaking to secluded islands, and motorbiking to powder sand beaches without anyone around.
There was also summer break, and during that time, I’d visit back home to Canada and travel to Europe. In Europe, I visited Greece, Serbia, and Turkey.
What were interactions with students like?
I worked with students 6-9 years old with a maximum class size of 10. They were from rich families and had been used to English-speaking Western schools since the age of two, so they were pretty easy to manage and spoke English well. However, my husband had students where it was their first time in a Western school with very little English, so he had to spend a lot of time on behavior management, teaching them the rules and simple English lessons.
One funny thing about teaching in Beijing was that the students often had strange English names. I had students with names like Bright, Orange, Rock, and my husband had ones with the names Smile and Happy, who turned out to be a very angry student!
What was your favorite part of teaching abroad?
One thing to know about students in China is that they rarely have free time to dedicate to sports and hobbies since they normally solely focus on their education. So finding fun ways for the students to learn was my favorite part of the job. Even though they were young, they were very smart, so we often held class debates and model UN; I hear 9-year-old boys arguing the right for gender equality and women’s rights.
They also love Karaoke, so we sang a lot of Disney songs, and I introduced them to Western baking in a weekly cooking class, which all was a lot of fun.
What is one piece of advice you have for someone who wants to teach abroad?
I think it’s very important to find a school that treats its teachers well. Education is a major industry in China, and there are new schools popping up every day, so it’s important to find the right place. Make sure that they are offering you a working ‘teaching’ visa and never work on a tourist visa. Many schools will get a work visa but the position listed will not be for teaching.
There’s a high demand for teachers, so the teachers have the flexibility to choose where they want to work. Does the school help you with settling in, do they hold fun activities for teachers during the year or offer Chinese lessons? China is so different from the Western world so it can be a big shock, so it’s very important to find a school that’s going to make that transition as easy as possible for you.
Thinking about teaching English in Beijing? This week on the traveling teacher series, we hear from Jenn, who spent 3 1/2 years teaching English in Beijing.
You can follow Jenn on her social media listed below. For more about China and other awesome destinations, make sure you check out her blog!
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