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Talking To Teachers – Amanda Sinclair

Amanda Sinclair - Teachers

Gold Star TEFL Recruitment has been assisting teachers secure the very best teaching jobs in China since 2009 and has close connections with China’s leading schools. For details on teaching jobs with York School of Foreign Languages and other major language schools have a look through our website and submit an application today.
Read more interviews with teachers in China here.

An Interview with Amanda Sinclair

GS: So, can you tell us a bit about how you first got into English teaching?
AS: I have always dreamed of becoming a Barrister, every since I was 7 years old and my Granddad explained to me what a Barrister’s role was. So when I was Called to the Bar of England and Wales, I didn’t imagine I would end up in China, teaching English, and loving every moment of it. After I had graduated university I realised I had been so focused on studying Law, passing my exams and being Called to the Bar that I had given my other passions time. I had previously studied two trimesters of English, and loved it.

Having heard about the numerous TEFL courses available, I enrolled, completed the 120 Hours Advanced Course, and set about applying for any positions available, preferably in Asia. The one other passion I had ignored was travelling and exploring the world. This opportunity allowed me to combine both. I was offered a position at York School, Fuzhou and accepted it straight away. No hesitation, and no regrets. Whilst I don’t profess that teaching was my childhood dream, I can say that it is a rewarding and enjoyable experience, one I hope to continue for a while to come.
Amanda Sinclair - Hot Springs Park
GS: Could you give some details about your dealings with Gold Star TEFL Recruitment?
AS: My dealings with Gold Star TEFL Recruitment have been minimal. That does not mean that they are awful, actually the opposite. Gold Star TEFL Recruitment has been so helpful, professional and efficient that I have not had much need to continually communicate with them. At first, after I had sent in my application, I was contacted by Aidan, who clearly stated how everything was, forwarded my application to a number of schools, who in turn then contacted me. Aidan then asked me what I was planning to do, provided pre-interview questions to help me focus, asked me how the interviews went, and basically was fantastic throughout the whole application process and further. He still provides me with support, and emails me to make sure everything is going well.

GS: What advice do you have for people about the recruitment and interview process when looking for jobs teaching in China?
AS: I would advise people to fill in as many application forms as possible, be patient, and then ring up the company to check on your application. Once your application has been received, listen to the advice and take the support offered. Fully research into any country that you have applied for, make sure it is right for you, the cost of living, location, what’s available. Then make sure you are clear in the interview with all your answers. Especially the “why” ones. They are the questions that show your intent and reasoning behind a decision, and can often suggest whether you will be suitable or not. Also, just relax. The interviewer wants to be able to have a chat, see that you are friendly and will fit in with the team. Be yourself.

Once your application has been received, everything can move so fast. Be prepared. After my interview, I was flying out to China within 2 weeks. You can delay it and make it longer, they do not force you to fly out so soon, but it is an option you may say yes to. So be prepared!
Amanda Sinclair Xi Hu Park
GS: You are teaching in Fuzhou at the moment, can you tell us about your impressions of the city? What do you like most about living there?
AS: The word I hear myself saying, and hear others say the most, is ‘interesting’. This word covers all aspects of living in Fuzhou. The food is interesting (especially as I am a vegetarian), the customs are interesting, the people are interesting, and the city itself is interesting. Don’t read a negative connotation into that word. I use that word mainly because everything is so different from what I am personally used to that I find it all interesting. Everyday there is something new and unexpected that will prick your intrigue. Many restaurants will find new ways of cooking tofu and making it look like meat, which to most people is interesting. The city itself is so diverse. You look one way and there is XiHu lake, but look the other way and there are tower blocks of apartments. Natural beauty and man made buildings are juxtaposed in every view.  There is a high level of pollution, but nearly everyone rides bikes or scooters and the streets are cleaned so many times a day. I wont lie. The city can be dirty, people spitting a lot on the street, and children and animals running around, the pollution, and even some of the buildings are an eye saw. But, in the same breath every city is dirty, but not every city is beautiful at the same time. You don’t even need to look for the beauty here, you can turn a corner and just look down a tree lined street with West Lake to the side and the beauty is there. It definitely makes up for the rest.

What I love the most about living in Fuzhou is that if you want to live life in a busy city you can. You can hit the bars, and the restaurants, the clubs, and be surrounded by people, and live that cosmopolitan lifestyle. But on the other hand if you want to explore the nature, see what Fuzhou has to offer, the city, the Temples, the Mountains, it is equally as easy to do so. One moment you are surrounded by people in a city, the next you are alone on top of a mountain. There is always something to do, a night market to see, a temple to explore, you can never really get bored. Plus you are never at a loss for finding transport – even the buses get easier to use!
Amanda Sinclair 2
GS: What do you like most about teaching English?
AS: Teaching English is, I guess, the same for any teacher who teaches their preferred subject. We are just at an advantage with teaching English, as speaking English comes naturally to us, and most of the time we don’t even have to think before we say something. Though here we truly learn the value of speaking English. We have to break down the language, deconstruct it, and then build it back up. We learn to appreciate the language, rather than just taking it for granted.

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Teaching English in China is amazing. Teaching English in China to students who want to learn the language, is a whole level above amazing. I like that we have to start back at the basis, because this way, we aren’t just teaching the students, but also reinforcing our own knowledge and understanding further. We are able to explain a set of vocabulary to children, and explain the grammar, and then get to appreciate the difference when the students understand it, and fully grasp it. We also have the frustrations at trying to explain all the different nuances that we don’t really think about anymore. How many different meanings can a word have but still sound the same?
Amanda Sinclair with students
GS: Can you tell us about your favourite class at the moment?
AS: I should start by saying that most of my classes have up to 16 students each, and I only have 5 classes at the moment. 4 HHH classes, and one senior class. My favourite class at the moment is 3A. I took over them from a teacher who was leaving. At first they were quiet, meek with the new teacher. That lasted one lesson, then they were loud and boisterous, testing the teacher. That probably lasted 2 lessons, before I started understanding each student, and what role they played in the class.

Understanding the children, make it a lot easier to teach, entertain, and control the children in the classroom. With this class though, it is also clear to see that the children like coming to class, they want to learn  English. They are quick learners, and therefore I am able to stretch and strengthen what they know, and be able to put some of the vocabulary into a social context. Show them how they would use it in everyday language, rather than just in an English classroom.

I enjoy, and look forward to this class as I know there will always be something unexpected, that during the class we will all laugh and have fun whilst learning. I think that is important not just to the teacher, but mostly to the students.
Amanda Sinclair Wuyi Square
GS: Talk us through a typical day teaching English in China.
AS: A typical day would start rather late, after the children have finished at their main school. Before work I might go out and explore some more of the city, or go grocery shopping, or even just relax and read a book. I will go into work in the afternoon, plan my lessons (if I haven’t already done so) and gather everything I need for that first class. Each class is an hour and half, so plenty of time to cover the material, and to have some fun. I will usually talk with my colleagues, before class. Everything is very relaxed. The bell goes for first class at 5pm, and I head to the classroom. I may or may not have a T.A depending on the class. I greet all my students, ask how they are and take the register. Whilst I am checking their homework, I get them all involved in something on the board. May be writing a sentence, reviewing vocab and grammar we have already covered, and asking them to write what they have done at the weekend. Just one sentence. Then afterwards, I place the class into two teams and check what they have written on the board. Points are awarded for correct sentences to the teams. The children love being in teams, as they get to earn points, and compete with the other team to see who wins. The prize is that they get to have their diaries checked first, and therefore leave first.

Then the main bulk of the lesson starts. A review, introduction of new vocabulary, some drilling, usually in a form of a game, then another review before introducing the grammar, trying to get the students to elicit it, more games, then homework.

We have half an hour between each class to be able to put away the resources we used in one class, and gather new resources for the next. If we don’t have a teaching period we may have a planning period, to allow us time to plan for other lessons, or else a period for either resources, promotions, interviews, or retests. We finish work at 20:30 and normally head out for something to eat, and maybe a drink.

We have Monday and Tuesday off; start work at 16:30 on Wednesday and Thursday; Friday we start at 14:00 for a weekly meeting, and for those three days we will finish work by 20:30, well that’s when the last class finishes. At the weekend we start work at 8:30, finishing at 5:30. There will only be four lessons in the day, and a sizeable lunch break. Whilst I have tried to outline what may be a typical teaching day, I don’t think that one exists, everyday is slightly different due to the nature of children, but that is our work schedule.

GS: What are the teaching resources like there?
AS: The teaching resources are pretty good. We have a lot of variety available, and if we would like something new, we can easily ask our Academic Coordinator, who will pass the request along, as long as it is a reasonable request. One teacher does have a bow and arrow (suction type arrows) as a resource for his older students. Something about a board shoot! We have allotted some time in our schedules to help with the upkeep of the resources, either tidying up the old resources or making new ones, such as flashcards, or the spelling books.

GS: How many teachers are there in your school?
AS:  In the XiHu branch of York School there are currently 17 teachers, but this changes quite frequently due to the nature of the contracts, and the varying start and end dates. Also there is a new branch opening up, so there are more teachers at the moment to be able to move to the new branch a bit later on. However, there are plenty of teachers at the other two branches, and we all kind of know each other, through the school outings, and social activities.

GS: China is full of surprises and unexpected adventures, tell us about one you have had recently.
AS: China is definitely full of surprises and unexpected adventures. Sometimes just taking a taxi or a bus is one of them. I am not sure many of you will count this as an adventure, but it definitely came as a surprise and mini adventure to me.

I was walking back to my apartment  block when a small Chinese girl comes  running up to me, saying hello. I respond, and start talking English. This girl is only young, about 7/8 years old, and has only the basic rudimentary English that is drilled in the Chinese schools. This makes conversation very limited, so I employ the use of TPR, and gesturing. The girl, in turn does the same, and tries to teach me some Chinese. “Ting bu dong” is muttered by myself more often than not, as I try to grasp the fast fired sentences aimed at me. This causes laughter from the girl, and the few bystanders that have gathered to see this exchange.

Halfway through speaking with the girl she mimes for me to put my hand out, which I do. It is then that she reaches into a box she has been carrying and places two caterpillars on to my hand, and then a leaf, so that they can eat (apparently, as I understood it through the gesturing, otherwise I was meant to eat the caterpillars!). I am stood now, carrying two bags and a bottle of water in one hand, and two caterpillars and a leaf in the other. I remain like this for ten minutes until the girl has to go.

I don’t have the heart to throw the caterpillars into a shrub, so I take them up to my apartment, and I currently have two caterpillars as pets, in a bowl in my apartment. I say this with a lot of mirth and love, only in China.

Other adventures do include getting lost (more often than not), trying to learn Chinese, to be informed at a later date that instead of saying that I am a teacher, I am in fact telling people that I am a snake, climbing mountains, exploring Xiamen, wild thunder storms, and so so much more. Everyday is full of surprises and unexpected adventures, so much so that the unexpected adventures almost become expected.

Read more interviews with teachers in China here.

Gold Star TEFL Recruitment has been assisting teachers secure the very best teaching jobs in China since 2009 and has close connections with China’s leading schools. For details on teaching jobs with York School of Foreign Languages and other major language schools have a look through our website and submit an application today.
Apply now

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Realise your dreams of living and teaching English worldwide with INTESOL.