An Interview with Robin at Wall Street English in Shanghai, China
GS: So, can you tell us a bit about how you first got into English teaching?
RW: I was a teacher in the UK, teaching PE, Psychology and a little Critical Thinking. I became despondent with the UK education system, a mundane and predictable social life and, prompted by a Chinese girl I had met on her travels to the UK, moved to China. I went for all the right reasons, love and not money. I was not an expert on grammar but I did have my teaching tool kit from my previous experience and applied this, along with an open mind and a willingness to learn.
GS: Could you give some details about your dealings with Gold Star TEFL Recruitment?
RW: I wasn’t hired through Gold Star but I worked with them as a business partner during my time in recruitment at Wall Street English. They provided us with well informed, high quality candidates and were prompt and professional in all of their dealings. There was also a care and follow up with candidates which separates them from much of the competition in the International TEFL job market. They are very good at what they do and they care very much about getting it right.
GS: What advice do you have for people about the recruitment and interview process when looking for jobs teaching in China?
RW: Be honest. If you are hired based on a persona, people will be disappointed in you and you will be disappointed with the people you deal with. Have faith in your strengths, an acceptance of your weaknesses and give it a go. While there is a basic requirement that must be met for visa purpose a great deal of the decision as an interviewer is about a persons’ character. Will the students (who paid a significant amount of money) get value for that from a diligent, professional and friendly teacher? Will this person have the humble nature to learn about the job? If you can demonstrate these qualities I am sure it will aid you in the process and once you begin in the job itself.
GS: You are teaching in Shanghai at the moment, can you tell us about your impressions of the city? What do you like most about living there?
RW: I live and work in Shanghai and I would not want to live anywhere else right now. I love being around people, living in a developed city and enjoying what some describe as ‘China life’. If you want culture, true immersion then somewhere more rural may be better, even Beijing may provide more balance for this (plus convenience) however Shanghai is just right for me. If you want it, there is always a party and you are always invited.
GS: What do you like most about teaching English?
RW: Meeting great people and finding that out as they gradually learn to express themselves. It is rewarding in any teaching job when your students show improvement, but what I love about English is that this improvement reveals more and more about the character of the person. I was teaching adults in my position at Wall Street English and have become friends with a number of the students now. There are times where you are talking with a friend, thinking I cannot believe I am getting paid for this!
GS: Can you tell us about your favourite class at the moment?
RW: ‘Speed dating’ as an English Corner. I gave out character cards, lined up the seats so they were in two rows facing each other, girls on one side guys on the other. I rang my little bell and enjoyed the noise of second language learners all pushing their English level as far as possible.
GS: Talk us through a typical day teaching English in China.
RW: I worked 1pm to 9pm in the week, with a one hour break in the middle. I usually started the day with a run, had some lunch, then after the lessons would have a few drinks and head home. There would be two days off, or one plus two half days. Then the weekends which were 11am to 7pm for me. They were a bit of a drag, no sugar coating that, I didn’t enjoy missing those, but hey, every job has its down sides and with discipline, you can still make it work.
GS: What are the teaching resources like there?
RW: Wall Street English does have excellent resources. It’s impossible to make materials that every teacher can be happy to just pick up and use, and there will always be issues to adapt to, but as educational resources go, Wall Street provided the best I have worked with.
GS: How many teachers are there in your school?
GS: China is full of surprises and unexpected adventures, tell us about one you have had recently.
RW: My best professional unexpected adventure was attending a job fair to get experience of being interviewed to improve my skills as a recruiter. At the event I attended a mixer, at which I spoke with an organizer, explained I was a recruiter and was poached for a job within my new profession. I never would have come to China without Wall Street English, would not have been able to manufacture a career change or experience an unbelievable year and half, with many other experiences to mention. Understandably I am very grateful to the company for the great time I had teaching English, the friends I made and the experience they granted me in recruitment.