When I moved back to America from China and began job hunting, I wasn’t exactly sure how to update my resume. Why would people care that I taught Chinese children or dabbled in the Mandarin language? How would these experiences prepare me for new jobs?
After reading numerous websites about job application tips, I learned that many employers value the soft skills you’ve learned in previous jobs.
Hard skills are the tasks you learn at in a profession, such as using Microsoft Excel or formatting a website. Soft skills are the characteristics you acquire on the job. One soft skill can benefit you in multiple types of jobs.
The skills I’m about to list definitely stood out on my resume! An employer specifically told me she wanted to hire me because she knew if I could handle teaching 60 kids in a classroom in China, I could handle anything. (Ironically, the job she hired me for was the worst I’ve ever had, and I quit after only two months!)
Here are seven valuable skills I learned from teaching English in China.
Any teacher will testify that teaching children requires problem-solving skills. Children are … well, they’re problematic! They fight with each other, they don’t pay attention in class, and they talk. They talk a lot.
That’s why you have to learn how to take control of these situations. For example, learn which methods are culturally appropriate to discipline your students.
2. Time management
As a teacher, you’ll most likely have a lot of free time. My school district required foreign teachers to be in the office 40 hours per week, even though none of us taught more than 18 hours per week.
So what do we do with those extra 22 hours?
You learn how to balance planning lessons, forming relationships with your office mates, and engaging in whatever other activities you want to do. I am a freelance writer, so I spent most of those hours writing, plus occasionally watching TV or reading. If your school wants you to grade assignments, you’ll also use your time grading.
If you can adapt to living in an Eastern country after growing up in a Western country, you can probably adapt to anything!
Think about it. You learn to get used to working around a language barrier. To eating meat with bones in it. To squatting when you use the toilet. You can adapt to a lot!
I taught children ages six through twelve, so I tried to maintain a peppy attitude in class to keep them engaged. I maintained this positive attitude even when computers crashed or students misbehaved.
All employers seek workers with positive attitudes. They make the workplace a better environment and are less likely to burn out.
5. Creative thinking
Remember when I said you need to learn how to problem solve as a teacher? In China, it’s important that you learn how to problem solve creatively. Because you don’t speak the language! You have to learn how to communicate effectively with your students, and that takes some innovation.
You also need to keep the kids engaged. That means including several activities per class and using TPR to communicate vocabulary. Use those creative thoughts to make the most of your classes!
Teachers are leaders, no doubt about it. Not only are you in charge of a large group of students (my biggest class was 60 kids!), but they look to you outside of class, too. They watch how you act and talk. And because you’re foreign, everyone is watching.
7. The ability to keep calm
Honestly, a lot of aspects about living in China are stressful. Adapting to an Eastern culture. Learning a language. Controlling large classes of small children.
If you’re able to keep your cool in these situations, jobs back in your home country might not seem as stressful as they once did. I quit my first job back in America because the environment was toxic, but I definitely didn’t find it stressful compared to teaching!