SDE International - Shenzhen

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Congratulations! You’ve just been hired to teach at a public school in China.

Now that you have the job, you might be wondering what to expect. What will your daily schedule look like?

I’m going to break down a typical day in the life of a public school English teacher in China. After reading this, hopefully you will feel a little more prepared for your day-to-day life!

Before school

Most public schools provide breakfast for their teachers. Our school gave foreign teachers breakfast for free. But I know some places charged a small price, usually under one U.S. dollar.

If you don’t want to wake up early to make it to school breakfast, you can always grab food on the go! My husband and I loved ordering street food at one of the numerous places outside our school.


Every morning, all the kids in school have a half-hour assembly outside. The teachers join them on Mondays, but the rest of the week, you can relax in your office during this time.

It’s unlikely you’ll teach more than 18 hours per week, because that’s the maximum amount of time most school districts allow foreign teachers to be in class. However, depending on your school, you might be required to stay on school grounds for 40 hours per week, even when you aren’t teaching.

From 8:30 until noon, you’ll probably teach two or three classes. During your free periods, use that time to get to know your office mates or to lesson plan. Or take a nap on your desk. Sleeping in your office is acceptable in China, and I took many a desk nap in those days!


Here’s my favorite aspect of teaching in China: You get a two-hour lunch break! Actually, my school’s break lasted even longer, from 11:50 to 2:30. It rocks.

During this time, the school provides teachers lunch in the cafeteria. All the students go home for lunch, so you won’t have any teacher duties on your break.

A lot of people use this time to nap. My school kept cots folded up in our cabinets so we wouldn’t have to go home to sleep! You can also chat with people, watch a movie on your computer, or grab coffee with a friend. Some people use this time to go to the gym.

Whatever you decide to do, the point of this time is to relax and recuperate for the rest of your day. It’s the main thing I miss about my job in China.


Most of the time, your afternoon has a similar structure to your morning. Classes resume until 5:00.

Sometimes there will be a special event after lunch, such as a book fair, performance, or meeting. On Wednesday afternoons, my agency held conferences and Chinese lessons for all its foreign teachers in the district.

Regardless of your afternoon schedule, most teachers will be a little more relaxed and easy-going after that two-hour lunch break.

After school

At 5:00, you’re free to do whatever you want!

Ask if your school offers any activities after hours. My school had a lot of clubs, so I attended a few yoga and tai chi classes. Eventually, my husband and I settled on playing badminton in the gym with our co-teachers a couple times per week.

Otherwise, feel free to go home and relax. Or call up some friends to hang out. Or make it your mission to find the best dumplings or fried rice in your neighborhood. The evening is yours!


SDE International - Shenzhen

New teaching jobs in China interviewing now, apply today!

About the Author:

Laura Grace Tarpley
Laura Grace Tarpley is a freelance writer and English teacher in Shenzhen, China. She enjoys tinkering with crossword puzzles, reading Bill Bryson books, and taking naps on her huge couch. Follow her travels on her Instagram and Twitter. Or you can check out her blog, Let’s Go, Tarpley!
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