SDE International - Shenzhen

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When preparing to teach English in China, you’ll probably take all the advice you can get!

You might read tons of travel blogs, including the one right here on GoldStar’s website. But plenty of people who aren’t writers have advice to give upcoming expats.

I asked four teachers I knew in China what words of wisdom they had for new expats preparing to teach. They all come from different backgrounds. Some had taught abroad before moving to China, others hadn’t. They all have something completely different to say, but every word is valuable.

1. Justin

“For me, teaching in a nutshell is ‘patience.’ I always think to a book I have from India called ‘Educating the Educator.’ In order to teach something, I always am trying to be aware of what my personal barriers are.

Am I impatient, too demanding, too rigid with the kids, inflexible in content and in situations of discipline?

I realize that the kids are actually there to show me who I am as an educator and as a human being. And when I am more aware of myself, it allows me to go into a class room with fresh eyes and fresh understanding.

That’s then paid forward to the kids in their learning, because they get a more self-aware, compassionate leader who is able to put their needs forward, and not continue to stumble on personal barriers.”

2. Renae

“The best teaching advice I can give to teachers abroad is to relax and be open minded. The biggest thing is walking into a classroom with 60 or more kids and feeling like you’re in way over your head and overwhelmed. If you let that get to you, it tends to show in the classroom and the kids pick up on that. Instead of you being in control, now the kids are in control. But if you relax and have fun, they will too.


I learned that sometimes all they want is a bit of fun, which makes learning easier for them and now easier for you as a teacher. Once you relax not only in the classroom but with your coworkers and your fellow friends, you can learn a lot from them and get great advice from some well experienced people. This will take you a long way throughout your teaching career abroad.”


3. Daniel

“Dig in, grit your teeth, and do something that terrifies you. Whether going to a Chinese restaurant with no pictures on the menu, or going to a club when you’re more of a bar person, or skydiving. Get out of your comfort zone early and the culture shock will be less severe.”

4. Matt

“Teaching in a foreign country is an unbelievably fun and exciting challenge. If I had to offer any advice, it’s that preparation is everything. Starting your lesson planning earlier in the week can save a ton of stress and headaches for the procrastinators out there. Also, the classroom is your stage. I took it as my job to teach the kids as well as entertain them and keep them paying attention.

For younger grades, songs, games, and anything to make it fun and competitive is a blast and will work great. For the older crowds, getting them to raise their hand and speak at all is more of the challenge because they don’t want to make mistakes in front of their peers.

You will learn your audience and the different dynamics of each classroom as you go along. The time will go fast so enjoy the ride, have fun, and cherish the moments with your students.”


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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