An Interview with Cassandra at EF Harbin, China
GS: So, can you tell us a bit about how you first got into English teaching?
CL: I knew I wanted to be a teacher and to travel. So I combined my passion for teaching with my desire to travel and majored in Teaching English as a Second Language at university. Now I have the opportunity to do what I love which is teaching and explore great new places.
GS: What advice do you have for people about the recruitment and interview process when looking for jobs teaching in China?
CL: I think it is important to be open-minded. Some institutions or schools might not have any placements in the city you opt for so be prepared to go somewhere else. I originally wanted to teach in a city with a warm climate yearlong but faith intervened and I am now in one of the coldest cities in China. Nevertheless, I ended home loving Harbin and I have been here for more than 2 years.
You should also be prepared for interviews and have questions of your own. Read contracts carefully so there aren’t any discrepancies between what was said and what is written. Also ask for some of the teachers’ emails from the school you are interested in teaching so you can get a feel about their experience.
GS: You are teaching in Harbin located in the Northeast of China at the moment, can you tell us about your impressions of the city? What do you like most about living there?
CL: Harbin has a lot more to offer than the Snow and Ice Festival or the Tiger Zoo, which are great attractions. I enjoy walking down ZhongYang Da Jie, which leads to the SongHua river and have picnics on Sun Island.
However, having living here for quite some time, I have had the chance to discover more than your typical tourist attractions. You can have some fun, learn new fun facts and meet more foreigners and locals at one of the Traveling Trivia held every Thursdays at different bars. You can discover you actually have artistic talents at a painting café, enjoy some good old bowling or simply have fun playing games at the arcade. You can ice skate outdoors in the winter and indoors anytime of the year and if you like skiing, you can go to the mountains near the city or wait until they finish Wanda JianBei, which will have the biggest indoors skiing in the world.
Let us not forget about the food. Life’s sustenance is quite amazing in the Heilongjiang province. You have variety of Asian and Western food in Harbin, which is great because if you feel like eating traditional DongBei food, Japanese sushi, Korean BBQ, Italian pizza, Russian clay pot meat and vegetables or American style burgers you have lots of options. You will also have the chance to make friends and be able to learn a few Chinese dishes.
GS:Have you been on any trips to any parts of China yet?
CL: I have visited many cities such as Qingdao, Rizhao, Shanghai, Beijing and Hangzhou. I hope to continue to be a tourist and discover more beautiful places in China.
GS Can you tell us about your favourite class at the moment?
CL: At this moment, I have this High Flyers level class that keeps me energized when teaching. There is never a dull moment because they always try their best to participate in the activities and use what they have learned to communicate with classmates and me.
It makes me proud to see how far they have come from struggling with learning the language to cracking up jokes in class.
GS: Talk us through a typical day teaching English in China
CL:On Mondays and Tuesdays, I usually plan lessons and teach a couple of classes.
On Wednesdays and Thursdays, I enjoy my days off roaming around town with friends or stay at home in bed. On Fridays, we have staff meetings and workshops and I also try to finalize all my lessons and print or photocopy everything I need for the busy weekend. On the weekend I teach from morning to afternoon raging from Small Stars (3-6) to High Flyers (7-11). Finally, us foreign teachers often enjoy going out for dinner on Sunday nights.
GS:What are the teaching resources like there?
CL: EF provides a wide range of resources for language learning students of all ages and levels. There are lesson plans, interactive white board activities, songs, videos, flashcards, textbooks and more. If you are a first time teacher you will have all the necessary teaching materials, but you will also have the support of your DOS (Director of Studies) and other colleagues.
GS: How many teachers are there in your school?
CL: We currently have 8 foreign teachers and eleven progress/teaching advisors who assist us in class and keep parents informed about their child’s language development. Even though our EF Harbin family seems pretty big, we are always looking for more teachers as our school continues to have students join.