GS: So, can you tell us a bit about how you first got into English teaching and why you decided on China as your destination?
AM: In 2019, I took a month-long vacation to explore Asia. Initially, I was looking into teaching and living in Japan. But while I was on vacation in Japan, I met a few people from China, and most of them were English teachers vacationing in Japan. From our various exchanges, I learned about teaching in China and decided to teach in China instead of Japan.
As soon as I got back to Canada, I started the process of moving and teaching in China.
GS: Could you give some details about how Gold Star TEFL Recruitment assisted you through the recruitment process?
AM: I first came across Gold Star recruiter Annie via an online advert. I applied to a job posting, and the next day I received an email from Annie asking my preferences in terms of job (location, salary range, student level, etc.). And then, I was contacted by HR managers from different schools and agencies in China.
Annie has been really great and very supportive in helping me secure a teaching job in China. She made sure all my requirements are met, and I actually got my top preferred job and location. I currently teach math at an international high school in Guangzhou.
Since I posted my resume on the internet, I got contacted by many agents and schools, but none was as professional and selfless as Annie. I felt like most of the agents care only about their interests and put teachers’ interests second.
As a first-timer in China, the process was a little scary and overwhelming at the beginning. Thankfully Annie has been tremendously helpful and supportive. She still checks on me from time to time, even after my arrival in China, to see how things are going. I really appreciate it.
GS: How was the process of flying from Canada to China during COVID for you?
AM: Flying from Canada to China during COVID 19 pandemic is like a little adventure itself; you never know what will happen next. Thankfully, I made it with Annie’s support and help, the agency that hired me, and a helpful community of Canadians on WeChat trying to get back to China.
Having support, especially during these times, will make it very easy and smooth. Every country has its own dedicated WeChat group with people trying to get to China, and I would encourage anyone to join these groups as they are beneficial.
GS: What was the arrival and quarantine process like for you? Do you have any tips for teachers due to arrive soon?
AM: I flew from Toronto to Shanghai on January 17th, 2021, via Air Canada. After landing in Shanghai, we waited about an hour on the airplane for the quarantine team. They first gave us consent letters to sign (COVID test) and checked our health code. And then they sent us to our hotel quarantine. I did 21 days of quarantine (14 hotel quarantines in Shanghai and 7 days in Shenzhen).
Here are a few tips that I found beneficial:
- Be friendly and kind to everyone you meet. I notice that people might appear to be shouting or unpleasant, but the only reason is that they are concerned about their English level. Tips: Ask for their WeChat so you can communicate easily. I did this most of the time during my quarantine with the doctors and hotels’ quarantine staff.
- Join your hotel quarantine WeChat group. Most of the cities have WeChat groups for people in quarantine or people who have arrived. It will help ask questions.
- Ask your school to provide you with teaching materials so you can start planning your lessons and get organized. And it will also send a signal to your school that you are a serious teacher.
- Create a routine and start your day by making your bed. It might seem cliché, but having a routine will help stay sane. I would advise you to have a daily to-do list as it will give you a sense of accomplishment each day.
- Exercise daily using at-home workouts videos, including yoga, push up or bear crawl exercises.
- Catch up with friends and family as human beings we all crave connection. During my quarantine, I made a list of all the people I wanted to reconnect with. Every day I call 2 or 3 old friends or family members, and trust me, it is uplifting. If there is anything we learned with this current pandemic, we all crave connection, so go over your contact list and make yourself a list of people you would like to reconnect with.
- Bring an external drive packed with your favorite movies and TV shows because some of the hotels quarantine might have an unstable internet connection.
- Do not bring anything that needs to be kept refrigerated. I made the mistake of bringing chocolate as gifts, and most of it melts during my quarantine.
- Do not forget to prepare as many different kinds of entertainment as you like, including gaming consoles, digital book readers like Kindle.
With proper preparation and structure in place, you can make your quarantine an excellent experience to do all these things you always wanted. It can also be a great way to start a successful routine and habits that you carry on even your quarantine ends.
GS: What advice do you have for people about the recruitment and interview process when looking for jobs teaching in China?
AM: My advice is to build relationships and don’t choose a job based solely on compensation. I know it is important but not as important as building relationships with your agents, school, and HR managers. You want to choose a school or company that will be there for you in case of an emergency. Sometimes things might not go as planned. Once you are in China, you will need someone to assist you days and nights. Someone who can check on you and will do something if something happens to you. And that is what Annie has done and continues to do for me.
Another piece of advice is to join a WeChat group related to people from your country of origin or residence. Especially with this pandemic, it will help you be up to date on the process. Things continue to change continuously. We have a group of Canadians and have over 300 Canadians trying to get to China.
GS: You are teaching in Guangzhou at the moment, can you tell us about your impressions of the city? Are there many COVID restrictions there these days?
AM: I am actually teaching math at an international school. Guangzhou is pretty relaxed in terms of COVID restrictions. Gyms, restaurants, and most of the venues are open. I just started practicing Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
I am relatively new to the city and have just spent about a month in Guangzhou, but so far, my experience has been enjoyable.
At my school, it has been great so far; everyone from the school administration to my colleagues has been supportive in making my transition smooth.
GS: What do you like most about teaching English?
AM: I like the fact that as a teacher we have the opportunity to change someone’s life forever. Most of the successful people we know were influenced by a teacher. For instance, Jay Z or Kobe Bryant, or even Warren Buffet, these successful people were positively affected by their teachers.
I am inspired to make this kind of impact on my students. Our job does not stop at teaching English; we are also coaches, mentors and most of these kids look up to us. We can inspire them to reach their full potential in other areas of their lives.
GS: Can you tell us about your favourite class at the moment?
AM: My favorite class is a grade 12 class. I am helping the class prepare for an Australian University entrance exam. They are all motivated and eager to learn, and that makes me happy.
GS: Talk us through a typical day teaching English in China.
AM: Well, I have three different classes and my days vary. Most of the time, I start by teaching students the main concepts and then move to practice questions. I work on building their confidence level because sometimes I notice that they usually hesitate because of the language barrier, even if they know the answers. I consider my job as two parts: teaching math and also preparing them for university. So I want them to learn to participate and ask questions during class.
I also usually have lunch with other Chinese and foreign teachers around noon. We have a great community of teachers at the school.
GS: What are the teaching resources like there?
AM: Most of the teaching resources are Australian math textbooks, and I also use past exams to test my students and get them ready.
Other resources I use are also other teachers’ experiences.
I ask many questions and even ask them to sit in their class to observe how they prepare and deliver their course.
GS: China is full of surprises and unexpected adventures, tell us about one you have had recently.
AM: The unexpected? I would say how kind and helpful Chinese people are. When I decided to move to China, many of my acquaintances and “friends” tried to dissuade me from coming because black people were refused service in Guangzhou. Well, I was pleasantly surprised by how friendly, and kind people are in Guangzhou.
For example, on my first day in Guangzhou, I was at Guangzhou South train station with three luggage pieces and completely lost. I saw an army guy on duty and asked him to watch my two pieces of luggage while picking up the rest. He watched them for me and then when I came back he carried them for me to get a taxi. And there was also a huge line up of people waiting to get a taxi, but he asked people to let me go first. That was a memorable experience for me.
So, compared to everything that was told about Guangzhou, for me, this is unexpected.