Gold Star TEFL Recruitment has been assisting teachers secure the very best teaching jobs in China since 2009 and has close connections with China’s leading schools. For details on teaching jobs with Shane English and other major language schools have a look through our website and submit an application today.
Read more interviews with teachers in China here.
An Interview with Kathleen Richard at Shane English in Pingyang
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GS: So, can you tell us a bit about how you first got into English teaching?
KR: ESL teaching was something I have always considered. I was an International Relations major so I was always aware of the possibility. When I graduated University, the job market was tough. I spent time searching for career choices while bar-tending and substitute teaching. I wasn’t able to find a job that would let me travel and see the world. So I took my TEFL course and applied to teach English abroad.
GS: Could you give some details about your dealings with Gold Star TEFL Recruitment?
KR: My recruiter is Mark. He has been great. He helped me a lot during the recruitment process and was always in touch personally. He kept in contact during my interviews through Gold Star. He checked in with me after my interviews and asked me about my opinions. After I accepted my position, I was confused on my visa and Mark helped me work with my new school to remedy the problem.
After being in China for a month, Mark checked in with me and made sure that I was still enjoying my time here. Gold Star is really good at being available and approachable. They don’t leave you hanging and Gold Star makes you feel comfortable to reach out to them anytime after you are in your new job.
GS: What advice do you have for people about the recruitment and interview process when looking for jobs teaching in China?
KR: I think you should ask the right questions, and to know what’s realistic in China. In China, almost everywhere makes you pay your rent upfront. So ask the school if they help and what with the housing arrangements or if they provide housing. I would also ask them about the Z-visa process so you are aware of what awaits you. I think that you make your experience in China, so be realistic with yourself. Will you really be happy in a smaller city where you may not see new foreigners? Also, make sure you are comfortable accepting that business practices are different in China and you may need to ask for some things you think are expected.
GS: You are teaching at Pingyang at the moment, can you tell us about your impressions of the city? What do you like most about living there?
KR: Pingyang is a very compact place, you can walk everywhere in the main part of the town within 15 minutes. It is a town of 400,000 people, which is large by American standards but very small by Chinese standards. There are not many foreigners here, so we are still a novel. People stare, take pictures, giggle and say hello. We often get discounts just for being a foreigner. The people are incredibly nice here. People seem to be genuinely happy we are here and want us to have a great stay in their home.
Not many people speak English, but there are plenty that do, and they are amazing! I have been taken to various beautiful areas because of my friends here that speak English.It’s easy to expose yourself to Mandarin and local dialects here in Pingyang. All of my friends are willing to teach me Mandarin, I am slowly learning but it’s incredible what you learn and know just through daily life here. Don’t worry, I have plenty of friends that don’t speak any English either, so really it just depends on how friendly you want to be.
Pingyang is a great place to be exposed to as I call it “real China.” Here you can improve you haggling skills, you can eat meals for less than a dollar, you can climb mountains, and go swimming in beautiful rivers. I think my favorite part of Pingyang is the people. I have met so many amazing people that genuinely care about my well-being and welfare. They are my Chinese family!
GS: What do you like most about teaching English?
KR: I think the best part about teaching English is when you can make a student interested in learning English. When I first started teaching, I had a student that never tried, he had a bad attitude and was often disruptive in class. I spent a lot of time on my breaks joking with him and getting to know him. On the most recent test, he made the top grade and my TA and I always talk about his improved behavior. He enjoys my class and now seems to enjoy learning English. It’s a powerful thing when you can encourage a student to learn.
GS: Can you tell us about your favourite class at the moment?
KR: It’s really difficult to pick a favorite class, but one of my favorite classes is probably my twice a week, beginner English class. I struggled with this class when I first started teaching, they challenged my patience and my ability to balance control and fun in the classroom. Now, I have a really great rapport with my students and my TA. We always have a good class and I have seen so much improvement in my students’ behavior and their abilities. We have an ongoing joke that my paraplegic zombie stuffed toy is named after one of my students, Peter.
GS: Talk us through a typical day teaching English in China.
KR: The weekend’s at my school are the busiest, so I will describe a Saturday. On a Saturday morning, I peel myself out of bed around 7:30 (I am not a morning person), my roommate and I go and get meatbuns from our local shop that greets us every weekend with smiles and “Hello”. Then we take a pedicab to work, we could walk it as it is very close but we like to sleep a little later.
I always write my lesson plans for Saturday mornings on Friday nights, so on Saturday mornings, I prepare my board game, sort my flashcards, and make a copy of a lesson plan.My first lesson begins at 8:20, I start with making teams and playing a warmer with the students. Then we do a little review and I teach them the new vocabulary and grammar and we play a few games. We take a break after 50 minutes and then have 30 minutes of book work. Then the next class starts 10 minutes after, it is the same structure.
We then have a 2-hour lunch break. At lunch, I usually write my lesson plans for the rest of the day, sometimes I catch up on a TV show, sometimes I take a nap in my classroom, and sometimes I get a caffeine overdose at my favorite coffee shop. I, then have a class from 1:30-3:00, and then 3:30-5:00. I usually have dinner at the local BBQ place around the corner from the school and write my lesson plans for Sunday morning. I teach my last class after dinner, and then head home to unwind. It’s a long day but not difficult, and it’s amazing how much energy the kids can give you.
GS: What are the teaching resources like there?
KR: We have three different series of books, that have accompanied teachers books if you struggle with ideas or lesson planning. We have other books and resources that provide teaching games. We use flashcards to teach vocabulary. We have assortment of resources for games: balls, jump ropes, toys etc. My school is very traditional. We teach using chalkboards, which is actually kind of fun. I actually like teaching without too much technology, it helps you to really interact with the students.
GS: How many teachers are there in your school?
KR: My school has three branches, at my branch, we have three teachers. The other two branches, when fully staffed, have three teachers and two teachers, respectively. We are all close enough that we do spend a lot of time together. We often go to the local bars, clubs, restaurants, shopping markets, and coffee shops together. We also take trips together on our days off and when we have holidays. I have had made many friendships with people here that will last a lifetime!
GS: China is full of surprises and unexpected adventures, tell us about one you have had recently.
KR: I think that everyday is an adventure in China. From basic things like communicating what you want to, being followed by a gaggle of girls while you are shopping, you are experiencing something different and new that you wouldn’t in your home country. It’s amazing how quickly you can settle in to home if you take the time to develop relationships and appreciate the beauty in everyday life in China. So go out and find your adventure!
Read more interviews with teachers in China here.
Gold Star TEFL Recruitment has been assisting teachers secure the very best teaching jobs in China since 2009 and has close connections with China’s leading schools. For details on teaching jobs with Shane English and other major language schools have a look through our website and submit an application today. Apply now