An Interview with Jayton at SDE International in Shenzhen, China
GS: So, can you tell us a bit about how you first got into English teaching?
J: During university, I tutored high school students in writing and research, so I got a little taste of what it was like to teach someone and help them develop a skill.
Then, my brother had gone to China to teach in September of 2014. A good friend of his had been working at a school in Shenzhen and offered him a job, and I had just finished going back to school to get my BA. He offered me a job and I decided to take it, so I arrived in October of 2014.
GS: What advice do you have for people about the recruitment and interview process when looking for jobs teaching in China?
J: Definitely ask about things like accommodations and the assistance the company is going to give you in terms of setting up a bank account, sponsoring a visa, and other aspects of moving to a new country (internet, ransportation, understanding laws and culture, etc.)
As for the interview process, be genuine and accurately represent yourself. If you don’t do this, you may find yourself in over your head when you arrive in China. Enthusiasm for teaching should be the number one aspect you possess. If you’re not experienced, but have the capability to learn from others and develop your skills, you’ll likely do well.
GS: How has the school supported and assisted you since you arrived in China?
J: Initially, they handled most of the important stuff like housing, cell phone plan, internet, bank card, etc. Since then I have quite an extensive support structure with friends and coworkers, but they still provide assistance for small things like transferring money back home and going to the hospital, if needed.
The staff is usually available to handle non-vital things as well, and I’m very grateful for that.
GS: You are teaching in Shenzhen at the moment, can you tell us about your impressions of the city? What do you like most about living there?
J: Shenzhen is a very modern city with a great public transportation system, lots of activities to do, and a sizeable expat community. These aspects make living here quite easy, despite the normal frustrations that can come living abroad.
Also, because the city is located in southern China, and borders Hong Kong, travelling to other parts of Asia is super convenient and quite affordable.
GS: What do you like most about teaching English?
J: Teaching is a great opportunity to impart knowledge on others, and I like being able to do so with my students. I also learn quite a bit from my students, which is great, and they’re always full of surprises.
GS: Can you tell us about your favorite class at the moment?
J: I have one class with these 4 girls who sit right in the front row, and they’re great. Their English is very good and they’re very enthusiastic. Their English is good enough where they can joke around and they make the class very entertaining.
GS: Talk us through a typical day teaching English in China.
J: I’ve got 2 to 3 classes a day, so I generally get to school between 8:00 and 9:30, depending on when my first class starts. I teach my lessons, then go to grab some lunch at the cafeteria. If I have classes after lunch, I’ll stick around and hang out in my office. If not, usually I am free to go do other things, like go to the gym, do some grocery shopping, hang out with friends, etc.
GS: What are the teaching resources like there?
J: We all have computers, desks, and what not in the classrooms. Our offices have computers, printers, and other office supplies, so it’s pretty standard there. We’re provided textbooks for the students, though we aren’t required to use them, but they’re great for knowing what the students are learning week to week.
They also give us pens and notebooks each semester, and on top of that they’re very good about assisting us if we need anything else.
GS: How many teachers are there in your school?
J: We currently have four foreign teachers; two for seventh grade and two for eight grade. This allows us to have split classes of about 20-25 students each. This isn’t normal, but compared to teaching full classes at a primary school, I’m able to do a larger variety of activities with them and the classes are more manageable. We’re also quite diverse in that we have someone from the U.K., Ireland, Australia, and the U.S.
GS: China is full of surprises and unexpected adventures, tell us about one you have had recently.
J: In the beginning of June, I went up to the top floor to teach one of my sixth grade classes. When I got close to the door, I noticed there weren’t any students in the room. So I looked inside and sure enough it was empty.
Confused, I shrugged and turned around to walk back to the English office to see what was up, and I saw one of my students from the class. I asked him where all his classmates were, and he told me they had gone to the local middle school for the afternoon to check it out for next year.
To this day, I still don’t know why he wasn’t with them, but by then I had been in China almost two years, and shrugged it off as just another day.