An Interview with Kelly Miller at English First Shijiazhuang, China
GS: So, can you tell us a bit about how you first got into English teaching
KM: I have always wanted to see more of the world and really experience new places by living there, not just by going on a holiday. I spent a summer in Vietnam a few years ago doing a TESOL course and loved every minute of it, but unfortunately commitments back home meant I couldn’t stay . Last year, the company I was working for in the UK announced it needed to make job cuts, so I volunteered for redundancy and came to China to put my qualifications to use and start a new career.
GS: Could you give some details about your dealings with Gold Star TEFL Recruitment?
KM: Once Gold Star had my CV, they contacted me with details of jobs they thought I might be interested in. All I had to do was reply advising which ones I liked the look of and then they had the schools contact me to arrange interviews. I had interviews set up within a week and job offers within 2 weeks. It all went very smoothly and Mark kept in touch throughout the whole process leading up to my departure – all I had to worry about was impressing the interviewers and packing!
GS: What advice do you have for people about the recruitment and interview process when looking for jobs teaching in China?
KM: As you would for any job, read up on the school before your interview; think about questions they may ask you in the interview and prepare some answers beforehand; have some questions of your own ready but most of all – relax and smile!
GS: You are teaching at Shijiazhuang at the moment, can you tell us about your impressions of the city? What do you like most about living there?
KM: Although not a lot of people seem to have heard of Shijiazhuang (or at least I hadn’t before I was sent details of the job), it is a huge city. It’s busy but not manic like places such as Beijing. It has a really friendly, safe atmosphere. It didn’t take me very long at all to settle in and feel comfortable. I love the fact that there aren’t a lot of Westerners here so I feel like I’m getting to see what the ‘real’ China is all about.
GS: What do you like most about teaching English?
KM: Although it can be hard work, there is a lot of job satisfaction. I have some students who were complete beginners when I met them, now they are able to hold a basic conversation. And I love to see how some kids just bloom – one little girl from one of my classes was too shy to say anything for the first few lessons, but this week, she stood in front of the class and sang a song all by herself. I was so proud!
GS: Can you tell us about your favourite class at the moment?
KM: My favourite is the starter class that I teach on a Sunday mornings. Twelve 7 – 9 year-olds who are cheeky little monkeys, but I’ve seen them develop so much in the few months I’ve been with them. They’re great to teach and always willing to do all kinds of different activities. I have a lot of fun with them.
GS: Talk us through a typical day teaching English in China.
KM: Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays are pretty relaxed – I only have a few hours teaching in the evening so I usually go to work at about 3pm to start planning and preparing for those lessons and for the full days that I teach on Saturdays and Sundays. The office has a nice atmosphere and we have a great group of teachers. Unlike any other jobs I’ve had, I actually really look forward to going to work!
GS: What are the teaching resources like there?
KM: There are plenty of books and online resources made available to teachers and we are also encouraged to make our own, which I like doing. I enjoy the freedom of being able to be creative and not have to stick to a rigid lesson plan.
GS: How many teachers are there in your school?
KM:We currently have two local teachers and ten foreign teachers.
GS: China is full of surprises and unexpected adventures, tell us about one you have had recently.
KM: It’s hard to narrow it down to just one – my Mandarin is still very weak so even visiting the local shop can be an adventure. My favourite moment, so far though, has to be my recent trip to Chengdu in Sichuan province where I got to hold a baby panda. Everyone back home was amazingly jealous!