An Interview with Miranda at WEBi English in Taicang, China
GS: So, can you tell us a bit about how you first got into English teaching?
M: I first learned about teaching English as a foreign language in 2012 after my internship. I never perused the idea because I freak out at the thought of moving to another continent! My friend kept on insisting that I get into teaching because of how it had changed her life. I finally built up the courage to share a skill; that I had long taken for granted, with individuals I never thought I’d meet.
GS: What advice do you have for people about the recruitment and interview process when looking for jobs teaching in China?
M: Ask detailed questions, be realistic and be honest about your intentions. I wish I had asked more questions about the students in my case because when I started teaching I didn’t understand why almost all of them were shy or afraid to speak. Be realistic in the sense that things will very, very different. Don’t compare a lot and understand that, just like home, culture has a great influence on everything. Finally, let it be known why you really want to teach and moreover teach in China. Honesty between the two parties sets a stable foundation and assists in both parties making a better-informed decision.
GS: You are teaching in Taicang at the moment, can you tell us about your impressions of the city? What do you like most about living there?
M: Taicang is a pretty good city. It meets all stability requirements and makes you feel at home, most importantly. The worst thing that ever happened in my city was flooding for a day or so hahaha. Basically, if you want security, affordable cost of living, very light traffic and a really strong family based environment then Taicang is the place. It is not the capital of entertainment but it is close to Suzhou and Shanghai. So I usually make a short trip to Shanghai and have my fun there and then go back to my safe and secure home in Taicang. Best of both worlds.
GS: Talk us through a typical day teaching English in your city
M: I, unfortunately, have a bad habit of sleeping really late so I have late mornings. I’m up about by 09:00 preparing for the gym or doing some errands. By 11:30 I have to start preparing for work. 13:00 I’m usually preparing for all my classes. I have a meal at 17:00 and depending on the schedule evening classes are pretty swift. Unless it’s a Sunday I am most likely to go out for dinner and drinks an hour or so after work.
GS: Tell us about the living cost / apartment in your city
M: Almost everything is cheap. Food and transport are notably very affordable, no complaints there. Everything is standard like the cost of clothing, movie ticket etc. Basically, if you budget well you can afford to spoil yourself once a week. My apartment is across the road from work and surrounded by literally by everything I need including bus service, gym, supermarkets, restaurants, you name it. That is why I still don’t have an e-bike, I walk around or take the bus. Having said that it’s obvious I am paying more compared to my other colleagues but I love my apartment complex. It’s new; it’s modern, high security, fully furnished and huge. Most apartments are big and range from 2,000 RMB for a 2 bedroom. I made the choice to pay for comfort and convenience in return saving time and money.
GS: What are the teaching resources like there?
M: We have what we need but for anything extra that we would like to incorporate into our lesson I first check and if I can’t find it I purchase it myself for any future use.
GS: Tell us about the restaurants and local food in your city
M: From street market food to restaurant food, I personally love it. I’m a big fan of hot-pot and many other dishes. There is a variety you just have to search and not every shop/ restaurant prepares its food in the same way.
GS: Tell us about the salary for English teachers in your city
M: Given how small Taicang is my salary package is not as big as teachers located in big cities like Shenzhen or Shanghai. But it balances since the cost of living is cheap. I am also very comfortable here so I wouldn’t leave for the sake of money. Only just for a different social scene.
GS: Tell us about traveling in your city. China is full of surprises and unexpected adventures, tell us about one you have had recently.
M: I haven’t traveled in Taicang much. I’m not much of a traveler so exploring my city is on my to-do list. I have been to a neighboring area named Shanxi and it is a precious small place. Lots of history and culture, I’ve been there 3 times so it’s safe to say I really like it.
GS: Tell us about transportation in your city
M: We have everything except a subway line. Busses are plenty and cover a large area. Taxis are available all the time and I always make sure to know exactly where I’m going to avoid any confusion. We have the public bicycle system, which is just genius, and rental electric cars which I think are a great way to decrease pollution.
GS: Can you tell us about your favourite class at the moment?
M: My favourite class is BS 11 ‘A Question And Answer Game’, it is so much fun. From the concept to how the students react to it, I love it! I follow the instructions and allow them to work in groups for about 25 minutes then we do it as a class and it never fails. There is laughter and that is the one class where students ask endless follow-up questions. There is something special about that class.
GS: What do you like most about teaching English?
M: I never stop learning myself, there is always something new to learn about China and its people. Having a student realize how good they are and watching each student progress from one level to the next is amazing. As a teacher, you start investing wholeheartedly without even knowing it. It’s a proud moment.