An Interview with Rebecca Edmunds with Public Middle & Primary Schools in Zhengzhou
GS: So, can you tell us a bit about how you first got into English teaching?
RE: I originally wanted to train for my PGCE to become a secondary art teacher. I did some work experience in London and knew that getting more experience would help me to be accepted to my course of choice. I did my TEFL and then went to teach English in South Korea. I went for one year and decided to keep extending my stay. I was there for four years and in that time I discovered my love of teaching English. I feel lucky to have found a career that is varied, rewarding and exciting.
GS: What advice do you have for people about the recruitment and interview process when looking for jobs teaching in China?
RE: I think that people should be prepared and flexible. There are many differences between working in England and in China. The application process can seem overwhelming but it is simple if everything is followed step by step.
I would say that any good recruitment company should never ask you for money to help you find a job. A good recruiter will work hard to find you the best deal with a good school, but won’t expect you to pay for this. I think it is a good idea to get all of your relevant documents notorised and authorised by the Chinese embassy as soon as possible. Then you are ready to apply for your visa as soon as you find the right job.
It is important to show your personality during your interview. You will be teaching children and the recruitment team/school should see that you are positive and happy. You want to let them know that you will be dynamic and lively in your classes as well as showing you are professional and organised.
I would also recommend that you have some questions to ask your interviewer. You should ask about what they expect from you and what your usual week will be like. Each school is very different so this is important to find out.
GS: You are teaching in Zhengzhou at the moment, can you tell us about your impressions of the city? What do you like most about living there?
RE: I really like living in Zhengzhou. I had many offers from Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen and Guangzhou but I decided to accept the job in Zhengzhou. Everyone will have something different that they want from a city. I wanted a large and developed city with history and culture. I certainly found that here. It isn’t too westernised here so I really can enjoy Chinese life.
My impression of the city is very positive. There aren’t many foreigners here (compared to Shanghai, Beijing etc.) so the locals are very curious. But they are also extremely welcoming, generous and warm. I have met many wonderful Chinese friends who have made my time here even better. I really like that I live so close to some really incredible historic and cultural sites. I get to enjoy real modern Chinese life here as well as seeing traditional life.
GS: What do you like most about teaching English?
RE: I love teaching English because it is a dynamic, interesting and challenging job. I really love my students and the thing I enjoy the most is seeing their enthusiasm at a lesson I have prepared. I feel proud of their efforts and inspired by their determination.
GS: Talk us through a typical day teaching English in your city
RE: My days vary and sometimes I will have one lesson and other days I’ll have six. I arrive to work about thirty minutes before my first class of the day. I go to my office and double check my PowerPoints for the day and prepare my materials for each class. Sometimes my principal will visit my office to make sure I’m okay and have everything I need at school and in my daily life in China. I go to my class and greet the students. Before the lesson starts we will talk about their week or their day. After class, some students will come to my office to chat or play. They may also ask for help with their homework. I have lunch at school which is delicious and fresh, often lots of vegetables and a little meat or fish. It is nice to eat with the Chinese teachers and talk together. There is a two-hour break for lunch so I can take a nap or rest for a while before my afternoon classes. After my classes for the day are completed I will make sure everything is prepared for tomorrow. I’m the evening I’m free to meet friends or relax how I like.
GS: Can you tell us about your favourite class at the moment?
RE: My favourite class is currently my experimental class for spoken English. The students are grade 7 and their ability is a little higher than the rest of the grade. Instead of the normal curriculum book, we read short stories together. We work through the story over about five lessons and discuss the characters, settings and what happens. It is really fun to do something different with the students and they seem to enjoy it a lot.
GS: What are the teaching resources like there?
RE: The resources at my school are wonderful. I have my own office and was given a brand new computer on my first day. There is a school supply store and can take any stationary that I need. I have been given lots of English books and if there is a specific one that I want then the school will get it for me.
Each classroom is equipped with blackboards and a board sized computer with touch screen. I can just plug my USB into the screen and I’m ready for my class.
GS: How about your apartment? Can you give some details on the place and the area?
RE: I have been supplied a one-room apartment that is in a beautiful gated community just five minutes walk from my school. I have one large room and a small bathroom and kitchen. It is clean and comfortable. If I have any issues then they are resolved the same day.
In my community there are fountains, a pond and beautiful gardens to walk around. I am in the new district of the city so I have access to many shops, restaurants, malls, cinemas, gyms, and parks. Everything I could need is close by.
GS: China is full of surprises and unexpected adventures, tell us about one you have had recently
RE: I have had many wonderful surprises and adventures in China
Recently a teacher at my school invited me to attend her wedding. I had met her just once so I was a little surprised but very happy. I went with my principal and when I arrived I was asked to join in the family photos. The MC of the wedding service gave a speech about the honor of me joining the party. I was asked to sit at the parents table for the feast, we ate and drank a lot. It was a really wonderful day and I felt like I had been welcomed into the family. I was so surprised at the warmth of everyone at the celebration. They were such wonderful hosts and I felt so privileged to have been included in their special day.