An Interview with Shur at New Oriential in Hohhot, China
GS: So, can you tell us a bit about how you first got into English teaching?
SC: I had been working in the corporate environment in South Africa for the past 16 years and with my qualifications I was packing shelves due to the volatile work market and being retrenched 4 times in the past 5 years. I had done volunteer work tutoring children at orphanages and shelters and I really enjoyed doing this.
My mum had been a teacher her whole life and suggested that I do a TEFL course and go and travel and teach. So I decided to give up corporate and follow what makes me happy. It was a risk stepping into the unknown but I will never turn back knowing how fulfilling teaching English in China is.
GS: Could you give some details about your dealings with Gold Star TEFL Recruitment?
SC: I looked on an ESL website and applied for a job through Gold Star and dealt with a recruiter named Jessica. She was most helpful and supportive through the whole process. She was the liaison between the school and I. It was a long and arduous process getting the documents but Jessica was very supportive in answering any queries that I had.
GS: What advice do you have for people about the recruitment and interview process when looking for jobs teaching in China?
SC: Make sure you get what you want in writing when signing your contract. It is daunting doing it for the first time, if you have somebody that speaks good English at your prospective place of employment this goes a long way.
Teaching hours, salary, housing allowance, flight bonuses, annual bonuses, sick leave, annual leave and Chinese holidays are all things that should be considered when signing your contract
GS: You are teaching in Hohhot at the moment, can you tell us about your impressions of the city? What do you like most about living there?
SC: I remember my flight into Hohhot, google didn’t have much info on Hohhot other than it being famous for the grasslands and milk tea and it being a small city (by Chinese standards) so I expected a rural village but there where lights and for as far as the eye could see from the plane. Hohhot is a cosmopolitan city with great local cuisine everywhere.
The malls are modern with all the latest fashion from the west and all off the famous branded shops. They have movie theatres that show 2 or 3 English movies with Chinese subtitles. The people are very friendly and you are probably going to end up taking lots of selfies with the locals as there are not many foreigners here. The public transport is very efficient and affordable. The air quality is generally very good.
GS: What do you like most about teaching English?
SC: I’m not one for cheesy lines but honestly the children make this job worth it. The children are so enthusiastic and happy to see you that even if you are having a bad day they lift your spirits up. Its rewarding knowing that you are teaching them the foundation of a skill that will help them as they get older.
GS: Can you tell us about your favorite class at the moment?
SC: I was teaching animals and the one animal was skunk, the kids absolutely loved seeing the skunk so they taught me the Chinese word for skunk and its pronounced as choyo, so now I’m choyo teacher. The students in this class can be very boisterous but they are always enthusiastic and hungry for knowledge. I have 17 students in this class and they are awesome
GS: Talk us through a typical day teaching English in China.
SC: There are no set starting times at New Oriental as it is a private school, but I would have a class that starts at 9.30 until 10.30, I would then take a bus up to our other campus and have a class at 11.30(the bus ride is about 10 minutes and costs 1 yuan) to 12.30.
It’s then lunch until 2.30 then I would have class until 5 and a 30-minute demo class at about 5.30. That’s a busy day! Some days I only have 1 class for an hour in the evening. The Chinese teaching assistants are great and really help during the lesson especially if the students are being very loud
GS: What are the teaching resources like there?
SC: Our school has a toy cupboard and we use these for games. My manager is really great and when we have our foreign teachers meeting we have a game segment that he gives us new game ideas and we share our games with the other teachers. The school is also fully equipped with electronic whiteboards, markers and televisions. The resources are great.
GS: How many teachers are there in your school?
SC:There are 6 foreign teachers and 8 teaching assistants. My colleagues are from South Africa, the USA and the UK. It’s a great mix and bunch of people; we usually all go out for a shared lunch and the occasional night out.
GS: China is full of surprises and unexpected adventures, tell us about one you have had recently.
SC: I decided to be spontaneous and take a trip to a nearby city called Datong and being from South Africa I was ill equipped for the cold winters. So I went to the Hanging temple not nearly warm enough, I thought that I had gotten frost bite and I was going to lose my fingers, I had to sit in the guard’s office near his heater for over an hour to warm up and he gave me his gloves when I was ready to go back out.
Fortunately, I did not get frostbite lol far from it and the Hanging Temple was beautiful. A once in a lifetime experience with such history steeped in culture.