An Interview with Bronwyn at English First in Hohhot, China
GS: So, can you tell us a bit about how you first got into English teaching?
BL: I always knew that I wanted to pursue a career in teaching, however, after 3 years at university studying English literature I felt that I wanted to do something a little ‘out of the ordinary’ before I go back to complete my studies.
I had visited China before and always knew I wanted to go back for a prolonged period of time, therefore, it seemed perfect to not only enhance and help my career but also have an adventure whilst doing it.
GS: What advice do you have for people about the recruitment and interview process when looking for jobs teaching in China?
BL: When looking for a job in China I would make sure to do a lot of research about the schools and companies that you are looking at. Sometimes when a job offer seems ‘too good to be true’, it is.
Prospective teachers should consider which age group they would like to teach (there are a range of ages available) and to also consider that there is a lot more to teaching than just teaching. Teaching entails a lot of lesson planning and communication with the various departments in the school. Jobs that seem easy, such as preparing materials can take up a lot of time, however, its great because it allows you to be creative!
The interview process is relatively straightforward, unless you are already living in China, your interview will most certainly be on Skype and most of your communication will be through emails. Ensure that you ask about the job role in detail in the interview and the process of moving to China, with regulations changing quite frequently be aware it can take months to move over.
The school will however, do everything that they can in order to make the move easier. I found the interview and regular communication reassuring that I was joining a team who are friendly and helpful.
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?
BL: I live in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, therefore there are a lot of Mongolian influences around the city. There is a street that we call ‘Mongolian Street’ which is a long street of Mongolian shops with the most beautiful items you can buy, such as detailed jewellery boxes and cushion covers – not forgetting those warm winter clothes when the winter sets in!
The city is vibrant but not too busy compared to some Chinese cities. There is always so much to do and see with a lovely fusion of Western, Mongolian and Chinese influences. The foreign community is great here, with regular activities planned around the city for foreigners to make friends and still have an active social life.
My favorite thing about living here are the beautiful parks that are hidden around the city. You can easily escape the busy Chinese life for hours wandering around lakes and looking at the lovely greenery. The people are always great here, too. They are friendly and welcoming and despite language barriers, they will do anything to help you (just don’t be afraid when they ask you for a picture in return!)
GS: What do you like most about teaching English?
BL: It sounds cliché, but it really is the students that I teach. Seeing the students from day one who are shy and nervous transform into students who come into the staff room just to see you is amazing. Its’s true that teaching is one of the most challenging but rewarding jobs.
Watching the students’ progress inside and outside class in confidence and English ability makes the job worth it. They are always willing to learn and show you how much they know and there is really never a dull moment whilst I am teaching.
GS: Can you tell us about your favorite class at the moment?
BL: My favorite class is also my most challenging. I teach a class of 16 students from the age of 6-8 who have never learnt English before. My first class with them, I had to give them English names which (for weeks) they couldn’t remember – they didn’t even know the alphabet.
However, after weeks of perseverance and trying different methods to engage them, it seemed that everything clicked. Months on, the students are writing, reading and spelling complicated English words and are using difficult structures in class.
The most recent class I had with them I did a spelling activity with family member names. I anticipated that this might be difficult for them; however, they managed every word. It was a moment I won’t ever forget as I felt like crying with happiness. I was so proud.
I think that is the main perk about teaching is how invested you become in these students and how much you want them to succeed. I look forward to teaching them every week now to see how much further they have progressed.
GS: Talk us through a typical day teaching English in China.
BL: At EF the teachers have Monday and Tuesday off work as the ‘weekends’ are the busiest at the school. Wednesday to Friday are relatively free except 2 classes in the evening which start around 6pm, for the rest of my time I lesson plan and prepare materials for my classes.
The weekend classes start at 9am and the school day will finish before 6:45pm. We have 2 hours for lunch and breaks in lessons that are 2 hours long.At EF we teach a range of ages from 3-18 year olds and therefore the classes are extremely varied which keeps the day exciting and no 2 lessons are the same.
GS: What are the teaching resources like there?
BL: The teaching resources are great here. EF have a specific syllabus for each class to follow, therefore, materials that are on the interactive whiteboard are already provided. There are also resources online to help with lesson planning and specify what you need to teach for each unit and lesson.
The resources are endless and you are guaranteed to find anything you need, if not, the marketing department are always willing to find what you need. The school is celebrating their 11th anniversary this year and the school is getting a complete refurbishment which means everything in the school will be new and modern. It really is a beautiful place to teach in.
GS: How many teachers are there in your school?
BL: There are currently 12 foreign teachers in the school and the school are implementing co-teaching with local teachers in the coming months, therefore, a lot more help for everyone. The teachers here, I believe, are second to none and are willing to help anyone with any problems.
When I first joined the school I felt incredibly welcomed and there wasn’t enough that anyone could do for me, which made my transition into China and teaching a lot easier and smoother.
GS: China is full of surprises and unexpected adventures – tell us about one you have had recently.
BL: This is a tough question for me as I find that everyday is an adventure when working with EF Education First in Hohhot! I know this sounds rather silly, but I have to say that Hohhot, for me, is a whole new world that is filled with surprises.