An Interview with Heather at a High School in Qingdao, China
GS: So, can you tell us a bit about how you first got into English teaching?
H: I graduated from University in 2010. My husband and I knew that we wanted to live abroad so we began looking into jobs overseas. One of the most common jobs we saw for working overseas was teaching English. This sounded like a great job for us. We both had had some experience teaching in after school programs as well as working with students but we wanted more experience & training so that we could be the best teachers we could be.
We decided to take a TESL. We did the 120-hour certificate and felt like we were well-equipped to teach English abroad, so we began applying for jobs. We were interviewed and hired on to teach in a private English school in Jukjeon, Korea. That was the official start of our English teaching careers!
GS: What advice do you have for people about the recruitment and interview process when looking for jobs teaching in China?
H: I would say ask lots of questions. Ask about teaching time. Ask how much time is actually in front of students. Ask about prep time. Do they have books? What kind of books? What are your student’s levels? Do the books match their level? What is expected of you? Ask about the city. Ask about the area the job is located in. Ask about the expat community. Ask about taxes off your paycheck. Ask TONS of questions!
GS: You are teaching in Qingdao at the moment, can you tell us about your impressions of the city? What do you like most about living there?
H: I am currently teaching in Qingdao. I love Qingdao. People say it is a gem of China. I have found that to be true. Qingdao has the big city perks, like expat restaurants, stores and coffee shops, but also the small city perks, like a small community and less traffic. Qingdao is also very beautiful. We have mountains and beaches in our back yard.
GS: What do you like most about teaching English?
H: I love seeing students move from zero ability in English to being able to communicate what they think and feel. I love that point when students can begin telling stories, too. Those moments really make you feel like all the hard work is worth it and paying off.
GS: Can you tell us about your favourite class at the moment?
H: My favorite class is a class of 6 students. I have been teaching them for a few years now and have seen them improve immensely. I love this class because it is so small and because it is so small we really get to know each other. They know me. I know them and they know each other. We have become like a little family. I also enjoy that it is so small because we can do projects and activities that I can’t do with my bigger classes. I can also really invest in each student because I know their strengths, weaknesses and learning styles.
GS: Talk us through a typical day teaching English in China.
H: Most days I have 5 classes of 30 to 32 students each class. Our classes begin with the date & questions warm up time. After our warm up time, we review phonics and old songs. We then dive into our reading books for 20 minutes. We practice reading, pronouncing words, and discuss the meaning of the text. The last 15 minutes of class, we typically work on oral English. I introduce new oral English topics every week. To practice these topics, I use games, songs & lots of practice. During class, there is a lot of discipline going on. My students love to talk! I constantly make sure they are sitting nicely, looking forward and staying quiet. I have a discipline system in place that helps keep them listening and alert.
GS: What are the teaching resources like there?
H: We don’t have many teaching resources but we do have a colored printer, laminator, white flash cards and colored paper. The school will also provide markers, magnets, etc. if I ask. I have to make all my resources, though. The school does provide the students their textbooks and notebooks.
GS: How many teachers are there in your school?
H: There are 2 foreign teachers in the Primary school side of our school and 5 on the High school side.
GS: China is full of surprises and unexpected adventures, tell us about one you have had recently.
H: My husband and I own a scooter, which has been tons of fun and really opened up our city for us. The only downside is that we experience tons of ‘surprises’ with Chinese drivers! Their driving is often unpredictable and keeps us on our toes!