An Interview with John Carey at The Little Lions in Changzhou

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GS: Tell us about the transportation in your city.

JC: Changzhou recently opened an underground subway system. It is both convenient and cheap (2 – 5 RMB for single way trip).It currently has Line 1 (runs from the north to south of the city) but there are plans to add more lines and locations. The ticket vending machines and maps are also translated into English! Changzhou also has the BRT (Bus Rapid Transport) system which runs throughout the city. You will also find bicycles which you can rent on most streets. You may need some assistance from a local friend or colleague to help you register but it is definitely worth it. Didi (Chinese version of Uber) is also available and not expensive. Changzhou has two train stations as well as an Airport. The airport serves mainly domestic flights but you can also fly to places such as Bangkok, Macau, Hong Kong or Taipei. High speed trains run on a daily basis to nearby cities such as Shanghai, Nanjing and Wuxi.

GS: Tell us about the living cost / apartment you live in, in Changzhou.

JC: Changzhou is a small city (by Chinese standards!) so cost of living is very cheap especially when compared to cities such as Shanghai or Beijing. As I mentioned early, public transport is very cheap and convenient. I have my own one bedroom apartment which was organized by ‘The Little Lions’ and rent is also paid by them. My apartment has everything I need from a washing machine to a fridge and microwave. My colleagues were able to help me buy anything else I needed. Apartment hunting can be time consuming and stressful so I really appreciated this been taken care of by The Little Lions. Utility bills for water and electricity are inexpensive. Having moved from Shanghai, one aspect I really like about life in Changzhou is that I am able to save a lot more money.

GS: What do you like most about teaching in China?

JC: I like working with children over a period of time and watching them progress academically as well as socially is very rewarding. Secondly, for many of the children that come to my classes I may be the first teacher (and foreigner!) they have met so providing them with positive learning experiences is something that is important to me. I want them to enjoy learning and hope it will encourage them to continue learning as they get older.

GS: What advice do you have for people about the recruitment and interview process when looking for jobs teaching in China?

JC: I think when it comes for looking for jobs teaching in China have a good idea as to where or who you want to teach so have a think about this before you start applying for teaching jobs. For the interview do your research on the company. It is understandable that you will have a lot of questions so prepare some questions that you may want to ask. The Visa process usually takes a few months so I would strongly advice that use this time to your advantage. I think you can use this time to do some reading on early childhood education, reach out to expats living in Changzhou via Facebook or We Chat. From my experience ex pats are more than happy to help out so feel to reach out. If you already speak some Mandarin use this time to brush up on it or if you are a beginner, try and get a head start.

GS: Talk us through a typical day teaching in The Little Lions.

JC: My day starts at 9am. I usually have a class at 9:30am so before class I will double check that I have everything I need for class. The Little Lions also has a nursery so from Wednesday to Friday I have 2 afternoon classes (pre speech & drama and interactive learning) with them.

On the weekends I usually have 3 or 4 club classes per day. The classes vary from arts & crafts, cookery, music & movement or English. Classes are either 35 or 45 minutes depending on the age of the children. The classes are spread out throughout the day so you have time to prepare for your next class or if you need to catch up on any admin tasks you need to do. If I have time, I will always try and play with the children too in between class. This is a great opportunity to build a rapport with them and make them feel at home here at Little Lions. At lunchtime (12pm – 1:30pm) I usually order food in or eat out with colleagues. The latest a class will run to is 5:15pm and we finish work at 6pm.

GS: You are teaching in Changzhou at the moment, can you tell us about your impressions of the city?

JC: Changzhou is a peaceful city and life is more laid back here in comparison to bigger cities in China. The people are friendly and you will find foreigners from all over the world living here too. The ex pats community often hosts regular events and you can find many sports or social clubs to join too. When it comes to technology and transport China is second to none which makes live in Changzhou really convenient. I think Changzhou is a city that may go under the radar because of its proximity to Shanghai and Nanjing but it certainly has its own charm. English is not widely spoken so I would strongly recommend that you try learn some Mandarin, the locals really appreciate it when you make the effort.

GS: What do you like most about living there?

JC: Changzhou is extremely safe and the locals are very friendly. I think the cost of living here is also cheap especially compared to China’s mega cities (Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen etc). Everything from eating out, paying utility bills to gym membership is more than reasonable.

I also like the transportation here and city’s close proximately to other cities is great especially if you plan on travelling around China or Asia.

GS: Can you tell us about your favorite class at the moment?

JC: English! I previously worked as an ESL teacher before coming to the ‘The Little Lions’ so I naturally have a preference for teaching this class. In ‘The Little Lions’ most of the students I have taught have had little or no previous exposure to English so getting the opportunity to be the first person to introduce them to the English language can be extremely rewarding. Cookery and Arts & Crafts are also a lot of fun!

GS: What are the teaching resources like there?

JC: The Little Lions provide detailed lesson plans for each of their classes. All arts & crafts and cookery materials are provided by Little Lions. The Little Lions also has a square village, soft play area and a library where children can play. I would recommend you take a look at ‘The Little Lions ‘website’s pictures to give you a better idea as to how it looks. Creativity is very much encouraged and we often make our materials (flashcards, props) for class.

GS: China is full of surprises and unexpected adventures, tell us about one you have had recently.

JC: I have recently been quite busy with work but I have certainly had some interesting adventures in my time in China. My personal highlights would be sleeping overnight on the Great Wall of China or being a groomsman for my friend’s wedding in Nanning. Chinese weddings are something that needs to be seen to be believed! I’m also hoping to spend Christmas in Tibet this year so needless to say there is never a dull moment while living in China!

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