An Interview with Luke & Tonya Morton at Shane English in Changzhou, China
GS: So, can you tell us a bit about how you first got into English teaching?
We were both on the traditional path to a “successful” life. Working great, well-paying jobs that took up every free moment of our lives. One day it became clear we wanted more out of life. We’d always talked about traveling the world, one day when we had the time and money. It felt like that “one day” would never come. So we just made the leap. We started looking for ways we could travel while working, so we could make that “one day” start now, and last forever. That’s when we started looking into teaching English. It seemed like the perfect way to enjoy a life abroad, filled with travel and exploration, while still earning money for a secure future.
GS: What advice do you have for people about the recruitment and interview process when looking for jobs teaching in China?
One piece of advice we would give is to be very open about your expectations about what you want out of the job and the life. If you’re going to move across the world you should, to the best of your abilities, have the most knowledge you can about the job and life you are about to leap into. For example, we didn’t really have a preference for where in China we taught, but one thing we knew we wanted was days off together. We wanted to be able to explore whatever city we were in together. We were very open with this request and the school was able to guarantee it for us.
With that in mind, ask questions. A lot of questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. It’s important that both the school and yourself are happy with the arrangement. It needs to be a fit both ways.
GS: You are teaching in Changzhou at the moment, can you tell us about your impressions of the city? What do you like most about living there?
It’s a city that is big enough to give you that “big town feel” without being overwhelming, and there are enough parks to still allow you to find your own little patch of green to relax in.
What do we like most about living here? One word. Food. The food in China is amazing and Changzhou has a mix of many different flavours from all over China.
GS: What do you like most about teaching English?
Luke: I love the excitement of the kids. They are so eager to learn and have fun, it can almost feel like you are not even working.
Tonya: Each class is so different. The kids all bring such different and fun energies and personalities to the class, it’s more like walking into a room full of friends than students.
GS: Can you tell us about your favourite class at the moment?
Luke: I’m really loving my Pockets class right now. These are young students, ages 4-6. It was really tough at first as they took their first steps in, not only learning English but learning how to be good students. When I first got the class it was the first time any of them had been in a classroom or learned English. I had some frustrating days. Now they are making leaps and bounds. I can see the lights coming on in each of their heads as they pick up on the language and use it in hilarious ways. These students make me laugh so much and it is so rewarding to see the progress they are making.
What’s my favorite class? That’s a hard question to answer. I have nine classes filled with funny, hardworking and well-natured kids. However, I’ll talk about the first class I felt comfortable teaching.
On Saturday afternoons I am so lucky to get the chance to teach this class. Every one of them loves English so much that they study, watch and read English material outside of class. I’m always impressed with their ability to use what English they know to make jokes and express their thoughts…sometimes even better than my older classes.
Each and every week this class makes me proud and happy to be a teacher. I can only hope I get to continue to be their teacher for a long time to come.
GS: Talk us through a typical day teaching English in China.
The weekends, Saturday and Sunday, are the busy times for us. We usually arrive at the school around 8:00am to begin teaching at 8:30am. We use the time before our first class to organize and go over our previously made lesson plans for the day. We teach 4 classes in a day, each consisting of 2 fourty-five minute blocks with a ten minute break in between each block and approximately twenty minutes between the first two classes. We have an hour for lunch and then repeat the process in the afternoon, finishing the day around 4:40pm.
GS: What are the teaching resources like there?
All the necessary materials are provided. Markers, books, MP3 players, and basic toys such as sticky balls, bouncy balls etc. There are computers and printers available too if you’d like to download and print supplemental materials or look up new game ideas. We think the very best teaching resource provided however is the team of teachers and management around us. Always available for advice and ideas, feedback and general help. The wealth of knowledge and expertise is unmeasurable.
GS: How many teachers are there in your school?
This varies, of course, depending on the time of year. But generally, it lands between 15-20. We are currently sitting at about 18 foreign teachers and many many more Chinese T.A.s and other school staff.
GS: China is full of surprises and unexpected adventures, tell us about one you have had recently.
Adventure comes in many forms and China seems to have them all. You certainly don’t have to look very far to find something interesting or seemingly strange. We will give you two.
We will often just go to the bus stop and hope on to whatever random bus happens to come by. We will ride it until we feel like getting off. Then we will hope off and explore the new area. A little while back we rode a bus to another new to us area of the city. We hopped off and started to explore. Somehow we wandered in to a giant underground shopping center, full of shops selling every and anything you could want. Clothing, jewelry, electronics, food etc. It was all there, all except people. As we walked around the massive center we had an eerie feeling as we were literally the only people in the entire complex.
Secondly, here in Changzhou and the closely surrounding cities there are many historic and interesting sites. All it takes is a quick internet search and you can pull up more things to do than you have time for. Just last weekend we jumped on a train and rode it a quick 25 minutes to the neighboring city of Suzhou. We explored some beautiful gardens and a stunning ancient leaning Pagoda, referred to as The leaning tower of China, because of the way in leans like The leaning tower of Pisa. This Pagoda however is both taller and older than the tower of Pisa! We’d never even heard of it before!! Amazing.