An Interview with Melissa Tracey at Shane English in Wuxi, China
GS: So, can you tell us a bit about how you first got into English teaching?
MT: It’s always been a passion of mine to work with children, so when a friend of mine told me about Shane School in Wuxi, I was more than willing to give it a try and start a new adventure.
Having had little hands on experience with working in a school environment I knew I wanted to grow my knowledge and experiences and having a few friends here made the transition easier, along with working for a school that had a Western based management style which meant that I always had someone to assist me when needed.
GS: What advice do you have for people about the recruitment and interview process when looking for jobs teaching in China?
MT: I think it’s very important to start off with a clear idea in your mind about what it is you’re looking to gain from the experience.
Before starting any interview process decide whether you want to teach in a school or training center, whether you want to teach young kids or maybe kids a bit older, decide if you want to live in the city or maybe in a smaller town on the outskirts as these options become vital to your happiness further on.
Also making sure you are able to easily contact and communicate with your recruiter at any time, about concerns and advice you might need goes a long way in easing your mind, so find someone who is interested in your wellbeing and not just trying to “make a sale”.
GS: You are teaching in Wuxi at the moment, can you tell us about your impressions of the city? What do you like most about living there?
MT: I am currently teaching in Wuxi, and it’s my second year here. When I initially arrived I liked how modern yet comfortable it was, there are a lot of older buildings and structures to visit both in my area and those that surround it, and the area is also always growing and changing so there is often something new to see.
What I like most is that although it’s still relatively small it has a great foreign community and is a great fusion between Chinese and Western culture. I don’t have to go very far to find either; and it’s quite central to various tourist and sight-seeing spots so I always have options if I want to travel and explore.
GS: What do you like most about teaching English?
MT: I think what I like most is that no day, no class, and no student is ever the same. Life can become quite routine but being able to teach students that are all so different and having a schedule that changes often means it’s easy to stay energized and interested in my day to day activities.
It’s also great to form relationships and bonds with the students and see their progress over time, as they get better and more confident with what you’ve taught them, It gives me a great sense of accomplishment.
GS: Can you tell us about your favourite class at the moment?
MT: I enjoy teaching the younger students most and I would have to say my favorite class since starting at the school I am at has to be my weekday class of ‘babies’ as I call them. They are the most engaged and invested group of 5-6 year olds and are always willing to take part in games and activities and seem to really enjoy the lessons.
I see visible progress in them most and they often surprise me with how much of their own knowledge they have. They are also very caring and loving with each other and have a great class spirit which make it easy for me to do my job.
GS: Talk us through a typical day teaching English in China.
MT: Saturdays and Sundays are our busiest days starting at 8:30 in the morning. The kids usually arrive a little before class time to do a little review with the Chinese teaching assistant and go over the homework they were given. Depending of the level and age of the students, lessons are usually done in 45minute intervals with a 10 minute break in between.
Lessons are structured to teach conversational English through fun games and activities so that the students are able to remember and recall it with ease. We have an hour long lunch break around 12:10 and we end the day around 5:10.
GS: What are the teaching resources like there?
MT: We are provided with all the flashcards and other teaching resources we may need from the time we start which makes the process a lot simpler.
We get asked regularly if we need anything in terms of classroom resources such as toys and books and the school is always willing to provide training so we can improve our classes and increase our catalogue of games for in-class teaching.
GS: How many teachers are there in your school?
MT: There are currently seven Western teachers in my school all from different countries and backgrounds and a Chinese teaching staff of about 20-25.
GS: China is full of surprises and unexpected adventures, tell us about one you have had recently.
MT: I would say one of the most recent unexpected adventures was going on a team building excursion with our school that began with an hour and a half bus ride into one of the more remote areas by the lake and spending the day playing different games and activities, riding bikes, going fishing and playing laser tag.
Our instructor for the day did not speak a word of English but our Chinese staff were always willing and helpful with explaining and I think it made us grow closer as a unit. We ended the day off with a big barbeque with food and drinks we all brought and shared, which is a common way to eat in Chinese culture and I think that was my favorite part of the whole day, and one of the best memories so far.