An Interview with Neil at Kid Castle – Shanghai, China
GS: So, can you tell us a bit about how you first got into English teaching?
NN: I’d been teaching Spanish in the United States, as I’ve always had a penchant for foreign languages /cultures. Personally, though, I find it more rewarding to live abroad and being a native English speaker, teaching English is a good way to be able to do that.
GS: What advice do you have for people about the recruitment and interview process when looking for jobs teaching in China?
NN: Go with your gut! Generally, just trust your instincts and how you feel about a particular company. You can also do a little of research about particular companies or schools ahead of time, but that comes after talking with the recruiters and before talking with the schools. That being said, there is no guaranteed way to make sure you have a “perfect” situation. Just do your best to make sure it will be and then hope you’re right.
GS: You are teaching in Kid Castle in Shanghai at the moment, can you tell us about your impressions of the city? What do you like most about living there?
NN: Shanghai, from afar, is a vibrant, fascinating city; captivatingly so. Most people are taken in by the mix of the new Pudong skyline with the older architecture along the Bund. Street life downtown – especially in Puxi – is terrific. As a foreigner, most people feel more comfortable living on the Puxi side of the river (especially near Jingan Temple) as it feels more relaxed with its tree-lined streets. Pudong is more residential and not as “nice,” but not bad by any means.
GS: What do you like most about teaching English?
NN: What I like most about teaching English (or any subject) is seeing students make connections and realize that you helped them do that. It’s a good feeling to watch students grow, learn, and improve.
GS: Can you tell us about your favorite class at the moment?
NN: I teach different levels from kindergarten (3 and 4 year-olds) to “upper level,” which, for us, is around 11-12 year-old kids. I love each level for different reasons. The older kids are great because their English is good enough where you can have more thorough conversations and actually learn about kids’ likes and dislikes. The kindergarten classes are fun because kids at that age are much more emotional and excitable; they tend to wear their heart on their sleeve more.
GS: Talk us through a typical day teaching English at Kid Castle Shanghai.
NN: A typical teaching day is just arriving at work, finding the day’s lesson plans, then preparing and teaching your lessons (from 1-4 classes a day for us). Sometimes you do the planning a day in advance, but if it’s the same day, that’s standard: find the lesson plan, think about how to teach it, find the teaching materials, then jumping in and executing your plan. I’m fortunate to work in a company which has a GREAT support system – both for human resources and classroom material.
GS: What are the teaching resources like there?
NN:For our particular company, the teaching resources are the best I could hope for. Our foreign affairs department is excellent to help with teaching (and non-teaching) aspects as needed. In the classroom, our company has its own textbooks, flashcards, materials, etc. The school’s teachers (Chinese and foreign) tend to be pretty helpful and all work together well.
GS: How many teachers are there in your school?
NN: At my school, there are 4 foreign teachers and 7 Chinese teachers. We also have interns who train at our school.
GS: China is full of surprises and unexpected adventures, tell us about one you have had recently.
NN: As best as you may try to plan for all contingencies, nothing can brace you for the culture shock that is China. It’s a complex country that you will probably both love and hate from time to time, but all in all, we’re here because we choose to be. I can’t think of any particular “surprise or adventure” that is outstanding, but can only say that, if you come to China, I hope you will take the time to dive in and get out in the community and talk with locals, whether you speak the language or not. If you live in a cocoon, nothing will happen!