How did TESL@TFLI prepare you for teaching in China?
After my first day of classes, one of the other teachers asked me if the reality of teaching English is anything like I expected it to be. He told me that in his TESL program (not TESL@TFLI), the most they ever did was have imitation classes where they taught their fellow TESL students. I think the most important thing TESL@TFLI provides is a real ESL classroom teaching experience in the course’s practicum. When teach your classes after graduation, you will already know what to expect.
During the TESL course, you will fill up a three-ring binder with many, many resources and notes. Make sure to bring this binder with you wherever you go to teach! There were many things I wasn’t sure how to deal with throughout the year, but I had a vague memory of covering the topic in one of our TESL classes. Referring back to the worksheets from class was extremely beneficial in trying to improve throughout the year.
What advice do you have for those who want to teach abroad?
First, remember that this is a job like any other. If you go through an agency to find a position, check them out beforehand. Research your school. Try to find information from other people who have worked there. Unfortunately, in China there are many shady companies that don’t follow the laws. Some take advantage of teachers or are just terrible places to work. The TESL@TFLI staff will help you sort through the good from the shady. As long as you do the work upfront, you will definitely enjoy your time here.
Second, decide what is important to you. In China, there is a huge demand for foreign teachers. There are many, many job openings available. They come with a range of salaries, benefits, and work hours. Personally, for now, I have decided to teach at the university level. Universities pay the least, but have the best hours. If you want to make the most money, you should work in a middle school, but you will be working many more hours for the pay. My personal suggestion is find a job that pays just enough, with the best hours. This will get you into the country of your choice with a valid working visa. If you want to earn more money later, you can find private tutoring jobs.
Finally, as I said, the demand for foreign teachers in China is huge. Because of government requirements, the importance of learning English to get into a good college, and the additional money English speakers can make in the job market, the demand for English teachers in China far outstrips the number of professional, qualified teachers available. If you look now, you will probably be able to find an English teaching position where the only requirement is that English is your native language. There are English teachers here that do nothing more than show movies during every class. Don’t be that person. Earn the respect due to a good teacher. Get real TESL training, learn how to teach, and be the best teacher you can be.
What is your best experience so far teaching abroad?
I went through TESL@TFLI in the spring of 2014. After graduation from this program, I got a job working at Wuhan University in Wuhan, China as part of their China-Canada Student Exchange Program. I haven’t yet had one experience that stands out as being far superior to the rest. Instead, what I will say, is that teaching English to students who are really interested in learning is simply fun.
Tell us an interesting classroom story.
One of the first lessons we observed in TESL@TFLI was a local ESL class where the teacher gets all the students to speak English in the classroom by playing a game. They are all given a stack of pennies, and each time they hear someone speak in their native language, they take a penny from that person. The person with the most pennies at the end of class wins. In class, this was presented as one way to get people to speak only in English.
In my classes, all the students constantly spoke to each other in Chinese, it was nearly impossible to get them to stop. So, I decided to use this same game with them. And, I tell you, it really works. That class, every student made a real effort to only speak in English. However, there is one major problem with this game that the students quickly discovered… one clique of girls intentionally transferred all their pennies to a single member of the clique to ensure she would win. So, if you decide to do this in your class, be careful!
BTW, one thing you might be surprised about here are the students’ English names. Almost everyone will already have an English name, and for the most part it’s one they chose solely by themselves. I’ve heard of students named Cookie and Refrigerator. The oddest name in my classes was a boy named Passion. He said it was because he is a very passionate person. So, just don’t be too surprised if you have a student with a somewhat odd English name.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I highly recommend you choose TESL@TFLI. I think they can provide the best experience possible to prepare you for the long journey ahead of you. And, after you graduate, you should consider coming to work in China. There are many positions available for qualified teachers, and I think you will enjoy it. Every student is required to study English in school from a young age, and almost every sign includes an English translation. Even things like announcements at subway stations are made in both Chinese and English. So, even if you don’t speak any Chinese at all, it is still easy to meet people and enjoy the experience.