There’s almost always a high demand for native speaking teachers in China, and requirements varying depending on the school, so almost anyone can find a teaching job that fits their experience and needs.
But teaching English isn’t always a walk in the park – the transition can be overwhelming and even stressful at times. Here are some tips to help you become an effective teacher whilst enjoying your time in China.
How to Make a Connection With Your Students
Your approach to making a genuine and effective connection with the students you teach will vary depending on what age you teach – for younger kids, it may be more about your animation and superficial interactions, while with older students you may have to work a bit harder.
You should be confident in yourself and your abilities around your students, so they feel comfortable putting trust into you as a teacher. However, a slightly more casual approach to communication will go a long way in creating a unique and meaningful relationship.
Most teacher-student relationships in China are very much hierarchical, students rarely feel like their teachers are a peer. It’s very much ingrained in the Chinese academic environment, and even though it can be effective, it also makes it hard for students to open up to their teachers.
Therefore, if you can create an environment where students feel comfortable opening up and connecting to you, you’ll set your classroom up for success.
Make Your Lessons Hit Home
Many of the English teachers coming to China are first time teachers, and so the thought of creating lesson plans and leading classroom discussions can be very overwhelming. Where do you start if you have no experience with teaching? The medium in which you use to deliver your content is crucial.
Using content that is engaging, like videos, music or other visuals, is an extremely effective way to structure your lessons. Not only is it something that students will find exciting and entertaining, but it will also take a lot of burden off of you, since you’ll be able to offload some of the burden of lecturing onto the content, rather than taking it all on yourself.
Prepare for the Language Barrier
While you aren’t expected to speak Chinese while teaching in China, you are expected to be able to deal with the challenges that come with teaching English to non-native speakers. Many don’t realise how challenging this can be, and struggle when communicating to students in and outside of lessons.
When you are trying to articulate yourself to a student and seem to be struggling to get your point across, try to pay close attention to where they are getting lost – are you using words they don’t know? Grammar? Talking too fast? You should be able to feel out what you need to adjust.
Be patient with them, and repeat yourself, maybe changing the grammar or the words you’re using to something more familiar.
Trying to understand students who are struggling with the language barrier is a little more challenging. You can use the same question approach from before, to make sure you are understanding them. The best way to make sure you’re understanding is to repeat whatever it is they are saying back to them, slightly changing the grammar or words, to clarify that you are both on the same page.
Make the Most of Your Teaching Schedule
One of the most attractive aspects of teaching is the schedule – it’s not the average 9 to 5. How do you take advantage of the teaching schedule and make the most of your time in China? Our first piece of advice is to know your schedule, and learn when you have extended weekends or holidays. The Chinese school calendar is different than the Western academic calendar, so you should familiarize yourself with it.
Once you learn when you might have a three day weekend, take advantage of it! By using bullet trains and planning ahead, you would be surprised with how far you can travel and how much you can see in just a few days.
On that note, so long as you don’t have papers to grade, take advantage of as many regular weekends as you can. For example, if you’re living in Shanghai, a weekend visit to Hangzhou, Ningbo, Suzhou or even Beijing (if you take the express train) is completely doable in a single weekend. Familiarise yourself with travel sites, and make a list of the places you want to see. If you take the time to plan ahead, the possibilities are endless.
Even if you’re only planning to teach in China for a short period of time, you can accomplish a lot more in your time there than you might first think. You have the opportunity not only to travel, but to connect with your students and impact their lives in a meaningful way. Even though teaching might feel like a lot to handle at times, so long as you put energy and planning into it, the effort will be well worth it.
Get more information regarding our Teach & Travel Program.