Tips for Teaching English in China: For New English Teachers
After teaching English in China for the past nineteen months I thought I’d share some tips. I find a lot of the tips out their are a little shallow, and don’t dive too much into the realities of teaching English in China. China gives you one of the biggest culture shocks there is to get while living abroad due to the stark differences between the cultures of the East and the West.
If you go into your first English teaching job in China with these tips, you’ll be much better prepared for your new life as an English language teacher.
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1. Be Professional
It’s easy to forget that the companies you’re working for on your working holiday are real companies. Companies who rely on their teachers to provide their students with a quality English education in order to keep running their business.
Teaching English isn’t something you can just wing, you actually need to be prepared for each lesson and you’ll enjoy the job a lot better if you are. Writing a lesson plan and making an effort to improve the English of your students is essential.
2. Be Extra Affectionate Towards The Kids
In China children are fawned over like nothing else I’ve seen, at least not in the 21 countries I’ve visited. Kids are the center of the universe with all family members dropping everything to attend to their every whim.
This means that you need to be extra affectionate and hands on with the children, something that can feel a little uncomfortable coming from a western culture that emphasizes ‘stranger danger’. You’re encourage to hug children, pat their heads and stomachs, and be close with them while teaching, even if it’s your first day meeting them.
3. Know the culture
This leads into point number 3, know the culture. Chinese culture is much different to the west, and while you can’t be expected to understand it from the beginning, you should be open to learning about it.
In China the workplace is not as collaborative as back home and saving face is an essential part of the culture. Managers who are challenged in public may not react well if they feel like they’ve been humiliated in one way or another. Due to this, you should always speak to your managers in private if you have a complaint, they’ll appreciate it and won’t react badly.
Chinese people will also make small lies to cover losing face, and while they don’t mean it in a bad way, it can be a little jarring to experience. Saving face is an important part of their culture and you’re going to encounter this at some point in time. As above, if the issue is important take it up with your manager in private.
4. Pick your battles
The Chinese do business in a different way to how we do in the west, and sometimes it can be very frustrating. It’s important however to pick your battles, and when you do, to talk to the manager or boss about it in private so they don’t loose face.
In picking your battles, ask yourself this; does this issue actually affect me? If the issue is something that is minor, or is about something that happens after your contract finishes, is it really something you need to complain about? If, on the other hand it’s something that directly affects you negatively then ask to speak to your boss or manager in private, to see if you can work something out.
5. Have Fun
Remember to have fun in your classroom with the children, teaching English doesn’t have to be a chore. Kids have an intense life study wise so your classroom can be a place where they can escape the stress of their daily school-packed lives. Yes, they’re learning English but they also get to play a bunch of fun learning games with a much more fun teacher than their Chinese ones.
Not only will you learn about a ton of language games from your fellow teachers you’ll also find a ton of ideas online by searching for English language games. However, you can really turn any game into an English language game – Beer pong (without the beer of course), basketball, “Go” games, changing seats, pretend fishing – really, anything.
6. Classroom Management is Important
There is a stereotype of all Chinese students being well behaved and quiet, but that is not always the case. Once the kids get comfortable with you your classroom can turn into all kinds of crazy (not always in a bad way).
The kids tend to enjoy English lessons due to the different teaching style and can get quite hyped up and excited, talking loudly, laughing, yelling and getting out of their seats when they’re not meant to. Ever been hug attacked by five seven year olds? As sweet as it sounds (and is),it can be a little disrupting to the class when you’re buried under a bunch of happy children.
You need to be able to take control of the classroom by setting boundaries and being stern when needed. You can still be the fun loving teacher but make sure you can control the class when the children get too naughty or too excited. You should set rules upon starting with your new classes so they know to respect you. A point system can help you manage these rules and coerce the children into following them. You can take and give away points based on their behavior and performance in the learning games.
7. Treat Your Favorite And Least Favorite The Same
As much as we all like to think that we don’t pick favorites, it’s bound to happen in the classroom. Whether it’s that girl with an infectious laugh or the boy with the cutest chubby cheeks, you’ll undoubtedly find your self favoring certain students over others.
Just make sure that your punish and reward your students equally. While you might want to take double points for that boy who’s constantly naughty and give a second chance to your favorite, you shouldn’t, as trust me they’ll notice.
Those were my top tips for teaching English in China, centered around what to do in the classroom. I hope they help you on your teaching English journey.