Teaching in China is becoming more and more popular as the world learns more about China and Chinese culture. In addition, living expenses are quite low so many teachers in China are able to save a great deal of money to pay off their school loans or start saving for a house. Although teaching in China might be pretty interesting, new China teachers often make the same mistakes when they first arrive. Here are a few of the most common mistakes:
Moving to any foreign country without doing some research is probably not wise, but moving to China to teach English without talking to previous China teachers is really unwise. Sure, you can just wing it, but you will probably leave China quickly with a bad impression of your time there. Mentally preparing yourself will go a long way.
If you are teaching in a high school or college, then your students will have had English classes for several years. However, this doesn’t mean they will be able to understand what you’re saying. Their reading and writing is probably fine, but Chinese kids often don’t get much practice speaking or have a great deal of listening comprehension. Pick a simple topic and don’t introduce too many new words in one day if you want them to be able to remember them. That being said, some students may have better English than others so be sure to come up with ways where everyone is being challenged to their full potential.
If you were a previous teacher in a developed country, depending on which Chinese school you end up at, you make be shocked to see how things are done in China. The last minute changes, lack of communication, and a myriad of illogical decisions may leave you dumbfounded. However, read some Chinese history books about the last one hundred years, talk to Chinese people, and learn to understand more about the environment that Chinese people have grown up in and you may be more able to accept things as they are.
If you haven’t come to China mentally prepared and don’t adjust your expectations, you may feel the urge to just give up and go home. Perhaps, you feel your students aren’t progressing at all or the parents are blaming you for their child is failing. Perhaps, your living arrangement isn’t what you had expected or the school is asking you to work overtime some days. Whatever the reason is that’s making you unhappy, know that you have options. You can discuss your concerns with your school, change schools, or talk to other teachers about what they did when faced with your problems. China is full of opportunities so if you’re really miserable, don’t give up on China altogether. There are other opportunities just around the corner.
You may notice while teaching in China that birds of a feather flock together. It’s very easy for expats in China to stick together and not really integrate themselves into the local culture. This is a natural human tendency and can be useful in combating homesickness. However, if you have no Chinese friends, don’t hang out with the Chinese teachers or teachers from other countries, and don’t make some attempt to learn Chinese, how can you really understand or enjoy your new environment? How can you relate to your students? They will be able to tell if you’re enjoying your time in China or not. Make a little effort to learn the basics of Chinese culture and you’ll be a better teacher in China.