Teaching in China

Teaching in China

Then the army Major made a toast and this time my glass was full to the brim. So I drained it. The army officers were all clapping me on the back and cheering. I sat down at the table and one of the other teachers, Michael asked me if I felt dizzy. So I told him the glass had been filled with Sprite, thanks to an understanding waitress. The other teachers at my table thought it was really funny. The army officers kept looking at me to see if I would fall off my chair or something.

It isn’t all roses. I spent two days trying to get my DVD player and computer configured so that I can use them. The school’s teckkie had not found an English version of XP, so he reloaded everything with the Chinese version. Now I have MS Office, Messenger, iTunes and Photoshop, but I still can’t read my hard disk and can’t connect to the printer. Every time I get a warning, or an error, it is in Chinese. I will just have to learn to recognise the characters and icons once I find out what they say.

With the DVD player, I keep getting Chinese dialogue, even though the DVDs say English on the cover. About 2 in 5 actually have English dialogue. However I can get English subtitles on most of the others. The upside is that DVDs only cost 6RMB, so it isn’t a big deal when they don’t work properly.

I do miss having people around that I can converse with in English. My Chinese is just a few words and it would be nice to speak at normal speed using the normal idioms. Drop me a line at jondaycan at gmail anytime.

Added on: 8/24/2006

Teaching English is a new career for me. I was a Project Manager in Information Technology before being retired because I had reached the age of sixty five. I searched for eighteen months for a technology position, but it became clear that, without a degree, I had no chance to continue doing what I am most qualified for.

So, at the suggestion of a friend, I enrolled in a TESL certificate course with Oxford Seminars. The course was excellent. We had a really good instructor and the class was filled with motivated students that clearly wanted to travel and to teach. I was by far the oldest student and the only one that had children.
Armed with my TESL Certificate, I started looking for a job. There is a lot of useful information provided by Oxford Seminars and the following is not intended to replace any of it. This is just additional stuff that I came across in the process of finding work.

You are already at a very useful website, and there are others. Daves ESL Cafe is one of the best, so is the ESL Teachers Board. I would recommend that anyone looking for a job teaching abroad, to register at these sites and post your resume here as well. You can get a free template from here.

I have chosen China as the place where I will begin teaching. I was very tempted to look for a position in Europe because I have an EU passport. However, without a university degree, the opportunities are limited. Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Thailand in Asia also require a degree. You can get around this requirement by traveling to the chosen country and looking for a job while you are there. You will be available for face to face interviews. But that was a financial risk that I wasn’t prepared to take.

I sent off my resume, with a cover letter. I also included a copy of my school’s evaluation and a really good letter of reference that had been written by a good friend of mine. I figured that they couldn’t hurt since they both extolled my virtues. I received literally dozens of replies, including many invitations responding to the resume that I had posted at just two sites.

My choice of school resulted from careful consideration of the location and the climate as well as the conditions in the contract. I finally selected a school in the province of Henan and close to the Yellow River.

The main things that I looked for in a school were as follows:

A class size of less than 40

A good location

A reasonable workload. 20 classes per week is normal.

Reasonable compensation. 4000RMB is average, but you should expect more because of a higher cost of living close to the coastline and major cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Accommodation should be provided, including utilities. Be careful of subsidized accommodation. It means that part of your salary will go to accommodation.

Airfare both ways should be stated in the contract. It is normal for you to book the flight and then claim the fare as an expense when you get to China.

An annual allowance for travel within China is a common part of a contract. You can expect around 2,200RMB.

Although the usual contract is for one year, you will only be teaching for 10 months because of summer holidays. You can expect to be paid for 10 months.
Although I can t confirm this yet, it is my understanding that you will have lots of opportunities to provide private tuition. The compensation starts at around 70RMB per hour. Ensure that your contract does not forbid this practice and, to be fair, the school should come first.

Don t expect things to happen too quickly. The school year in China begins in September and most contracts will run from September to June.

Make sure that your passport is up to date and will not expire while you are abroad.

I thought it would be a good idea to get an International Driving Permit, so I picked one up at the nearest CAA. The reason for the permit is because your drivers license is printed in English and French, but not Arabic, Chinese, Spanish etc. and rental agents are not always fluent in English or French. The International permit is printed in most languages.

Get at least 6 passport size photos of yourself. They are needed for work permits, visas etc.

The school will ask for an image of the page of your passport with your photo on it. I suggest that for your own security, you erase or cover the passport number. The school will need the passport number later, when a contract is signed, so that they can apply for a work permit.

Once you have a contract, the school will probably want you to complete a medical examination. They sent me medical forms that they wanted me to have completed by my doctor. You will also need to have your immunizations and inoculations brought up to date. Polio, diphtheria, whooping cough, typhoid, hepatitis A and B.

Once the school gets medical clearance, they should apply for a work permit for you. When you get the work permit, you have to take it, or send it, to the nearest Chinese Consulate or Embassy. There are Canadian Consulates in Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary. I was advised by the Embassy that they have all visa applications processed by Golden Mile 2000 Travel Consultants in Ottawa 613 224 6863.

They will need your work permit, your passport and a passport size photograph, and they charge you for the visa and their services.
If you are taking a laptop computer with you, then great. If you don t have a laptop, but you depend on technology as much as I do, then I would recommend that you acquire an external hard drive. You can pick on up for less than 100 dollars with at least 80GB of storage. You can copy all of the software CDs and music CDs that you will want onto the hard drive and then load them to the computer you will be using in the new country. You can also pack into a very small space all the files, letters, music, photos and other data that you may want at your new place. I have more than 4,000 tunes loaded into iTunes.

When you pack, I would advise that you attach more importance to books than to clothes. They are heavy, so make sure you know your airlines weight limit for accompanying baggage. One tip is to stuff a few of them into the pockets of the coat you will carry on the plane. Another is to get books on CDs and transfer them to your hard drive.

There are a few items that you may find difficult to obtain when you get to China, so either get them on advance or be prepared to do without. These may include Imodium, deodorants, your favourite toothpaste, cosmetics and soap, razor blades for your favourite razor, Ibuprofen, Tylenol or Aspirin, vitamins or supplements, any other medications you normally use.

You will be teaching English. I found a set of CDs in Chapters called Instant Immersion in English Grammar and Pronunciation, which is designed for non native speakers of English. I also found Instant Immersion in Chinese Mandarin. They are loaded onto my hard drive. I m taking along a Chinese to English dictionary as well as an English Dictionary of Idioms. And of course, The Oxford Seminar course material.

There is also a wealth of teaching material and ideas at English Zone.com. You need a membership at this site, but it isn t too expensive and it does look worthwhile.

Speaking for myself, I would like to keep in touch with as many of my classmates as I can. I m very interested in knowing what comes after Oxford Seminars and I m sure that many of you will have some great adventures. Until I leave, which will be on 14 August, I will be happy to pass on any of my experiences. Just give me a call or a note.

You can catch me in Canada at 514 589 7064. Right now, I m spending most of my time in Montreal’s West Island.
Or whenever at jondaycan at gmail.com.

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