Published on:
August 2, 2017

by: Tom

Guest blog: A typical day in the life of a public school TEFL teacher in China

This is a breakdown of a typical day in the life of a TEFL teacher. I have chosen Tuesday as it’s my busiest day so it gives you a better view of what it’s like day to day. Most days I would have fewer lessons than this! I’ll begin by mentioning that I live on the school campus and that I work in a primary school; each school has its own schedule, so my day is just an example. My school is also very lenient with office hours and unless there is a specific reason then I don’t need to be in my office. This means if I’m not teaching then I’m free to do as I wish, however it’s a good idea to check your contract or ask your future employer for office hour requirements.

8:20 am  Wake up


This is when I wake up, I don’t need an alarm as this is the time when the whole school come out to sing the national anthem. So that is an interesting way to start the day. My first lesson isn’t until 10:20 so I have plenty of time to get ready, prepare and print off anything I need during the day.

It’s pretty nice to not have to rush early in the morning too. Also, as I live on campus my commute is literally less than 5 minutes.


10:20 am Lessons begin


This is my first lesson. This class is usually pretty… boisterous, so I am glad I have them early in the morning whilst I still have the energy. The other benefit is that if a lesson plan works with them it will almost certainly work for my other classes.

I should add that the way my schedule works is that I have 12 regular lessons a week and 6 individual classes. This means I plan 2 lessons a week then repeat each lesson six times. In some ways this is good as it means lesson planning, but also can be repetitive by the end of the week.

After this class, there is a fifteen-minute break for the students to do their eye exercises.  They rub their eyes in a special way, I don’t really know why but it’s nice to have a break.

There is then one more lesson before lunch.


11:45 am Lunch


The school gives all the foreign teachers free top ups on the lunch card making lunch essentially free (the top ups can also be spent on breakfast and dinner).  The lunch break is about 1 hour and 25 minutes so if the canteen isn’t offering anything good then it’s possible to leave the school and go to a restaurant or something.

Lunch is typically a choice of basic Chinese dishes, fish, pork, vegetables and then you help yourself to rice. Some days when they are feeling particularly generous they might offer some pig’s ear or intestines or something… but luckily there are usually other options.

After lunch, the students have some free time to play and I can go to my office, practice some Chinese or do whatever I want. When the play time is over, it’s nap time. It’s not only nap time for students but teachers as well, so feel free to take a nap to re-energize yourself before the last lessons of the day.


1:10 pm – Lessons start again


There are two lessons in the afternoon each 45 minutes (the same as morning lessons). At 2:30 the students spend some time with their form tutors.


3:15 – English Club


Most students will go home at this point unless they have signed up for a specific club, which includes activities like Lego, dance, badminton, model airplanes amongst others. The foreign teachers each have their own English club which is essentially a freestyle class where the parents are just happy their kids are interacting with a foreigner. It is relaxed, and I usually play games in English with the students so it’s something fun for them.


4:05 pm – After School


At this point, I am free to do whatever I want. A few times a year the school may ask to help if they are doing rehearsals for an English performance or something similar, but that is up to me whether I want to.

I personally have a few private lessons after school for some students that I was teaching last year, but again this is something I choose to do and there is no obligation to do it if you don’t want to.

For dinner, I might meet with my foreign colleagues and we will go out to a restaurant together. Alternatively, one of the families of the student I teach privately will cook for me. I don’t cook for myself very often as the facilities in my apartment are not so great for it and restaurants are very cheap anyway.

After that, sometimes my colleagues and I go out to watch a movie, play basketball or just go for a bike ride on the free sharing bikes. It’s pretty good going really!


Chris Berry is from the UK, and is currently teaching in Hangzhou via Opportunity China. The above post was adapted from his blog, With a Backpack. 

Follow Chris: @with_a_backpack



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