Travelling across the world to teach in China can be one of the most exciting yet daunting times of your life. It’s an incredible opportunity to embrace the world, experience a new culture, develop independence and all whilst undertaking the noble cause of teaching. But all this poses challenges; for all this change, there’s the uncertainty of will I be a good teacher? Am I ready?
In all the build-up to travelling to China, it can sometimes feel like there’s so much to organise and consider. However, with planning, support and guidance, taking the leap and following through with your dream of teaching in China can be the best decision you ever make.
Plan for your perfect first lesson
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the travelling aspect of teaching abroad and forget all the most important teaching basics. Planning lessons is one of the most vital so you’ll need to have lesson ideas ready and waiting – particularly for that crucial lesson 1.
The first lesson is always the hardest (followed closely by the last when you have to say goodbye to all the wonderful students you will have met along your journey!) and you’ll find that you grow hugely in confidence the more you’re in the classroom. Consider how you will introduce yourself and how the students should introduce themselves. They’ll be interested in where you come from so discuss it; tell them about your hometown, talk about where you studied or worked, discuss leisure activities and show them pictures of your pets! The students will be curious so break down any barriers and let them see that you and them are not so different.
Importantly though, let the students introduce themselves. Ask them to write about the same things that you just talked about – their home, their free time, their friends and family – then tie it in to their your first lesson. Now, you’ve quickly become familiar with each other and gently eased your class into the scheme of work. Perfect!
Learn basic Chinese Customs
If this is your first time visiting China, you’ll probably be unfamiliar with some of the country’s more unique social customs. So, if you want to avoid embarrassing yourself or offending others, it’s probably a smart idea to get informed before you make any serious faux pas.
As for basic ones, make sure to take your shoes off when entering someone’s home and generally avoid voicing opinions that are particularly critical of China.
When it comes to teaching, in the classroom there’s generally an expectation that teachers should be have a strong sense of authority and be able to command potentially large classes. Have empathy and help the students who need it by all means, but understand that there is a level of respect that the lǎoshī should generally demand of his or her students. There can be high expectations placed on the effort and performance of children in Chinese classrooms so prepare for a focused classroom environment where students are prepared to work hard. In turn, they expect a teacher who can successfully facilitate.
Arrange your VPN
As you’ll have heard, China doesn’t allow access to many of the biggest Western social media or messaging services. That means you can expect Facebook, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Netflix, YouTube and a handful of other popular apps and websites to be completely inaccessible from the moment you touch down in the country. Whilst this might sound like a serious annoyance when you want to teach your students using the perfect YouTube clip or message your friends and loved ones at home about your experiences, there are ways around it.
The first and most popular one is to opt for a VPN. By routing your access through a different country, this will allow you to view all the same content and apps that you would at home whilst you’re in China. VPN services are typically available for a monthly subscription and we would suggest avoiding the free options – they normally don’t work well and can harm your device or even steal data.
If for whatever reason you can’t or don’t want a VPN, it’s easy to switch to China’s popular alternaternatives. WeChat (or Wēixìn as it’s called in China) can be easily downloaded and is China’s go-to social media platform. Ask your friends and family at home to download it and add you before you leave then you can communicate as much as you like much the same way you would with Messenger or Whatsapp.
But most importantly, embrace the experience
Teaching abroad is the opportunity of a lifetime and there are few more incredible countries to do it in than China!
China can feel like an intimidating place to work at first, being a country that for so long was an ‘unknown entity’ to many in the West with a different culture, social and political structure, it’s easy to become anxious when faced with this sort of change. Remember through positively representing your country and culture as well as immersing and educating yourself, you are not just benefitting your own life experience, but playing an important role in enhancing understanding and development of relations with the world’s most important emerging power.
A little bit about Twinkl
Twinkl.co.uk is a website packed with over 625,000 teaching resources and expert articles to help those who teach. It creates educational resources that can be used at each step of a child’s learning journey. When it comes to teaching abroad in China, it has a wide selection of English-Mandarin resources aimed at assisting early years Chinese learners.