I’m an ESL teacher in China, but what do I actually do each week?
Lauren Wilcox has a degree in English from the University of Portsmouth, and is teaching at a language centre as part of the 2017 Teach China Graduate Program. Lauren’s been in China for nearly a year, and over the coming weeks she’ll be sharing some of her China experiences to date, both at school and on her travels.
Check out her personal blog here email@example.com, and follow her adventures on Instagram @theblondeoverseas
Before I set foot in China, I did what every twenty-something moving to a new country does, I got my parents to research it for me, and I don’t mean to brag, but they did a great job. I currently live in Fuzhou, China and work as an ESL teacher for an established training school. They hire native speaking, degree holding, TEFL qualified expats who, like me, love traveling and immersing themselves into a different culture. So, what does a typical week for an ESL teacher look like?
Wednesdays are the New Mondays – the Start of the Working Week
Wednesdays are the new Mondays for me and China makes this a lot easier with a wonderful app called Meituan, where you can order coffee and most cuisines straight to your front door. So, I usually start my mornings with a latte and a scone.
Although I start work at 4pm, I arrive earlier to prepare myself for the week. I teach 6 classes, twice a week, my first a kinder class 5:30-6:30pm. We learn everything from colours to holding simple conversations. There’s nothing more rewarding than a 4-year-old being able to answer a question in English on their way out of class, in return for a sticker.
Next is a junior class. Currently, we’re learning about what people look like and the present progressive tense, my favourite grammar point to teach!
Every Wednesday without fail, my flat-mate and I order pie and mash from Piefection after work, a new online pie shop that delivers the most amazing pies throughout China.
Thursday and Friday- Planning, Lessons and a Team Meeting
Thursdays are busier. I have two 90 minute lessons. I teach a phonics class first, where we learn simple words and sentences. Then, I teach a lower level junior class who are learning how to describe animals.
Fridays are more relaxed. I start at 2pm with a team meeting where we share activities, team plan and have ‘Chinese of the week’ where someone shares a Chinese phrase that they’ve learned. Recently, we’ve had “I already have a bag” very helpful for grocery shopping! And “see it off”, which may be less helpful but still entertaining. I only teach kinders, so it’s the perfect time to prepare for the weekend with my planning slot.
Saturday and Sunday –Busy Days at School
I’m not a morning person, so working in a training school is perfect for me… until the weekends. I start at 8:30am, so you can imagine the struggle – especially if its hair wash day too- ladies if you know, you know.
At 9:00am I have kinders, and a cup of coffee. Then, I have 45 minutes until my junior class and in the blink of an eye it’s lunch time. Most people venture out to eat, but I’m guilty of staying in the office and ordering in lunch with anyone else who stays in too. We get 75 minutes for lunch, which is the longest lunch break I’ve ever had in a job (I come from a history of retail). However, if you go into any of the classrooms at lunch, you’ll find a sleeping Chinese Teaching Assistant!
My class after lunch starts at 2pm and runs for 90 minutes. I’ve only just started teaching this class, I have 5 ‘seniors’ so we learn harder grammar points and whizz through vocab.
Then I have my lower junior class again and before I know it, it’s 5:30 and I’ve ushered my kids out of the door with a sticker and I’m ready to go home.
Usually on a Saturday I go grocery shopping or visit a Chinese friend for tea and a catch up. As an expat I find it so important to have a hobby or ‘outside of work friends.’
Sunday morning then appears, starting with kinders, followed by a planning slot, followed by lunch. This is where I get my head start on the next week.
My afternoon kicks off with my seniors and finishes with my phonics class, which is a lovely way to start my ‘weekend!’
A weekly Long Weekend
My weekends are from 5:30pm on a Sunday to 4pm on a Wednesday, which is fabulous if you’re a travelholic like myself! Transport is much cheaper and calmer during this time too!
If I don’t have any travel plans, I usually lay in and pretend I’ve had a stressful week to warrant my lay in and catch up on things like cleaning, laundry and binge-watching Netflix.
If I do anything on my ‘weekend’ it tends to be Tuesday after I’ve finished hibernating. Occasionally, I’ll venture to the gym or find a scenic area in Fuzhou to be a tourist in. Shopping malls and Starbucks are scenic areas too, right?
After being an ESL teacher in China and being able to frequently travel for almost a year now, I couldn’t see myself going back to the 9-5 anytime soon.