11 April 2016

Teaching English: A Whole New World...

There's always that saying, "what will you do once you graduate?". I haven't got a clue about the future but I'm working on it. I would maintain the belief that I would be abroad, preferably in the Far East teaching English. I suppose I could call it fate because I'm doing just that? Let's not tempt fate because things are going well! So, pay attention prospective TEFL teachers!

China had to be the answer! Towards the end of my degree course in Birmingham I had been given a knock back from an interview with a famous Middle Eastern airline for a job as Cabin Crew. I still had a plan to get myself abroad, to work and support myself whilst learning a skill to allow me to travel at the same time. I passed my TEFL certificate, opening the bewildering world of teaching English as a foreign language to me, so many offers were on the table but I needed my degree certificate before I could commit to any contracts. Deciding China to be the destination of my teaching journey I opted for Kindergarten jobs, I had small cousins at the time and had experience working in a Youth Theatre Company so I could pull a few theatrical tricks into a demo class for a Skype interview. On to the interviews, they became tedious and I got close to the point of changing my plan to something different. Life!

I had done my research carefully, I knew Hong Kong was a big no because of all the experience that was required and the multiple applications that were unfortunately ignored. I wasn't afraid to be upfront and candid during my TEFL Skype interviews or question why certain things were left out of the interviewers checklist. Knocking back several opportunities because of the wage being so low compared to what lucrative deals were out in the vast world of TEFL jobs, I had faith that something would come along that I could fully put my trust in. Dealing with Chinese TEFL agencies and schools over the internet was no mean feat for me, I sniffed out the shady organisations who were willing to send me to Hong Kong on a tourist visa to convert to a Z visa. One company crossed my path and took a chance on me, I arrived in Shanghai, China on the 18th of June 2015! Spending five days in Shanghai was insane, but I travelled to pursue my dream to be a teacher! Yes C!

My initial training wasn't bad, I was in China and doing something I had wanted to do after refusing so many jobs. Getting to my work location allowed reality to kick in, I was teaching English in a training centre five days per week without two consecutive days off per week at the weekend, that wasn't a problem. I thought I was doing a good job, but I was being watched constantly with a growing number of observations that resulted in me parting ways with the company on the 22nd of August 2015 if I remember correctly. I literally had my work permit stamped into my passport, I hadn't travelled all the way to Wuhan, China to return home less than three months from my departure! Consulting in a friend I had no choice but to sign up with a local teaching agency to find a job before I ran out of money, I had already signed up for one year's lease on my apartment. Everything was about to change for me W!

Rule number one, no question is a stupid one for the move to China can be a daunting one to say the very least. Having tight communication with your chosen company or agency is crucial, to be able to determine if everything was Kosher with my visa process with the training centre I had to be persistent. Back to that August afternoon, I was handed a contract for 6,000 CNY for the next teaching year to begin one week later from that day, I calculated my rent and living costs from the wage that was in front of me and proclaimed that it wasn't going to work out at that price. I negotiated a higher price for the first and second semester as I wanted my previous wage to be matched. Most teaching agencies in China take a monthly commission fee, so it's always good to get as much money as possible because they will always be taking some of the wage each month. My harsh approach to making decisions had paid off, I appreciated how lucky I had been to get a second chance!

Becoming a Kindergarten teacher in the end was an amazing feeling, to be at a school with such a great ethos felt like all the trouble and turbulence had been worth it. I settled into English teaching life once again, waking up with the birds each morning was something to get used to but I was working where I wanted to be. The children range from two and a half to almost six years old, the age gap is quite something but compared to the previous demographic of students I can deal with this change. Getting my visa and medical back on track after a bumpy start, I applied a direct approach as sometimes its the best way to get things done without being unprofessional. I don't want to say anything that is out of turn because I have been afforded a great opportunity with complete job security. Getting the weekends off and having access to more National Holidays has been such a blessing I can deal with that ish!

Up to April 2016 I have been teaching at the Kindergarten for eight months, having the chance to work with a team who care about every aspect of their jobs really makes things great! The methods of a Montessori education wasn't on my radar but I have learnt to get along with that aspect of my job, I am learning as each week passes and have faith that this contract will be seen out to its date of completion. I anticipate to be working up until August 2017 to complete a two year stint at my current school. The workings of teaching English in China is changing so with my possible two years of experience gained from my time working as a Kindergarten teacher will put me in good stead for the future. It's not a walk in the park, we've all got to feel like we're treading water in the ocean blue from time to time, that's the challenge that is life! Teaching English in China is not a joke or the way out of England, it's definitely a serious career! Know what you want and make it happen! OK?!

TEFL's No Joke! 

Joseph Harrison 

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