Alumni Spotlight: Glenda Li

Why did you decide to teach abroad with EF Education First in China?

Glenda: I didn’t actually decide to work with EF in the beginning. I was in China already looking for an English teaching job, but being a Chinese-Canadian it was relatively difficult for me to find one. There is a pretty strong impression in Asia that English had to be taught by a foreigner who looked like a foreigner or it wasn’t real English. EF was one of the only big international companies that responded to my application and asked for an interview.

At the same time though I had an offer from another smaller children’s school that promised travels between my home city, Hong Kong, and Shanghai (where I was living) and it was quite an attractive offer (most of my extended family lived in Hong Kong). However, after observing the teaching environment and styles of both schools I decided EF was more professional and seemed to be able to provide me with more opportunities to advance within the company as well as more room to grow as an educator. So I accepted a position with EF and started a really great job.

Sunset in Shanghai, China

Describe your day to day activities as a teacher.

Glenda: The first thing I did when I went to work was change into business casual shirts and pants. It is really hot in China during the summers and I didn’t want to wear a sweaty shirt all day in the office. I then start to prepare for the lessons of the day by checking the levels of the students and photocopying handouts and summary sheets. I read through the lesson PowerPoint quickly to refresh my memory while also making my own notes of what could work better in the lesson and potential problems the students might encounter for this lesson. I then go into the classroom and teach. After the 50-minute lesson with the students, I would sometimes stay and talk with them about how to improve their speaking or certain troubles they keep having with the language. Or I would re-enter my office and start writing feedback for them.

At the beginning of the week I would also start planning for my own lessons such as Writing and Grammar, researching different books and talking to other teachers about activities that could be useful in the lesson. There is nothing that can compare to the satisfaction of finding out you planned a good and successful lesson for the students. Once a week we would have a meeting with all the teachers and the DOS, talking about certain problems or events happening around the centre or with the teachers. The DOS we had was amazing, he would answer questions to his best ability and actively resolved problems that we had.

Street carts and food in Shanghai, China

Any advice for new teachers coming to China through EF Education First?

Glenda: I don’t have advice per se JUST for coming to China through EF, everything ran quite smoothly and within my own expectations but I do have general advice for China. I would definitely say be prepared to eat pork in every dish. In my experience with fellow teachers abroad, being a vegetarian is truly a difficult task in China, even a dish with only veggies might appear with pieces of pork in it. Also, the culture is completely different in China. You need to be a little more relaxed in terms of manners and courtesy; it is very common for a lot of westerners to be angry when people run into you like you don’t exist (cars do the same thing, so keep an eye open when you’re crossing the street, even if the light is green!). You never hear people say sorry and many do not understand the concept of personal space (also, the little old ladies run really fast when a train arrives at the subway station, so keep out of their way!!!).

Basically, be positive and don’t rage. There is no point in getting angry because no one will understand what you’re saying and frankly, they don’t care. Pick pocketing is also really common in China, especially the bigger cities, so guard your stuff at all times.

How did this experience impact your academic development?

Glenda: I have made so many friends in China, all of them whom I miss dearly at the moment. I realized from my co-worker and friends that being stuck in the office is sometimes enjoyable with the right people. I wasn't looking to make friends in the beginning, but I did, and they are invaluable to me.

From this work experience I also learned that I am capable of doing much more than just following plans and carrying out instructions. I can make lesson plans and come up with solutions for better teaching; I can coordinate and contribute to fellow teachers’ lessons; I am able to become a valuable asset to my team. This truly inspired me. I always had doubts about whether I would be a good teacher or not because I never felt like I was a very patient person. But students come and tell me that I AM a very patient person and that I provide a good and comfortable environment for them to speak and learn. They tell me that sometimes they doubt how well they can acquire the English language, but because I am ethnically Chinese and I am a native English speaker, they feel like they will be able to do it too.

This experience with EF has given me a great confidence boost and opened my eyes to so much more possibility in the future in terms of working in education.