Maybe you have taught for several years, or are currently seeking a new experience to teach your native language, but either way you are excited and ready to go! Since you will be doing something that feels natural to you, why not take a leap of faith and travel half-way across the world? Take the opportunity to teach others as they teach you! If you are 100% up for teaching in China, read on. We offer great expertise and insight on what it takes to spread your knowledge.

Jobs go on a yearly contract, and can often be extended. Most times, by the end of your first signing, you will probably be asked to stay another year and continue with your kids. If you play your cards right, you can have a job for as long as you want in China. Each class is usually 60 ~ 100 minutes long for older students, and 45 minutes for younger ones (although, it varies greatly with the school). While not knowing Chinese is encouraged, since it makes the students work hard to understand what you are saying, some basic Mandarin can help you when dealing with employers, in a chinglish manner. Plus, you can learn a lot from the younger students, since their sentence constructions will be similar to yours.

Schools:

Be it Public, Private or Bilingual, school rules don’t vary much in China. The majority of them provide you with accommodation, which, in case you get a college position, can be inside college or close by. If they don’t provide housing, make sure they will comp part of the rent. Teaching hours usually doesn’t surpass the weekly 25, which includes office hours; each class time-span depends on level and age of your students (it can go up too 100 minutes in some colleges, but you can be lucky and have smaller teaching periods).

If your teaching institution has a cafeteria, chances are you will have access to it, just as the students do. This translates into either food for free or just cheap and nutritious food, even if you can’t exactly pinpoint the origin of the animal/vegetal you have on your plate (rule of thumb: if it moves, don’t eat it!). In all three “types” of schools you are expected/encouraged to speak English all the time, as to make it challenging for the students. It is frustrating in the beginning, especially with the younger ones. Try and keep morale up, either with games, role-play, or whatever comes to mind.

Freelance/Private lessons:

If China first appeared in your mind for studying this might just be the best option for you. No contract (expect verbal ones), nobody to breathe down your back and almost all the freedom you can have. Here is the run-through:

  • One: find a private school that is looking for part-time teachers; you will be paid per month/week so they have a certain security on their side and have multiple students, which 90% of times will be one-on-one classes (which are more profitable than having 15 kids babbling and screaming in the same class; less headaches, same money).
  • Two: put up some flyers on your own, and make them interesting, short, and pleasant! Focus on handing them out at target schools, colleges, and other meeting points for kids and young adults. It is up to you to publicly announce your price. Though, be warned that Chinese like to negotiate, so start at a bid higher that you usually would (the norm is RMB 150), so you can make a small “discount” (or not, maybe you get lucky!).
Volunteer:

Volunteering to teach English in China is a major accomplishment. Most children from off-road towns and villages often don’t have the funds to get an English education. Some only have a basic education, before helping their parents with tough agricultural work. You will be living with the people who will benefit as much as you will from this experience, even if you will have to communicate with rudimentary drawings and gestures. There are many agencies and projects that will assist you in making that first move, but first check their qualifications online.

When and Where to Look for Jobs:

The sooner the better is the rule here, though looking for work in China is a bit of a gamble itself. You should start looking for opportunities in June or July if your goal is to have a contract and you would like to start teaching in September. Although, you can sometimes find the same perks for a job beginning in March for only half a school-year. If you are already inside China and are only looking for a part time job, then the world is your oyster; since part-time teachers are not required to sign any type of real binding contract, you can accept/get students any time of year. However, both schools and parents prefer those who are willing to stay long-term.

You can go online to classified websites, perform a quick Google search, or even talk with friends. It seems that in China everyone, at some point is, has or knows someone who teaches or has taught English and they can be your gateway. If you want to remove your friends from the whole picture, publish your own classified ad and put up some flyers out and about near schools. If on the other hand, you would rather search for those who might be looking for you check out the classified section of The Beijinger or E China Cities for jobs throughout China. If you are in school, be a good student or make friends with your teacher, and you might just have a job for the coming year! You never know where your next job is going to come from in China!

Qualifications:

It is virtually impossible to get a contract if you are not an English national (bottom line, you have to be a national from the Language you are teaching, Spanish for Spain/Latin America nationals, Portuguese for Portuguese nationals, etc); Americans have first choice when the schools start choosing, not only because China is currently still under the spell of the “American Dream,” but since they tend to watch many movies and TV shows they are used to the American look and accent. British nationals tend to be the last to be chosen due to the differences of speaking and writing between the American and British English. Try to subdue your accent (if you have one) and match your speech to the so-called General American English and you will be fine.

A TESOL or TEFL does not hurt, neither does any kind of degree. For some colleges you might even require a Master’s Degree (in any subject) for you to be eligible to teach English (not that you need a Master’s to teach other people to speak your language, but still).

Salary & Cost of Living:

The usual salary with contract, both for public and private is between RMB10,000 ~ RMB 15,000, if you are freelancing you should charge at around RMB150 per hour (which sometimes can be just a 45 minute class); make it a bit more, or less, depending on your negotiating skills and experience. If you want to teach private lessons, cut out managers and other teaching assistants to make sure the parents/students know the conditions: how much per hour/per student, if it’s a whole hour, who provides the materials, whose house you will be teaching at, and pay for your commute. Also, make sure you set up a plan on how to receive your pay; you can either do it after each class or at the end of the week/month.

Finding a house can be done the same way as finding a job; online is the best option. Again, if you have a contract, there's a high chance you already have your own flat/house/room that is already paid for. Real estate in China, especially Beijing is getting very pricey and salaries are just not keeping up. If that wasn’t enough, you will be requested 3 months rent at a time, plus one deposit and if you find an agency (which is recommended), you even have to pay the agent. When it comes to choosing your neighborhood, avoid major clichés such as Wudaokou (student area), Guomao (business area) and Sanlitun street (the bar area) since the majority of foreigners tend to get houses in these places. Though, you can get an ok apartment in Wudaokou if you look in December (the middle of the school year), since they tend to be desperate to make a sale and don’t expect any more students for a couple of months.

You can try the housing section on The Beijinger for chinglish ads or, if you already have some serious Mandarin skills, try Beijing 58, which has much cheaper prices since it is not aimed for foreigners. When you do find a house, ask if you can have your Registration Form of Temporary Residence (or 临时住宿登记表) done at the Police Station, since it is mandatory for every foreigner to have one. If the agent/owner says no, shrug and leave, since there is no way around it (inside knowledge: the ones that say no don’t have the house legalized to rent it so they avoid the police station at all costs). Any other living costs are cheaper than you will be used to it; RMB 3000 will get you through the month, if you don’t go party-crazy.

Contributed by Joana Melo

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