Moving halfway across the world and changing career is a big step to take, but it is one of the best decisions I ever made.
I worked as a Kids and Teens teacher at EF and found it a very satisfying job. It is a 40 hour working week, with around 16-20 hours of teaching. The rest is made up of lesson preparation, meetings, workshops etc. There is plenty of time to relax and chat during the day. The children were aged from 3-18, in classes of no more than 16 (no more than 10 for under 7s).
Lessons follow the EF curriculum, so although you still need to plan them, you don’t have to do so from scratch. The textbooks are nicely designed with lots of activities, songs and games, and you have access to a range of materials including flashcards, puppets, interactive whiteboards, worksheets, computers, MP3s, CDs and DVDs.
Most classes take place at evenings and weekends, when the children have finished classes at their normal schools. On weekdays, most teachers would get in at around 1pm, change into uniform and begin planning classes for the week. There might be a meeting or a workshop of no longer than an hour, and some teachers would have their first class at 4:30. Most teachers would have a class at around 6pm, and everything would be finished by 8:30 (except Fridays, which could go on until 9:30). On weekends, classes ran from 9am-6pm, with an hour for lunch and a tea break in the afternoon.
Foreign teachers at EF are generally adventurous and fun-loving. There is a real team atmosphere in the staff rooms, and always something going on outside of work. The local teachers are kind, patient and professional. You work closely with them when planning some classes, and they are usually happy to help with banking, apartment finding, translating, shopping for bargains, ordering lunch etc.
As a company, EF is very stable and secure, and they abide by Chinese laws. This means you get a proper work permit and residence permit, you get paid on time and you pay tax. The remuneration package for teachers includes health insurance, a flight allowance and paid annual leave. There are chances for promotion/progression to jobs in other areas of the company and teachers are encouraged to take on projects to help them develop their skills.
The downsides are not unique to EF. This kind of work is not the highest paid out there, and the hours can seem long. However, I was prepared to compromise on those in return for the stability of a regular salary and a work permit.
Teaching children in China is hard work, and there are times when an hour of crying 4-year olds makes you wonder why you do it. However, the moment a few weeks later when those little monsters come running in smiling, yelling “HELLO TEACHER, HOW ARE YOU!!” makes it all worth it.