Many would say Shanghai is glamorous, ‘worldly’, and the icon of luxury for China. With its gleaming skyscrapers and tree-lined avenues, there is no doubt that Shanghai is beautiful and holds an air of distinction. However, there is more to this wondrous city than just its unique architecture and good-looking skyline. It is a city of possibility for people of all walks of life, from Chinese migrants to European or American expats, still growing each day to reach new heights. For a teacher in training, it is the destination - students are eager and willing to learn - and you will never find a dull moment in this city that never sleeps.
The standard 120-hour course is the main course type offered in Shanghai. While it is a world-class city, with a large English-speaking, expat population, there is not a huge variety in types of courses. Though, the 120-hour course is of course the most widely accepted certification among schools and employers in the ESL community, both in China and overseas. With 120 hours of training under your belt, and at least 6-8 hours of in-classroom practice, you will be prepared to tackle the challenges that arise in the ESL classroom.
In addition, some programs will offer the resources to help you get on your feet in China. Course instructors will cover cultural topics, such as customs in the workplace and survival language courses. All in all, the course is not only about learning to teach English, but to also better understand your students and their lifestyles both in and out of the classroom.
Planning Your Trip
When and Where to Look:
Courses are available year-round in China, as its ESL market is massive and sometimes unstable. Some traveling teachers, looking for employment on a whim, will be able to arrive in China and find multiple start dates for TEFL courses. However, if you do plan to find work through a recruiter, it is always best to plan ahead and take your TEFL course before the start of the semesters. The Chinese semesters begin in late February/early March and early September. Note that Chinese New Year typically falls around late January or early February, and schools/offices have about 4 weeks off.
In order to enroll in a TEFL course (and apply for teaching jobs in China), you must be a native English speaker. Other than being a native speaker, the requirements greatly vary, depending on where you plan to teach. Some schools or employers will ask that you hold a college degree and some teaching experience, but this is more common at universities and international or private schools.
After completing your TEFL course, you will need to decide on how to implement your certificate. In Shanghai, ESL teachers most commonly find work at a private language academy or public school. Language schools are always hiring, often looking for foreign teachers to teach about 20 hours per week. This is also a popular choice among English teachers, as the pay is a considerable amount and these schools sometimes offer benefits and housing.
If you plan to teach at a public school, requirements will be a bit stricter. Government-run, public schools require that their ESL teachers have an advanced degree and some years of experience. As opposed to the language schools, public schools are more stable in terms of schedules and pay. Teachers will often sign onto an initial year-long contract, which allows for legal stability, unlike one at a private school. While pay may be less, you will be secured in your job for the length of your contract.
Cost of Living:
While the cost of living in Shanghai will be less than in a major U.S. or European city, it is among the highest in China. For a teacher, living in the city center, your monthly costs will average around 6,000 RMB (~$1,000 USD). However, rent prices are growing in the popular expat neighborhoods, such as Jing’an District and the French Concession, so living outside the city center will lower your costs. However, you can still find affordable food in Shanghai, in almost every neighborhood. Opt for a small family-run restaurant rather than splurging in high-end XinTianDi for example. Lastly, Shanghai has an excellent subway system, with a single journey costing about 2 RMB. Utilize the metro system instead of spending funds on taxi rides around town (which can get very pricey!).