I can honestly say after six months of my 2013 contract that the rewards far outnumber the many challenges of being an English teacher in China. As a British lawyer, when I arrived in springtime China in 2011, my plan was to learn as much as possible about international law as it related to business in China, contribute whatever I could in the process, pad my CV and return to London for a job with a big pay cheque. Fate had other plans.
Something wonderfully mysterious happened along the way. I met the warmest people in one of the world's best kept secrets - Qingdao. More than 20 years ago, sitting beside a businessman on a flight to the Netherlands I looked out the window and remarked on the beauty of God. Sadly, he saw neither beauty nor God. For sure, no one can deny the beauty of Qingdao though. Nothing could have prepared me for this gorgeous city, with miles of beaches and yearlong sunshine. I continue to enjoy Qingdao’s beauty and in so doing, see God in Qingdao every day.
The law firm was not my first choice but little did I know how strategic the placement would become. I met there the most helpful lawyers, who endured my feeble attempts at mandarin, chiming in to assist at every turn. That lawyers would be so kind was quite baffling. Yet, with such sweetness and light one would be foolish to think that it was all fun in the sun.
The managing partner, an astute businessman quickly took note of my people skills and within a few days introduced me to meetings held at international hotels with many foreigners, all of whom were seeking to benefit from China’s economic boom. Armed with the firm’s business card, I quickly learned the art of offering and receiving this precious item with due care and attention and soon became a networking animal!
It became evident that law and business were inextricably linked in a way that had not been the case in London to date or not as I had experienced it anyway. Attending conferences and bars late at night to do business was another novelty, every moment of which I relished and it showed. I also taught weekly Legal English classes to the firm’s lawyers. Honestly, I savoured every minute of it.
The law and business journey continued for three months and then……..someone recommended me to a desperate director of an English school. The school needed someone urgently because two of its teachers had broken their legs on the same night! A wiry extrovert with a tuft of hair, when I met the British director fifteen minutes after being introduced on skype, he said ‘don’t ask’ and confirmed that both teachers were laid up in hospital - pins and all. Time spent at this school reignited my passion for teaching and two years later I’m back in Qingdao China as head of the young learners department.
It’s a far cry from commercial law practice in London but I find immense fulfilment in designing lesson plans and teaching a variety of students including 3 year old nose-picking angels, testy teenagers and hungry readers. No doubt, the challenges are plenty even for someone who has lived in four countries. Still, they are beyond comparison to the bond of friendships and other strong relationships I have developed in the past two years, which so fill my heart.
Tags:Teaching & Learning Business & Jobs Expat Tales
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Being a people person is bound to make a difference. Most of us experience the way training schools presents us as a playful attraction as unprofessional and demeaning. I've gotten used to it over time, but I'm sure that if I actually *liked* the stange form of attention from the start, it would have been a nicer experience. You are a unique individual, and I mean that positively. The rest of us have just got to learn to like it... ;-)
Nov 23, 2013 10:26 Report Abuse