5 Personality Traits You Should Lose if You Want to Teach in China

5 Personality Traits You Should Lose if You Want to Teach in China
Jul 04, 2019 By Lewis Schwinn , eChinacities.com

Which characteristics do all good teachers have? Patience, creativity, and diligence are a few that come to mind, but much less obvious are the personality traits teachers could do without. Today, I’m going to look at five common characteristics you should try to lose, especially if you want to teach in China.

1.  The need to be right all the time

Anyone who’s taught longer than five minutes in an education for-profit institution probably knows you’re always one step away from devolving into utter anarchy. China’s for-profit educational facilities are no exception and, as a result, teachers are often instructed to do things that make little to no sense. Perhaps there’s some sort of esoteric managerial reasoning behind it. More than likely, there’s not.

Some teachers choose to fight against the nonsense, openly defying management by listing the reasons why they’re right and the boss is utterly wrong. Although probably satisfying, this method rarely has a positive affect. Hierarchy is very important in the Chinese workplace and society as a whole, and pushing the boundaries won’t win you any friends if you want to teach in China.

But more often than not, making a stand is also unnecessary. You’ll find many of your co-workers simply nod, smile and then go on to ignore the new initiate. The idea will most likely die out quickly because no-one made any changes and no-one ever checked up. Sometimes in China, it’s not about being right, but about being patient.

2.  Resistant to change

Nothing is more indicative of a terrible teacher than an inability to draft a lesson plan. However, in the chaotic environment known to many who teach in China, minute-by-minute planning can sometimes be to your detriment.

Classes are cancelled, moved, and changed while things in the classroom don’t work, break, and are never replaced. Students of varying levels are also added into the class without warning, meaning your lesson objectives can change quickly and dramatically.

Now this doesn’t mean you should walk into your role with absolutely no lesson plans or long-term class goals, but it does mean that planning your class down to the minute can be a waste of time and, worse, leave you feeling frustrated and off your game when things go off the rails.

The best course of action is a happy medium: know what you’re teaching in class, have multiple exercises ready, and, above all, be prepared to think on your feet. You can’t be afraid to go off plan if the class calls for it.

3.  Intense propriety

Many of the foreigners who teach in China are wonderful free-spirited people, traveling the world to broaden their horizons. Others are miserable haters of humanity who have me wondering why they ever bothered leaving their house, let alone their country.

The haters tend to see every small lapse in ‘manners’ as a personal insult, regardless of whether it was intentional, a cultural difference, or simply due to ignorance. This brings us to the third quality you can do without if you want to teach in China: being a stickler for what you think of as manners.

Different countries have different definitions of polite culture, so it goes without saying that they won’t always match up to your standards and you won’t always match up to theirs. When teaching in China, therefore, as long as you clearly explain what’s expected of your students and enforce those rules, you should try to let the other stuff go. Otherwise you’ll drive yourself mad and damage your rapport with your students.

4.  Shyness

Some people simply hate being the center of attention or being stared at by strangers. If you were nodding as you read that sentence, teaching in China (and China in general) may not be right for you. Many foreign teachers in China are for a large part hired for marketing purposes and to justify insanely high tuition fees. Consequently, some schools expect expat teachers to take part in marketing activities on a regular basis.

In addition to this professional attention, you’ll also most likely be watched, discussed, and approached by people everywhere you go in China for the simple fact that you’re a foreigner. The only way to get through it is to accept it’s going to happen, be good-natured about it, and abandon any latent feelings of shyness.

5. Hair-trigger temper

Effective teaching in general requires an almost god-like level of patience and an ability to control yourself in the face of provocation. Add in the stresses of not being fluent in the local language and dealing with an unfamiliar culture and you have a situation that can cause some people to go off the deep end.

People who get angry easily should therefore think twice before they teach in China. However, even if you do have a bit of a short fuse, by reigning in the characteristics discussed above, you should find it easier to keep your cool.

It also helps to remember that, generally speaking, no matter how taxing your life as a teacher, your students’ lives are probably exponentially more stressful thanks to a grueling schedule both at school and at home in an effort to pass the dreaded gaokao exams. Having some empathy in this regard should go a long way towards reducing your personal frustrations and perhaps allow you to cut your learners some much needed slack.

What other characteristics do you think potential teachers should lose before coming to China? Drop them in the comments box below.

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Keywords: teach in China


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Totally disagree......

Mar 23, 2020 15:00 Report Abuse



I disagree totally with the main points of this article. Shooting off a salvo of criticism of the organization (but of course not the boss) is one of the best ways to hit the ground running. Starting rumors (whether true or not) is a perfect way to muzzle a troublesome/meddlesome local coworker. Trying to directly compare western culture with Chinese culture may be offensive, thus a deep knowledge of Chinese culture and history will allow you impress your colleagues while at the same time implicitly honoring China. It is all a balance of feigning ignorance at opportune times, stoking deeply held passions and showing the true emotions within one's heart. Personal humility goes a long way, as does a good reputation. Don't be afraid to stand up for what you really believe in, but most importantly, be genuine and loving with your students. The parents are paying big bucks for you to educate their children and give them a well-rounded education. They know all the flaws of China and have many misgivings about the people in charge. So, give every effort to positively influence your students, always smiling even as you inevitably get fired... take your winnings and losses equally as blessings, never forgetting who you really work for - your students!

Aug 15, 2019 21:53 Report Abuse



good tips

Aug 07, 2019 19:32 Report Abuse



All this doesn't matter if you are a white skinned, a good looking person from an English native speaking country with a university education. And sometimes education and native country is optional as long as you look good. You can be the biggest asshole in the world and people will be knocking down their door to hire them. Not in all cases...but I would say in most. The article is great though and very truthful. Good job. Teaching English is like a modeling job, no one cares what their personality is or how kind or intelligent they are...all that matter is how good they look and if the person is not completely despised by the students, although looks plays a part in that too...for example,guys will sometime tolerate a hot chick that is a complete bitch and make excuses for their actions, but won't if that girl is physically ugly. Same goes for good looking teachers....again, not in all cases...but enough that probably everyone foreigner in China knows these type of people or have met some.

Jul 04, 2019 14:16 Report Abuse