5 Things to Know Before Teaching English in China

5 Things to Know Before Teaching English in China
Feb 13, 2018 By Andrea Hunt , eChinacities.com

There are many stories about scam artists and unlawful schools that lure foreigners into teaching English in China with impressive sounding salaries and benefits that never come to fruition. Many foreigners realize only after paying exorbitant fees for travel and accommodation that the company that sounded so helpful on the phone is nothing more than some dude in a bathrobe in Shanghai.

Some new English teachers in China find themselves contracted to a school that makes them work 40 hours a week on an 10-hour salary. Unfortunately, when you’re at the other end of the earth and have never been to China, it can be tricky to work out what’s legit and what’s not. Here are some ways to avoid common scams and the mistakes some foreigners make when looking for teaching jobs in China.

1) Do not pay to work! Never, ever pay a company or recruiter to find you a teaching job in China. And never work for free! Some companies offer “volunteer” teaching experiences where crazy people pay up to USD 1,000 to work for six months in exchange for room and board. Other times, recruiters might try to charge teachers up to USD 500 as a “job placement fee”. You are employable enough without having to pay. Don’t fall into this trap!

2) The most common mistake people make when looking for teaching jobs in China is simply failing to do their homework. Some people sign year-long contracts in far-flung places they can’t even find on a map. Make sure you do due diligence on any school that offers you a role, including reading reviews from other teachers online. There are many websites that have blacklists of recruiters and schools, so check them out to make sure the school you’re signing up for isn’t on the list.

3) Pay attention to what you are signing! Many hopefuls looking for English teaching jobs in China simply sign away a year of their life for the first job that comes their way - often a seriously underpaid job that exploits them. The teaching week in China is around 20-25 hours. This should include office hours as well, so if your school requires an extra quota of office hours it should be in your contract. If it’s not in the contact, it isn’t required. Always ask to have your contract translated into English and always read the small print before you sign. 

4) Don’t assume the school will have all the equipment you need. Bring some of your own materials. Unless you have an actual degree in English, much of what you’ll be teaching in a Chinese school is what they call “Oral English.” This means you’ll likely have to come up with your own materials for every hour of class. Think ahead. It’s best to bring a few English grammar books and some ideas for conversation topics and exercises. Some people bring games or English language children’s books as well. There are also many websites with ideas for games and discussions for English teachers.

5) As in any situation, it pays to have a backup plan. Know enough about where you’re going so that IF something happens, i.e., there’s no-one at the airport to pick you up, you can find your way to a hotel in town. That’s not to say that the English teaching scene in China is full of scam artists and evil school masters, but being prepared before you go will ensure you have the most rewarding experience.

Finally, remember that you’re a valuable commodity China so you don’t need to sell yourself short. The English teaching sector is still strong and on the rise, and you can make a difference. As Henry Brooks Adams once said: A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops. 

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