Another day, another article talking about how foreign teachers in China get no respect, how downtrodden and badly treated we are, how poorly we are seen by Chinese schools and students. Surprisingly, most of these articles are written by companies whose sole purpose is recruiting foreign teachers for the Chinese market. Kinda shooting yourself in the foot there, aren’t you?
While there are many horror stories about foreign teachers being treated badly, being conned and scammed by agents and schools, there are also many more showing just the opposite.
If you’re a foreign teacher in China, or thinking of becoming one, here’s how to avoid being disrespected.
1. Do Your Research
Don’t just fly into China on your tourist visa, hook up with a random recruiter on WeChat and jump into the first job offer where you end up teaching the next day. Take a bit of time to check out schools and the job market here first, preferably before you arrive. Understand what you are coming into and what is going to be expected. Knowing that training centers work 11+ hours every Saturday and Sunday, that public schools have 40+ students in each class or that university classes could have 100 students is key and will save you from being stuck in a situation you aren’t ready for.
2. Look the Part
Whether you are a qualified teacher here for a change of scenery or a new college graduate on a working holiday, always arrive at class looking like a professional teacher. I’m not saying you need to wear a suit and tie, but dressing the part is crucial. What student is going to respect your authority in the classroom if you look like you’ve rolled straight out of bed wearing last night clothes? Dress appropriately, brush your hair (brush your teeth!) and smile – at least act happy to be there.
3. Be Prepared
Look at the textbook before you set foot in the classroom. Write a lesson plan. Have everything you need with you. Again, write a damn lesson plan! Outline points on a Post- It note. Know what you are going to teach and how you are going to teach it. Create a spectacular PPT explaining the intricacies of past continuous vs simple past but the classroom computer isn’t working? How can you continue the lesson without the PPT? Have a backup plan.
4. Set the Tone
If you want to be respected as a foreign teacher here in China, then step up and be respectful yourself. Complaining about your low expat salary to your Chinese co-worker who gets paid ¼ of the money for twice the work is not only disrespectful, but downright rude.
5. Educate Yourself
Take a class, watch how that teacher teaches, what can you learn from them? Get involved in a teacher’s forum or WeChat groups. These are great places to get (and share) new ideas, you’ll learn more than you ever expected. There are also more and more free online courses available.
Click the link to find great wechat groups!
A quick internet search of “online teaching course”
6. Don’t Lie
Chinese schools and parents love Native English speakers.There are pros and cons to having a native speaker. If you aren’t one, do not market yourself as one. It’s fraudulent. More and more parents can speak English and travel abroad and can tell by a person’s accent. However, many cannot. Doesn’t mean that it’s ok to lie to them.
Instead, emphasize why you are as good a choice. For example — you know the problems of learning English first hand, you can explain grammar rules better than a Native speaker – these are just 2 of the many reasons! If a school asks you to lie, consider carefully what problems it might cause when you get caught lying.
Russian? American? African? If you’re a good teacher, smart parents and good schools don’t care where you’re from.
There will always be schools who don’t treat their teachers well. You are the one who will determine whether it happens to you. It’s time to step up and show that you’re worth it. Worst case scenario? You’ll find a school who will respect you.
Guest Contributor: Michelle
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