This post will delve into the lessons learned from teaching abroad in China. Since we’ll be discussing the nature of life in mid to long-term working abroad, it’s also perfect for all readers who plan on moving to another country to work in a teaching position. From work to relationships, we’ll touch a little on all of it. However, if you’re here for a guidebook on how to find teaching jobs in China, you’re best to read here.
There are so many types of Schools in China
Before we begin let’s give you a brief run-down of the different types of language schools to teach in China. You can understand how your choice of school can affect your teaching job and life very heavily once in China.
Which teaching jobs are available in China?
There are three main places you’ll find teaching jobs once you arrive in China. Training centers, Bilingual schools, and international schools. You can apply to work on these online with a degree, a TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) certification, PGCE (postgraduate certificate of education), or another teaching qualification.
What’s the difference between the schools in China?
A training center is a privately owned teaching institution that parents pay for outside of school to help their children learn with developed lesson plans and programs. By contrast, a bilingual school is a traditional 8:30-4:00 school with an international language department. Finally, an international school Has a significant number of international students. Furthermore, an international school’s curriculum must differ from the host countries to be considered international.
How much do teachers get paid in China?
The pay scale depends on the school’s finances, but it can be influenced by macro-demands; for example, after COVID-19 average competitive salary has increased by about $300 a month as many teachers left China during the first wave, more on exact amounts here. There is a formula for finding the top teaching opportunities, for instance, a bilingual school has a significant pay rise in comparison to the training center.
If you’re looking to max out pay even more you could get a PGCE instead of your standard TEFL certification, you could land a teaching position at an international school with this. International schools are known to be the highest paid. As well as this, it’s worth mentioning that, unlike Western countries, some schools in Asia allow negotiation of salaries. Therefore, whichever work environment you go to negotiate!
What hours will I have to work as a teacher in China?
Bilingual schools: 8:30-4:30 with around 3 or 4 35-minute lessons per day.
International schools: 8:30-4:30 with around 3 or 4 35-minute lessons per day (you’ll have more out-of-classroom work to do on these days).
A key lesson learned is that training schools will usually ask you to work on the weekends, and late at night. If this is not something you want, you should apply for the other school options.
There are times of the year which are better to travel in China
Chinese New Year is celebrated from late January to mid-February, every city will flood with tourists, and it will become impossible to go to any tourist spots without it being a huge obstacle. However, teachers and students get about 3 or 4 weeks off usually for Chinese New Year whilst office workers get just 1 week off. Therefore, the best time of the year to travel locally or abroad as a teacher is around the 20th of January, because you’ll be off work, but the majority of the public has yet to start for another 2 weeks.
The other public holidays are shared and both teachers and other job roles receive the same number of days off (excluding the summer break but summer is usually busy as everyone is taking off their paid leave). If you plan to touch on a few different cities, we do recommend planning your trip well. China is a huge country, with a mixture of tier 1, 2, and 3 cities (the higher the tier the better the development). You should draw up where you are going on a map virtually before you go on any travels and share that with your loved ones, you can do that for free with this trip planner here.
Making friends whilst you travel doesn’t need to be hard.
When you first come to China to work, you’ll probably have a job placement setting with dozens of other people teaching overseas just like you. Most people will just stay their contract term length (1 year). After 1 year you can expect to see most of your new friends move on. In the second year, you start to find people with the plan of staying put for longer. If you’d like to minimize your chances of those hard goodbyes, look to make friends with people who are taking their language learning seriously.
“All my friends from the initial onboarding at school 4 years that are still here were all the same people who took learning the local language seriously” – Jon Page – Teacher at an international school in China.
Of course, drinking and nights out continue to be the top way to blow up your local friend list. However, usually, friends like this endorse those unhealthy habits and the fulfillment you get from those relationships isn’t as high as finding friends through hobbies.
There is a WeChat group for everything in China, WeChat is the WhatsApp of China. It has groups of up to 500 people and after the limit is reached the host will just open “same_club#2”, so the audiences are huge. Before you travel, download WeChat, and use the search function to type in your favorite hobby and your desired destination. You’ll find an article in the “articles” section of the search, click it, and you’ll almost always find a QR code to scan and join a group. From there introduce yourself. Just like that, you’re on your way to making some really good friends.
If you’d like to make local friends, you’ve got to do what the locals love. In the south of China, it’s surfing in Sanya and beach frisbee, on the mainland it’s badminton and basketball.