FAQs ABOUT TEACHING ENGLISH IN CHINA WITH
these reflect only the personal opinions of Sera and not of Aston
You can read these letters:
Future English School & Doses of English
to learn more about teaching here
HOW DO I APPLY?
Go to the school website at
http://www.astonrecruiting.com/ and read all about the school. There
are details about applying and an explanation of the contracts.
WHEN SHOULD I APPLY?
You should start applying now. The application process is not very
complex, but it does take a little bit of time to arrange the visa. It
can't hurt to start early.
WHEN DO THE TERMS START?
One semester starts at the beginning of March, and the other starts at
the beginning of September. There are also two intensive sessions, lasting
about 6 weeks. They start in mid-July and mid-January. There are not as
many positions open for the intensive terms, so they might fill up quicker.
WHAT IS YOUR SCHEDULE LIKE? HOW MANY HOURS DO YOU
TEACH EVERY WEEK?
During the normal semester, most teachers work weekends and
Wednesday afternoon. The smallest contract is for 15 hours a week, which
means you only teach on the weekends. The 20-hour contract means you teach
on the weekend plus Wednesday afternoon. The biggest contract is 25 hours a
week, which means you work the weekend, Wednesday afternoon, plus youíll
have some adult classes, either on M,W,F or Tues/Thurs. With every contract
you will have at least 2 full days off every week, although they probably
wonít be consecutive days. Your contract hours do not include preparation
time though. However, once you get the hang of the classes, you donít have
to spend too much time preparing. Plus, because all teaching is focused on
speaking and listening, you never have to mark papers. Itís generally a
pretty easy job, and during the regular semester, you have loads of free
time, even with the 25 hour contract. I think teaching during the intensive
terms is pretty busy though. You teach about 30 hours a week.
Usually all day Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and half a day on Wednesday and
Friday. You get the weekends off.
DO YOU GET MUCH SUPPORT FROM THE SCHOOL FOR LIVING
Yes, the school staff will help you with all of your needs. The Chinese
people are particularly friendly and willing to help you with anything. At
the same time, you do have to remember that youíre in a foreign country and
cannot expect everything to work the same as it does at home. Zac and I
spent two years living in Africa before coming here, so to us, everything here
seems really simple and easy. However, it could be more stressful for
people moving abroad for the first time. The first week may seem a bit
chaotic, because the school is trying to help everyone move in and adjust at
once, but after that, you discover a method to the madness and everything
will be fine.
WHAT TEACHING SUPPORT IS THERE?
The teacher trainer will provide initial 2-day training for all
teachers. After that, the trainer conducts teaching observations and
provides feedback to help teachers develop their skills and to discuss any
specific problems they are experiencing. A few times a semester there will
also be workshops for the teachers to improve their skills. The school
provides a curriculum, teaching objectives and textbooks. There is a pretty strict
class pace that you have to follow. For example, usually about Ĺ chapter
per class. Some of our teachers have had no prior teaching experience, and
they usually get the hang of it pretty quick. Another thing to remember is
that for all of the childrenís classes, youíll have a Chinese co-teacher who
is experienced and can help you.
DO THEY PROVIDE YOU WITH TEACHING MATERIALS?
Sort of. We do have books, teacherís guides, and a lesson objective
book. Each school has some posters and some toys to use for games in the
classroom. Each class has chalk and a chalkboard. Other than that, you just
have to be creative. You canít really expect the well-equipped
classrooms like in the states. Anyway, because most of our teaching focuses
on listening and speaking, most of what we do are games and oral activities
where you donít really need teaching materials, just your own creativity.
HOW BIG ARE THE CLASSES?
The maximum size for a class here is 18 students. The typical class in
a high school has about 60 students here in China. So 18 is a pretty nice
size. Some of the classes are smaller though, with as few as 5 students.
The intensive classes are usually small.
HOW OLD ARE THE STUDENTS?
Aston schools teach all ages, from 4 year-olds all the way to adults.
HOW LONG ARE THE HOLIDAYS?
At our school, the school only closes for about 3 weeks a year (during
the major holidays), plus
with a year contract I get an additional two weeks off. All days off are
unpaid. If you want a lot of free time to travel, a public school or
university job would probably be better for you.
IS THE PAY GOOD?
The pay is pretty good. A
teacher on a 25-hour contract makes about 6,000 yuan (US$750) per month, but
the cost of living is really lowómaybe 500 to 1,000 yuan a month, so you should be
able to save a lot of money in a year without even trying. The school pays for our apartment
and basic health insurance. The only drawback is that you have to pay your
own airfare and visa fees to get over here, and you donít get paid until
youíve worked for a month (although you can get a salary ďadvanceĒ after a
week or two). If you complete a one-year contract, you get a bonus of
US$1,000. Plus, you can do a little outside tutoring and make extra money.
DO YOU RECOMMEND TEACHING AT ASTON ENGLISH SCHOOL?
Overall, I do recommend our school. It is pretty well organized, the
class size is small, and you can trust that youíll get paid every month.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND DALIAN OVER OTHER CITIES IN
I havenít been to many other cities in China yet.
From what Iíve heard though, Dalian is ďChina lightĒ meaning that it is a
really clean and modern city compared to most cities. In Dalian, the
pollution is not very bad because it is right next to the ocean and most of
the factories have been moved out of the city and into the suburban/rural
areas. There are tons of universities here, so the people are well educated
and intelligent. There are about 2-3 million people in the city, depending
on who you ask and where they draw the lines. So itís a big city, but not
overwhelming. There are many decent bars, a billion restaurants, and about
a million shopping malls. Dalian is also considered a ďfashion cityĒ or so
they tell me. I would say the people are also pretty friendly and they
donít seem to try to rip us off like everyone in Beijing did. There are a
lot of westerners here. You donít see them very much because there are so
many more Chinese, but all my students have had contact with a couple of
westerners before me, so weíre not that rare here and therefore people donít
freak out as much when they see us. When I went to Dandong, a smaller city,
we got stared at a lot more and it was really obvious they hadnít seen many
foreigners. So I guess it depends what youíre looking for in a city. In
Dalian I just feel pretty normal. If youíre expecting to encounter any kind
of traditional Chinese stuff, donít expect to find it here. Most of the foreigners that I know are
quite happy here and really like Dalian. But I guess if they didnít, they
wouldnít still be here, right?
"When you travel,
remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable.
It is designed to make its own people comfortable." ~ Clifton Fadiman
IS IT BETTER TO GET A JOB BEFORE I GO, OR SHOULD I GO FIRST AND
THEN TRY TO FIND A JOB?
I would recommend getting a job before you come just because it is a lot
easier that way. Your employer can help you get a business or working visa,
and will also arrange furnished housing for you. My school doesnít provide
airfare, but some do. It would be possible to just show up and look for a
job, but it would be harder because where would you start? Meanwhile,
youíre spending all your money on a hotel. Here is what I suggest: just get
a job at some school and sign the shortest contract possible. While youíre
working, you can start making connections and see if there is another job
you would like better, such as at a university or high school. A lot of people do this.
IS IT POSSIBLE TO EARN A LIVING TEACHING ONLY
Well, that depends. The cost of living is really low in China, but
I donít know of many jobs that cater just to teaching adults. The
school I work at teaches both adults and kids. Perhaps you might want
to look into teaching at a universityótheyíre almost adults. In
general, there is a much higher demand for teachers of young children.
IF YOU SIGN A YEAR-LONG CONTRACT, DO
YOU HAVE TO GO HOME AFTER THE YEAR IS UP?
The longest contract this school offers is one year. But after that, you
can just sign another consecutive year contract (assuming they want to
rehire you). The salary if you re-sign
is also slightly higher, so there's a bit of an incentive. There is one guy
at our school who has been teaching here for about 4 years, and another
couple who has been here longer than that.
ARE THERE ENGLISH NEWSPAPERS AND TV
IN DALIAN, CHINA?
There are 2 English newspapers here:
21st Century. Both are also available online if you want a sneak
preview of what awaits you. Remember that all the newspapers are
government-owned, so they're not the best places to go for real
information. I mostly read the New York Times online to get all of my news
(which is miraculously uncensored, despite its frequent articles about the
not-so-rosy side of China) . There is one English-language TV
channel, CCTV9, which is,
again, government owned and operated and therefore only tells really good
things about China.
CAN I GET INTERNET ACCESS IN MY
Getting DSL internet in your apartment is pretty easy and the school will
arrange it for you. It only costs 400 yuan for 6 months, which is really
IS THERE ANYTHING I SHOULD BRING
THAT CAN'T BE BOUGHT THERE?
Bring deodorant. Women take note: tampons are pretty rare here and are
very difficult to find. The main things I had sent from home were
cooking ingredients such as: herbs (basil, oregano, thyme), chili powder,
cinnamon, vanilla, baking powder, baking cocoa, and powdered sugar. So
if you like cooking with any of those things, bring 'em with you.
Read these letters:
Future English School & Doses of English
to learn more about our experience teaching here. No guarantees you'll
have the same experience.
More questions? E-mail me at
arcaro 4 at yahoo dot com