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FAQs ABOUT TEACHING ENGLISH IN CHINA WITH ASTON these are only the opinions of Sera

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 you’ll 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 won’t be consecutive days.  Your contract hours do not include preparation time though.  However, once you get the hang of the classes, you don’t have to spend too much time preparing. Plus, because all teaching is focused on speaking and listening, you never have to mark papers.  It’s 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 IN CHINA?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 you’re 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 ½ 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 children’s classes, you’ll 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, teacher’s 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 can’t 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 don’t 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.Dalian Future English School

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.

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 low—maybe 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 don’t get paid until you’ve worked for a month (although you can get a salary “advance” 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 you’ll get paid every month.

WOULD YOU RECOMMEND DALIAN OVER OTHER CITIES IN CHINA?I haven’t been to many other cities in China yet.  From what I’ve heard though, Dalian is “China light” 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 it’s a big city, but not overwhelming.  There are many decent bars, a billionDalian China restaurants, and about a million shopping malls.  Dalian is also considered a “fashion city” or so they tell me.  I would say the people are also pretty friendly and they don’t seem to try to rip us off like everyone in Beijing did.  There are a lot of westerners here.  You don’t 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 we’re not that rare here and therefore people don’t 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 hadn’t seen many foreigners.  So I guess it depends what you’re looking for in a city.  In Dalian I just feel pretty normal.  If you’re expecting to encounter any kind of traditional Chinese stuff, don’t 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 didn’t, they wouldn’t 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 doesn’t 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, you’re 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 you’re 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 ADULTS?Well, that depends.  The cost of living is really low in China, but I don’t 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 university—they’re 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: China Daily and the 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 APARTMENT?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 cheap. 

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

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