How to Work as an English Teacher in China
Nowadays, it is possible to work from almost anywhere, in positions as diverse as data entry and bookkeeping. For instance, a career that has grown hugely in recent times is that of TEFL, or Teaching English as a Foreign Language. This subject has soared in popularity lately, and there are many reasons for this.
To begin with, the world’s population keeps growing and the population of China alone is over a billion people. This creates a huge market for learners who need the language for their own work or study reasons.
Additionally, with so much of the modern world online, and the Internet dominated by the presence of English, it makes sense that individuals wishing to leverage the power of digital learning and living ought to arm themselves with a quality English education. This is where an effective and hard-working TEFL teacher comes in.
Therefore, it is well worth considering looking for work as an online TEFL teacher. Below, some of the most common questions shall be assessed and considered, and some useful tips provided along the way.
What is a TEFL teacher?
Put simply, a TEFL teacher is a speaker of the English language who puts a lifetime of learning into practice, in order to help non-native speakers progress in their own learning journey. This typically happens through either in-person or online instruction.
With in-person instruction, this typically follows one of three primary paths. Principally, the majority of in-person TEFL teachers teach in a school or university setting, providing instruction according to a pre-designed curriculum. The classrooms and materials are usually provided, but the class sizes can be large, and the paperwork often onerous.
Alternatively, there are private language academies in many major cities, which offer smaller classroom sizes, but tend to pay less and typically have non-standard working hours, such as early mornings, evenings or weekends. Finally, there are business settings, where small groups of adults are placed by the organization, with the goal of improving the staff’s overall grasp of English for commercial purposes. These can be fun, but people do change jobs, and so there might be a transitory feel to some of these sessions.
How does teaching TEFL online differ?
For one thing, an online TEFL educator does not need to worry about the dreaded commute if they have the capacity to work from home, or indeed from almost anywhere, with a decent WiFi connection. On top of that, it is possible to work with students from pretty much any country on the planet, for instance having a morning session with a learner from Indonesia or an evening class with a pupil from Chile.
This creates the opportunity for an online TEFL instructor to diversify their teaching content, adding value and meaning to their sessions, as well as finding a wider range of resources to teach kids and adults alike. What’s more, a lot of online TEFL classes are individual, and this mean the teacher can really dive deeply into the kinds of mistakes the student might be making, and offer direct advice on how to fix those quickly and easily.
Finally, an online TEFL teacher can live almost anywhere, which gives the opportunity to go and see the world first hand. This could be in the form of teaching some morning classes before going to see the Forbidden City, or taking a weekend trip to Shanghai before getting back to the online work on Monday morning.
What countries should an online TEFL teacher consider?
One country that offers a wonderful opportunity to start a TEFL teaching career is China. This is about getting the chance to see a totally different culture first-hand during down time between classes. It’s also about the experience of choosing to teach English in China. To put it another way, being a TEFL teacher online in China may just open the door to other work opportunities in the future.
Perhaps this could be in the form of combining online TEFL work with a little bit of in-person instruction. This is a popular option among those who wish to gain a foothold in both styles of teaching, for their long-term career.
What is a good initial decision to make?
A great first step to take is to get TEFL certified, as many Chinese cities operate on a tiered visa system. This effectively means that those who are certified stand a far greater chance of being granted entry to a broader range of locations, than those who aren’t.
The upsides of taking a TEFL certification course do not end there, of course. Obviously, there is the real experience and study chances that doing such a course offers, as well as getting time to know and get along with peers who are in the same boat.
What’s more, the course leaders are most often former or current TEFL experts, who have been in the field for years, if not decades. This experience should go a long way in allaying any fears a new TEFL teacher might have, being on hand to answer any difficult questions about grammar, vocabulary, or even lesson planning.
What are the long-term benefits of being an online TEFL teacher?
As well as the short-term advantages of teaching TEFL online, like getting paid to do it and learning a new skill, there are also some longer-term boons to think of as well. One such boost of teaching TEFL online in China is to learn the notion of ‘guanxi’.
Guanxi, taken directly from Mandarin, is a concept that alludes to the idea that networking is essential to getting ahead. This does not mean it is necessary to pay lip service to superiors, in and of itself.
Instead, the focus is on building a network of contacts over time, through meaningful and varied interactions, so that a successful lifelong relationship will develop and ideally flourish. While this idea is evidently popular in Chinese culture even today, there are lessons from it that can be applied to a life in any country.