My Intuition Led to Teaching English in China

More than ever, I am a strong believer in intuition and female intuition is a VERY REAL thing. Sorry guys, our intuition is one of our many superpowers that you just don’t have. This is speaking in terms of the gender normative language. People always ask how I ended up in Shanghai teaching English and I usually give some simplified answer of wanting to move to another country because I love traveling and teaching seemed a good door into that. However, it really is a lot more that. Over five years ago when I was young and naive (more than I am now), I started reading blogs of people who moved abroad to teach English after college. People did it for various reasons with the most popular being: to travel and see the world, pay off students loans, see if they teaching, runaway from their unfulfilling jobs and because they had no clue what else they were going to do. I wouldn’t say that my reason is really any of them or a combination. Rather it was my intuition. I just knew that’s what I was going to do because it felt so right. And it does now that I am here!

I researched lots of programs including the government sponsored Japan program JET, Korea program EPIK and looked up hundreds of other jobs teaching English mostly around Asia. I didn’t really consider China because it seemed like Korea and Japan paid the most and had the best reputation overall. However, talking to a lot of people made me realize, why not China? As an adoptee it wasn’t like I was avoiding it; I have been back to my orphanage and to China another time as a teenager. I just really didn’t consider China.

My last year of college I decided to get my TESOL through my university in an intensive program as a certificate. Usually when people get their TESOL certificate, it’s through an online program that often doesn’t do much and is more of a formality to get a certificate. I took ESL training classes, did a practicum for hours at a bi-lingual school where I tutored kids in class and was part of a seminar where we discussed teaching English and the challenges that came with it (resume, certifications, location…etc). I’m so glad that I did this because I feel so much more prepared and a lot of people show up to a school and have never taught and have little experience with kids and they panic and leave.

I decided to go through a recruiting company to find a job which is a common choice, especially in Asia. I had lots of skype information sessions with different companies before finding TeachingNomad,com that has an office in Shanghai and Denver. I chose them because they were professional, vetted the schools, was founded by people who had experience teaching English abroad and you had to pay no fee. They get money from schools once a teacher is hired which is how they make money.

After uploading my credentials and speaking with my case manager, I started getting interview offers within a week. I found a job in Shanghai that sounded promising at an English training school. There are lots of different types of school from local, public, private, international and English training schools. China and other Asian countries have English training schools where kids go to on top of their normal school to focus on English. There is so much pressure on Chinese students by society and family to constantly do school and it breaks my heart a little how focused they are because they often don’t get to be what I think is a kid by running around, going to camp and expanding their imagination. Of course their parents love them and want the best which is why they channel that into academic success.

I have had two full days of teaching advanced phonics reading and writing classes, intermediate reading and writing and a book club along with one on one classes. The students I have are age 5-8 and have impressed me so much. I love teaching them and while it is exhausting, it is so much fun and my company has a set curriculum so I don’t have to constantly be planning my lessons. I went through two weeks of training and came early and did class observations. However nothing prepares you more than just doing it! A lot of my job is classroom manage and encouraging shy kids and making them feel comfortable while managing the outgoing kids who want to participate and try to overpower the class.

The classes are different each time and some classes the students are so focused and cruise through the daily lesson that I teach on a smart board and out of workbooks. Those classes allow for more creativity and improvising different games and ways to teach. We have a lot of fun! They are so focused, adorable and overall really eager to learn. Their parents often sit around the center in the lobby and peer into the classroom through the window. They always want to know how their kid did each class and we give written feedback. It’s competitive though! One parent told me that he saw that another girls handwriting was so much better than his son and he wanted his to be like hers. I explained that she was much slower and erased a lot because she’s a perfectionist while he is high energy and excited to write down the answer as fast as he can. Neither are wrong!

One of the many things that make me laugh are the chosen English names they have. I have a sparkle (who prefers kitten), two yoyo’s, a legoles and bingo to name I few. One teacher has a zero and seven in the same class!

I am sure that teaching will exhaust me some days. In fact I am quite certain of that. But so far I love being a teacher and my intuition told me that this is what I would be doing. And it feels so right! Who knows what my future holds in a year after I complete my contract, but right now I know that I am meant to be teaching English in Shanghai.

Keep on learning,

Kaila

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