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Top 7 Useful Advices for Foreign Teachers in China

Editor : Caelyn   |   Resource : AT0086.com

Want to be a foreign teacher in China? But do you make enough preparation? Maybe you have no sense about the wage position as a foreign teacher, how to choose a good school, the Chinese contract and living of China. Here are 8 situations you need to get notice if you wish to teach in China, hoping to be helpful.
1. Teaching English as a second language is very tiring.
It’s not particularly difficult, especially if you are a native speaker and you can remember basic grammar, but it can be extremely draining especially if the English level of your students is particularly poor. Try reading a newspaper out loud as if you were reading it to a 5-year old child. Read very slowly and very clearly and take the time to explain every word that might not be readily understood by the child – but make sure you use only very basic vocabulary in order to do this. Try doing that for one hour. Now multiple that by 12 to 20+ hours per week and that should give you a relative idea as to what your experience may very well be like. Teaching English as a foreign language is not for everyone; it requires the Patience of Job and a great deal of dedication and commitment. Teaching English in China is not an “easy gig,” such that it is truly very tiring work.
2. Choose your school very carefully, and it’s better to choose the reputable schools.
Research the school extensively by reading reviews on the forum (and on others) and by soliciting comments from other members on EFL forums. There are significant differences in how contracts are honored and in how foreign teachers are regarded and treated from school to school. Although one negative report may not be sufficient cause for you to entirely eliminate the school as a choice, a pattern of negative reports should definitely dissuade you. Before accepting any teaching position, ask the foreign affairs officer (FAO) or Western recruiter for the contact information of, at least, two teachers; preferably of one who has already completed his/her contract. And you’d better choose the reputable schools. Because these schools treat their foreign teachers well will have absolutely no difficulty providing you with this information. If you receive any resistance or hesitation whatsoever when asking for this information, especially in regard to past teachers, treat it as a big red warning sign and stay away. Furthermore, the reputable schools are authorized by the government to hire foreign experts and will send you the proper paperwork for you to obtain your Z-Visa (work Visa) before coming to China. If a school urges you to come to China to work on a L- or F-Visa (promising conversion to a Z-Visa after arrival), that may be a warning sign that the school is not authorized to hire foreign experts. You should not come to work in China with anything but a Z-Visa.
3. Contracts do not have the same meaning in China as they do in the West.
Contracts, although steadfast in the West, are far more fluid in China. Do not necessarily assume that ambiguous wording in the contract is the result of a poor or inaccurate translation (as I had erroneously assumed with my first contract). Ambiguity in the contract will always work against you in the event there is a dispute later on. If something is unclear to you, ask as many questions as you need to in order to clarify the meaning. Then modify the contract to include the clear meaning as reported to you by the school. Despite what many Western recruiters of private English language schools will tell you, contracts are negotiable and amendable (as is everything else in China). But the real truth of the matter is, there isn’t much you can do, practically speaking, if your employer fails to honor the terms of the contract.
4. As a rule, it is safer to teach for public (government regulated) schools and universities than it is for private English language schools.
However, if you do not meet the basic requirements (minimum of a bachelor’s degree and two years of relevant experience), you may have little choice but to work for a private school which will typically fabricate your credentials. The greatest abuses occur in private English language schools, in part, because they know teachers who do not meet the basic qualifications have fewer choices and will, more likely than not, tolerate whatever conditions they are presented with. If you are working at a teaching job in China, that you otherwise would not qualify for back home, you can expect, as a rule (there are, of course, exceptions), to be disregarded, unappreciated and exploited.
5. Don’t engage the service of recruiters and pay commission fees.
The overall demand for foreign teachers is greater than the supply. It is completely unnecessary to use recruitment agencies and services to secure a good job. (In fact, using these services can actually limit your options. Keep in mind that reputable and highly desirable schools - ones that treat their foreign teachers well, do not need to engage the services of recruiters and pay commission fees. Many of the more advantageous positions in Beijing and Shanghai are not even advertised; they are filled by word of mouth and by internal referrals from current teachers.) It is always better to trust your own discretion and judgment (based on your extensive research) than to rely on the integrity of anyone who stands to personally gain from your employment. The responsibility of a Western recruiter, at a private English language school, is not to apprise you of problems with housing, management or the environment; it’s to have you sign on the dotted line and to bring you over to China.
6. Wage position of the foreign teachers.
Salaries in mainland China typically range between 3500 to 6000 RMB per month, depending on the qualifications of the teacher and, to a lesser degree, on location. Some private English language schools will offer more and, a few, less. You should not accept less than 3500 RMB per month. There seems to be something of an unwritten ledger sheet, among all the schools, where remuneration is concerned. When considering the remuneration, look carefully at the total package – factor in total work hours (hours required for face-to-face teaching, grading papers, English corners, office work, etc) against salary, quality of housing, paid holidays as well as medical and other benefits. When you factor-in all the variables, there seems to be something of a balancing-act taking place. For example, schools that seem to pay more for the same amount of work hours may compensate for that increase by offering inadequate medical benefits, sub-standard housing or less reimbursement for airfares. Consider all the variables very carefully before making a decision. As a rule, you should receive a salary, an apartment, paid holidays (verify that the holidays are truly paid days off and not just re-scheduled work days, as is often the case), medical coverage and roundtrip airfare. Some schools pay for all.