Choices: Where to Teach English in China

Choosing Where

by Professor Fury

Where to teach?

I do not presume to tell anyone what they should do, merely perhaps offer some advice.

If you like children then kindergartens pay very well if you can handle the constant blitz of over-excited little darlings all day and every day. Primary schools are a shade better but personally I have found the kids to be somewhat naughty once they realise you are not fluent in Putonghua.

Middle and High schools? Well, teenagers are the same the world over, are they not?

I can only really offer empirical advice. Whilst I have dealt with every level of the Chinese education system in my time, I only ever choose to teach at public universities. Were I a spring chicken I would seek employment at international schools, although the monicker may sound grand the reality is often rather different. There will likely be nothing remotely “international” about the school other than the title. Westerners may well run the place but it will almost certainly be Chinese students.

On the plus side, international schools offer a far greater salary than public unis but correspondingly expect a higher workload. Great for the young but not for me. I could no more do 40 hours (including “office hours” which basically means staying in school when your real work is finished) than I could run a marathon. I prefer lower wages, lower hours and longer holidays.

That’s not the only dilemma facing the new teacher. There is a question of location. Big city. Small city? North or south? To be honest, I don’t think location is such a big deal when  it is your first teaching job. Certainly you can research online, there is a famous online ESL cafe where plenty of people will offer you utterly worthless opinions cloaked in the guise of “experience”. In my experience, experience is a personal thing and what you yourself gleaned. Others may well and often do have different experiences.

Each new place is what it shows you and what you make of it. There are cities in the world I did not like but millions do. I could always find something good though.

My first job which lasted for six years saw me in a very small city by Chinese standards. There were drawbacks. Nothing western at all unless you count Chinese KFC in that category. It didn’t matter. Over time I made my life comfortable and came to love “my” city. Sadly they booted me out last year for committing the sin of turning 60.

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However, researching online is not flawless. As I have said in a previous article, don’t believe all you read. I am now in a city teaching at a university which was offered to me when I first started looking for a new job last year. I checked online and it blared out that it was the most polluted city in China! I am not stupid. I turned it down flat. I was accepted for three further positions paying far more but for various reasons they fell through, one being medical insurance which a month later I could have provided  better results for but by then I really needed a job. Such is fate.

I took the job I was first offered, figuring that as a smoker of 46 years I had done far worse to my lungs! What I had read online had indeed been true a decade ago but the city had cleaned up since then, indeed 5 years ago was proclaimed one of the top ten most cleansed cities in the country. There is nothing wrong with it! Tomorrow I am signing up for a further year and will probably do so for as long as they want me. I have my own office and classroom, work two days a week and I  am included in everything that happens on my little campus (1,000 students, smallest campus of 3 and I am the first foreigner ever to teach there) and in two weeks I am being taken on a summer programme touring China for nothing in return other than chronicling the trip with students from our school, New Zealand and faculty/staff members.

Never say never and don’t discount location. I have yet to go anywhere on the planet that doesn’t at least have something to recommend it.


About the Author 

He is in his early sixties and has been teaching in universities in China for seven years. He has been a ships officer, salesman, manager, company director, engineer and truck driver in the past  and so has a wealth of stories and experience to impart to his students.

He has been to 47 countries so far and visited more than 400 cities around the globe. Antarctica is the only continent he has yet to experience but there is still time!

He has so far volunteered at every school level in China, appeared on television several times (including taking part in a Spring Festival Gala show) and his ambition is to be allowed to retire in China when the time comes. His latest party piece is playing Santa for whoever asks!

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