Fascinating Interview with English Teacher Sam.

English Teacher

So, you had some experience of China before you came here…

Without that initial experience of China some people may find it a bit intimidating but having said that, I’ve felt more welcomed here then I do in some places in the UK. Everyone has been really helpful and I don’t think experience of China is necessary. I think if you delve a little deeper on the internet you can find all the experience I had as I was only here for a month on my first visit but now I’m here for a year and it is a lot different.

Is China different from what you expected?

I think try not to listen to stereotypes as I know my mum was quite scared about me coming out but I told her it’s not what you think. China is new, fresh and exciting. You can find stuff on the internet to ease your mind but for me, I’m quite stubborn so once I’d made up my mind to come, I thought just do it!

Are there any character traits that you think would make a good English Teacher?

I think you have to be quite an open person in terms of talking to everybody when they want to talk to you. I’ve been here for three months now and I’m still getting people waving at me on the street. If you can’t deal with that attention then you may struggle. I find that I just smile and wave to everyone now. It’s all about getting used to it really. If you are teaching in an area where they’ve had a foreign teacher before then they’d be less excited to see you if that makes sense.

You’re teaching in a smaller city with not many Westerners. If you could do it again would you change anything?

I’m really happy where I am actually. My location in the old town…..very happy. It’s just quiet, it’s calm. I can go out in the evening it’s warm and not too noisy. Its just people living and it feels like home. And the fact that I’m very close to school really helps.

How about food?

Well what I do as I am trying to save is that I eat at school for lunch and dinner every day from Monday to Friday and then at the weekend I can spend 40 renminbi on 3 days’ worth of food

So, it’s possible to save money here?

Yes. At the moment I am living on about 1500 renminbi a month. It’s a bit more than a normal month as I am going out for Christmas dinner in a western [style] pub.

Fascinating Interview with English Teacher Sam. 1

How does the teaching job compare to what you expected before you came?

I wasn’t really sure. Thinking about my progression as an English teacher from my first lesson until now, I’ve changed quite a lot. In a good way in the sense that, at my first lesson I’d planned a PowerPoint and I’d used it by 10 minutes in! Now I’m finding that even if I’m not doing much, I’m actually over-preparing. So, I’m preparing an hour’s worth of material for a 40-minute lesson. I’d always prepare a bit too much just incase you get a really good class.

Is that a good tip for other English teachers?

Yes, I’d definitely suggest you over-prepare because I’ve been caught a few times. Once it was raining so they cancelled the PE so I had the class for an extra 20 minutes. I remember the first time that happened to me I was really nervous because I hadn’t prepared

Do you think you need experience to be a good English teacher?

Well I just think you need experience of public speaking. A lot of courses at Uni nowadays have this in them or some sort of presentation work so it is good practice and sets you up well. Obviously, you can learn really quickly when you are here doing it every day.

How do you cope with homesickness?

By keeping regularly in contact with home. But also, I think a great way to cope with homesickness is to eat food from home so like a Big Mac tastes the same as it does in the UK. So that can be a great way of feeling at home. So, I just stick some music on and go and eat a McDonalds and I may as well be in Birmingham! That’s a really good way of feeling at home just for a little bit. Also, just watch a movie or some TV in your flat. For an hour and a half I’ll just completely forget I’m in China. You feel as though you might as well be in your bedroom at home. Just little tastes of home are a fantastic way to keep homesickness at bay.

What is the best and worst thing about living in China?

The worst thing is probably, erm, I don’t know. There’s not many things I can think of. It’s probably just missing my family. It’s not bad it is just the worst thing about being here. Other than that, It is probably that China can be quite daunting initially coming out here because it is so far and it is so different. Some customs you do take a bit of time getting used to. Like the school day is really long but with bigger gaps. So that’s one of the worst thing for me, getting up early then having a 2 hour gap after. That was a bit of a shock to the system initially but it’s fine now. The best thing is that everything is done here for convenience and that’s a wonderful thing out here for the culture. Shops are open until late and the affordability of everything out here. Yes, those are the best things.

Fascinating Interview with English Teacher Sam. 2

What new skills have you picked up from being an English teacher?

New skills I’ve picked up from being an English teacher here are being able to convey ideas to a room full of complete beginners. There not beginners but ultimately, they don’t know enough English to be able to understand me completely. So being confident enough in myself that I can act out, make a fool of myself to get my point across. Being unashamed of trying to help them learn is a brand-new skill. My confidence has grown massively and I hope that will carry back home with me. Another skill that I thought I had before I came here but have massively improved is time management. Having to definitely plan lessons for that time. I used to do coursework at uni but would often leave it to the last minute but now I will set myself a deadline to finish this work and I will always get it done which is something I really struggled with back home. 

Public Speaking

And also, public speaking. I thought I was good at it but it turns out I had a long way to improve. English Teaching has massively helped that. Having to explain something to a group of 50 novices has improved my public speaking and I hope it improves my career prospects in the future. Going into science or something like that, my job will involve explaining incredibly difficult things to new people. If I have to explain a new theory and they have no idea, it will be really important to develop that skill and teaching for 20 hours a week is a really good way of doing it. 

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