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Finding a reliable school in China

Updated: Nov 4, 2018

Before moving halfway across the world, of course prospective teachers will be wanting to know what their work environment will be like.

Before moving halfway across the world, of course prospective teachers will be wanting to know what their work environment will be like. Although much different from any setting back in the West, the school environment in China is fun and always keeps you on your toes. Read below for more information on what to expect from your school in China.

Where you get placed when you come to China depends on a few different things. Firstly, the company you are signing with. If you sign with a private school or international school directly, your school atmosphere will be much different from the public schools. If you are going to work for a public school, you will be signing a contract with one of the larger companies in Shenzhen, most likely Haida (my company), SeaDragon, or CIPTEC. I will discuss the public schools last, since I know the most about them having worked in one for over a year.

In the international or private school system, the student’s English levels will probably be much better than (most) public schools. Most likely these kids will have been having English lessons since they were 2 years old! I know quite a few people who were placed in international schools, and although not always the case, most often it will be kindergarten age. Those I know who did this enjoyed the schools and the teachers, however you will need to be with the kids almost the whole day, with only an hour or two per day to plan your lessons.

If you opt to work for a public school through one of the companies, you will be in a very different situation. It is standard to have around 11-18 classes per week, at 40 minutes per class, which is not a lot of class! When you don’t have class, you are required to be in your office hours from about 8am-5pm (or 8-4:30 depending on the school). Some schools won’t require you to do office hours, which is amazing, but it is getting more unheard of, and about 95% of schools will have you doing office hours. The English level of the students in your school can vary. Depending on the school and the area, some kids will know excellent English at grade 2, and other schools (like mine) your grade 6’s MIGHT be able to hold a 2-sentence conversation with you. It will really vary, and you don’t have any control over where you will be placed if you sign with one of these companies. You can always ask the company if they can put you in a specific district, but once you get to China, even that may change! Be ready for anything when coming to China. I am lucky and got the district I wanted (after reminding them a few times it was what we had previously agreed on), but I know other teachers who came wanting to be in a specific district and got placed elsewhere. Not to worry, anywhere you go there will be expats, and other teachers working for your company who you can connect with.

In terms of the reliability of the school, I would worry much more about if the company is reliable. It is the company who will be paying you, observing your lessons, and giving you training. The company places you at the school, so although you see your contact teacher every day, it is the company that you report to and that you want to ensure is reputable. Most companies in China will be, but always be sure to speak to someone from the company or other employees before signing. As is the case with China, there will always be hiccups, and this is unavoidable. Every term there are always a few teachers who return home after only being in Shenzhen for a week or two. It can be stressful and the backwardness that is China can easily get to you when you arrive. Stick it out, and once you get your own place and are settled, things will be much easier.

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