Teaching English in China

And now for the most ridiculous and lucrative venture out there: teaching English in China. Luckily for you and the content of this blog, I have taught English in just about every possible outlet available in China so I know the ins and outs.

Pictured above: My first student, Kitty. A tough little 7 year old who had to go to school 8-5pm every day. Plus the 3 times a week she had to have 2 hours of English lessons with my sorry ass…

Qualifications for teaching English in China are slim to none.

1. You need the face of a foreigner. You don’t even have to be particularly good at English. I have Chinese-American friends who can’t even speak Chinese but they have been rejected from numerous schools because they look Chinese and therefore aren’t desirable as teachers. Some of my fellow teachers hail from Germany, Russia, France, etc. and their English is elementary level.

2. If you do not work well with children (i.e. positive attitude, singsong voice, goofy smile), employers will notice and they will (a) complain and criticize, or (b) fire you. Older students are a bit easier in this sense, but you can’t bullshit your way a through a class as easily. If you are working with adults, make sure you prepare beforehand. You can’t just make stuff up as you go along with adults… they will notice.

3. If you are working with children, Google some basic English grammar concepts and teaching techniques in advance. You’ll need some pictures (I recommend Powerpoint presentations for this) and interactive activities as well. Don’t bore the child to death. There are unlimited resources online for teaching materials, including worksheets and lesson plans.

There are hundreds of thousands of opportunities to teach English in China, and you are 100% guaranteed to find a job if you meet the qualifications I have listed above. Here are your main options for finding work.

Through an agency:
Agencies are the middle men between students and teachers. These places only give you a fraction of what they are charging the parents, but the pay is consistent and you are guaranteed to have students. The agencies I have worked at in the past always pay in tax-free stacks of cash, which is an added bonus. Give them your schedule, and they will fill in your free time with students. Pays $24-30 per hour.

At a tutoring center or school:
These jobs are usually full time and will require you to sign a year-long contract. As always, be wary before signing any contract and have a native speaker read it over. You will usually teach small classes of 3-5 students at a tutoring center, and up to 30 students at a school. Pays $30-40 per hour, although at a school you might make up to $60 if you find a good one.

Private tutoring:
This is the most ideal. Students can come to your home, you can go to their home or you can meet in a public location (I recommend a coffee shop or library). Pays $33-50 per hour.

Do not be afraid to ask for more money. For private jobs, I like to throw out an obscene number at first. For the agencies, I have furiously demanded more money if they go back on anything we originally agreed on. They will screw you over if given the opportunity.

How do I find one of these jobs? Agencies and tutoring centers are everywhere. Go to your nearest mall and you are guaranteed to find at least two of them. Print out a few resumes (or don’t and just write down your e-mail on a slip of paper, they don’t give a shit) and you’ll be summoned for an interview. The interview is usually a joke, although some schools might ask you to prepare a demo lesson. This will be given on a Powerpoint and isn’t a huge deal.

Finding work at a school or private tutoring is only slightly more challenging. Make friends, and ask around. Or go on eChinacities or Craigslist. There are a lot of expats in China, and the majority of them are teaching English or have at some point in their stay in China, so you have many resources for finding out the best agencies, schools, etc. to teach at. Gather a couple of solid options before you commit to anything.

Part time or full time? Teaching part time is a great way to make some cash on the side, especially if you have been lucky enough to find yourself a job in a field you actually enjoy and it doesn’t pay well. Keep in mind though that you are likely to teach in different locations all over the city, which means you will be spending a lot of additional time and money taking the metro all over town. If you teach full time, you can make good money (up to $2,500 a month), enough to pay for everything you need and to buy your mom something nice.

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