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Teach English in China: Choosing Between a School, Kindergarten, English Training Center or 1-1 Tutoring
You did it. You've finally chosen China as your intended destination to teach English abroad but you're still unsure about which situation—school, kindergarten, training center, or tutor—will be most suitable for your schedule and role as an ESL teacher. Well, let’s take a brief look at what you can expect:
PUBLIC & INTERNATIONAL SCHOOLS
In China, teaching opportunities for English instructors are available at both public and international schools all year round, with the apex hiring periods—August and January—usually starting a month or two before the start of a new semester.
As a school teacher, expect to find that some schools may only need you to teach courses covering the English language, while others may require that you teach a wide range of subjects such as Math and Science, in English.
In a population of 1.3 billion, you'll most likely teach large classes of between 20-50 students at any school, whether public or private. International schools, though, tend to be very expensive in China, so you might find that the students are better behaved.
What's more, if you're taking teaching seriously as a career, working at a school is probably best. The workload will definitely be much harder than at a training center, but the pay is generally higher too, in addition to receiving other benefits such as insurance and paid summer and winter holidays.
Lastly, schools in China usually require a much more rigorous interview process for English teachers than at training centers. You may need to do an initial interview just to get in the door, then a class demonstration, and another interview with the principal or upper administration. But hey, every school is different.
Kindergartens in China are great. You teach kids ages 3-6, keep the same class throughout the semester, and work Monday to Friday. If you love working specifically with this age group, then it's is probably one of the best options.
Class sizes vary depending on a number of factors—anywhere from 12-30 students—and usually you will have around two local female assistants in the class, and an Ayi (or babysitter) that takes care of the students during long breaks.
You'll definitely need to put in more time for class preparation, and again, you may end up teaching a variety of subjects such as Math, Science, and P.E., in English. You'll also need to implement a lot of arts and crafts activities into the class, and you may need to teach songs and dance.
A kindergarten schedule is usually as follows:
8:30am-9:00am: Arrive at work.
9am-12pm: Teach classes. Each hour is a different subject.
12pm-1pm: Lunch Break
1pm-2pm: Prep time in the office (Children will sleep).
2pm-4pm: Playtime & teach class.
4pm-5:30pm: Prep & go home.
English TRAINING CENTER
English training centers are widespread across China and are probably the most popular and easiest choices amongst expats in the country's ESL industry. There are training centers for people of all ages—children, teens, and adults—but kids ages 3-12 tend to make up the crux of students.
ESL instructors at training centers in China usually make a decent salary and have 20-25 teaching hours per week, with classes ranging from 40 minutes to 3 hours. Furthermore, class sizes can range from anywhere between 6-20 students.
For content, training centers typically focus on building student's phonic, vocabulary, grammar, and oral and written conversational skills. You may need to play games, use props, teach chants and songs, and use interactive software in the class.
One of the biggest factors of whether or not teachers choose to work at English training centers in China is the scheduling. Training centers often require teachers to work Wednesday to Sunday, or possibly Tuesday to Saturday. On the weekdays, for instance, you'd need to work from the afternoon to evening (1:30pm-8:30pm), and on the weekend, from morning to evening (9am-6pm). This can be problematic if you want to enjoy evening activities and like to go out on Friday and Saturday nights.
Another major factor to consider about working at an English training center in China is constantly being put on display. You will need to perform demo(nstration) classes in front of parents to recruit new students, and possibly do everything from participate in mandatory promotional events in public places to handing out flyers for your organization in front of schools. Sounds fun, right?
PRIVATE TUTORING / 1-1 TUTORING
There are some ESL employers in China that will hire you to conduct 1 on 1 English tutoring lessons for children, teens, and adults, and they'll even sponsor your visa.
English lessons are typically done in a public space such as a cafe or library, if the company itself doesn't provide it. In this case, you may need to perform demo classes to showcase a potential client your teaching style.
As for content, companies provide English learning materials at their offices, of which you'll need to create your own lesson plans from.
One to one English tutoring offers the most flexibility scheduling wise. Some companies, for instance, may only require that you work a minimum of 15 hours a week, or 60 hours a month.
The biggest cons of 1 to 1 tutoring, though, are that you'll most likely need to travel across town to visit your clients, and there's a possibility that you won't have very much interaction with colleagues. Additionally, your company may add more students to your 1 to 1 class. While they'll get paid for the extra student(s), you wouldn't receive anything.
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