One thing about working in China – there certainly isn’t a shortage of opportunities! Going to google and typing in ‘jobs in China’ will bring up hundreds of ads, and even Daves Esl Cafe has it’s own China forum – it’s that huge!
But just as there are many opportunities, there are a couple of things you need to be wary of. Here are just a few tidbits to keep in mind when you are contacting a potential employer:
- How does the base salary work? 11,000rmb might sound good to start (it’s on the higher end of the spectrum for new teachers with little to no experience) but how many periods a week are you teaching (26 max, usually, if the periods are 35 mins – less if more)? What constitutes a period – 35 minutes? An hour? How does the salary break down look – what gets deducted each month? What about taxes? If the company can’t answer some or all of these questions, consider looking somewhere else.
- Ask about the school – are you a third-party contracted teacher? Do you work directly for a school? Where is it? Will you live on campus? Are dorms provided? Or do you have to find your own accomadations? Is it one school or two? Sometimes schools have campuses miles apart – ask about locations if you may be going to more than one. Also, google an online map of the city you’re considering going to – some districts are far away from downtown yet are still classed as being in the downtown area. Look at the broader picture.
- Legalities – a reputable company will only hire you if they can provide you with a work visa (though you can come over on a tourist visa) and obtain a foreign experts certificate for you. The FEC basically states you’re legally entitiled to work there, and if you have to do any overseas banking, you’re gonna need it eventually. Some companies keep the FEC in their offices, making it available to teachers only when they need it. Usually it’s because they pay the fees to get it done and if you lose it, it has to be paid for again – after jumping through MILES of red tape to ensure it wasn’t ‘accidentally’ stolen.
- Media – what, exactly, is available to you in the school? I’ve taught in tin-can classrooms with only a chalkboard, and in fully equipped rooms with plasma screens, subwoofers and laser pointers. I know a teacher who even has lights attached to a disco ball for when she plays MP3’s! Know what you’re getting – or at the very least, plan for the chalkboard. Everything else is a bonus.
- Training – do you have any? Or will they do what I had my first year and dump you in a classroom with no prep, no books and tell you to ‘Go ahead, teach!’ Always come prepared for something – and that’s going to be the subject of my next post – getting through that first day/week, so check it out.
Obviously there’s so much more to think of and consider, but really, those are the first major concerns everyone who emails me has. ^^ But honestly? The most important thing to remember is that you are coming to China. It is beautiful, historic, entertaining and mind-blowing – but it is not your hometown.
Don’t come here expecting everything to be like it was back home. Shanghai may have bilingual signs everywhere and mandatory English study from grade 1 to university but that doesn’t mean everyone will speak it to YOU. Bring your phrasebook and your best ‘guest’ manners and try not to give other foreigners a bad rep with a bad attitude. Simply doing that much will endear you to the locals that much faster, and once you have their friendship, your life here will be amazing. 😀
Have some green tea, relax and unwind. The journey is just beginning!