Teaching children in China, whether you are experienced or a complete novice, offers so much reward. Although I have no experience of teaching elsewhere than China, I’d like to say that it is especially great to be part of Chinese children’s education, and here’s why teaching in China has been such a wonderful experience for me!:

Love the kids

If you are from the Western world it is hard to imagine having the freedom to cuddle, play with and give gifts to children in a work environment. In China, it in encouraged by parents and staff alike; affection goes a long way to building rapport with young students. Let’s face it, kids like to mess around and have fun and if you can’t allow a bit of fun in the classroom, why should they respect you enough to sit and listen? It’s true that the Chinese love their photographs, so go wild! There is no doubt you will have enough captured memories to fill a book in a year’s worth of teaching in China.

Swapping gifts at Christmas time

Chinese teachers

Working in a Chinese school gives you a perfect opportunity to get to know the Chinese teachers and work alongside them. In most circumstances, their schedule is a lot fuller but instead of complaining, you will witness nothing but passion and hard work. They will support you every step of the way. Bonding over the children you teach together brings so many smiles and memories and when you’re not teaching, be sure to find some time to chat about your cultural differences.

Reactions from children

This can be either extremely heart-breaking, funny and/or shocking – kids really do keep you on your toes. For a lot of 3/4yr olds seeing a foreign face is scary, they may never have seen one before! One time I joined a girl playing on the soft mat and began building a tall tower of bricks with her. She was laughing away as I knocked it down and said “Uh oh!” at which point she decided to make eye contact for the first time. A moment of complete shock was followed by a loud wail and almost cartoon-like tears flying out from her eyes.
Other times kids want to touch your freckles and make cute statements like “You’re beautiful and you speak English” – it really just depends on the child. Either way, expect to giggle at something someone says at least once during your day as a teacher.

Language ‘barrier’

If like me you don’t speak Mandarin, never fear! The beauty of working with children is that they don’t understand that A. you don’t speak Chinese or B. you can’t understand a word they’re saying. Nodding along, smiling and saying “wow!” goes a long way – most of the time the little-uns just want to show off their new shoes or cool stickers mummy bought. Of course it is also nice to be able to have conversation when time allows, and kids are the best way to learn; their language is simple and they (mostly) speak slowly. Your trusty Chinese teacher will also be there to translate when needed.

Work hours Vs Free time

Work hard, play even harder – easily done while teaching in China. Let me put into perspective work life for the company First Leap. A total of 32hrs a week, split between teaching/office hours. A weekend 5hrs short of a 3 days off – long enough to go exploring somewhere new by train or plane. The curriculum has been designed and laid out ready for you, so all you need to do is read through it and adapt to meet your teaching style and the children’s learning needs. Forget stress, tiredness or constantly thinking about work: have fun and work hard in the centre, experience China and relax when you’re not.

Learning how to make dumplings at work

School events

There is very much a feeling of family within the Chinese workplace. Many events take place within the four walls such as birthday parties and sushi making with the kids which is a great way to get to know parents better. But it is also important for bonding between co-workers on a regular basis. Since I joined my school, we have took part in dumpling making, KTV, dinners and a BBQ together and the school are always thinking up new ways to bring us closer. On regular days, fruit, candy and all sorts of tasty snacks are passed between friends as we work together to create a fun and positive atmosphere.

Get creative

Teaching allows all of your artistic juices to flow. When you’re not showing the kids how to create some cool robot craft, you can spend your free time decorating the walls of classrooms and corridors. Get creative and try out different teaching methods, introduce new songs and dance moves to help the kids learn – as long as you are teaching the required content, the rest really is up to you!

Follow in the children’s footsteps – adapt the norm and make life fun!