My Job in China

October 21, 2015
Being a teacher at my current job is going well! I love my students this year and am beyond pleased with my class. I am having fun getting to know my students and truly enjoy teaching first grade again. Ever since I told people that I was moving to China, it seems as if I got (and still get) asked many job-related questions, so I thought it might be fun to do a little Q & A on here. 

"Are the kids you teach all Chinese?"
Actually, the students are supposed to have an international passport to be able to attend our school. This includes Hong Kong and Taiwan, as I have quite a few students from Hong Kong. My co-teacher told me that Chinese citizens are usually not allowed to have dual citizenship.

"How many hours a week do you work?"
Officially, I work forty and a half hours per week. We have a forty hour work week and then have to stay over on Monday afternoon for a staff meeting, so that's where that extra half-hour comes into play. Sometimes I will work over, but it's pretty rare. I also tutor a 3rd grade student an extra three hours per week. 

"How much do you get paid?"
I'm not going to say exactly how much I make, but I will say that the starting salary for a teacher at our school is $2,500 a month. Of course, teachers with experience, teaching licenses, and Masters degrees make more than that. We are also eligible for a raise if we stay for another year at our school. 

"What are the requirements for teaching English in China?"
At my school, you have to hold a Bachelor's degree in something. The recruiters try to get as many certified teachers as possible, but sometimes there is a shortage, so not everyone working at our school is licensed. You also have to be able to pass the Chinese health inspection. They check to make sure you are healthy and even draw your blood to check for contagious diseases. 

"Are all of your students English language learners?"
Many of them are, but I have some students whose native language is English and they also know Mandarin. I have a few students (from Korea, Japan, and Germany) who neither speak Chinese nor English as their native language. 

"What's it like working with a co-teacher?" 
My co-teacher is very supportive and easy to work with. We get along well with each other, but I heard this is not always the case. It can be an uphill battle if you don't like your co-teacher, as you are with them the entire work week! Thank goodness I got someone laid-back and thoughtful. 

"What is something that shocked you about the students?"
Almost all of my students have an ayi which is a housekeeper/nanny in this case. (It can also mean a janitor.) What really got me is that some of my students don't even live with their parents. Some live with their ayis in Shanghai and then go to see their parents on the weekends and over the holiday breaks. Many parents have demanding, high-profile jobs, so they will be away for long periods at a time working in other countries on business trips. Sometimes this can have an impact on the students. 

"Do you have any funny, work-related stories to share?"
Yes. Just last week, there was a swimming competition that five of my students were signed up to participate in. We had to walk our whole class to a different part of campus to the building that housed the swimming pool. While I was walking there, two of our parent volunteers were waiting for us, but they were snapping tons of pictures of the students and me. Once we arrived in the building, my co-teacher gave the students plastic coverings that had to be worn over their shoes so that dirt wouldn't get around the pool area. Then, she told me to take the girls through the locker room and out to the main swimming pool. Between the locker area and the pool was another small pool with about 8 inches of water in it. I guess it's to get dirt off of people's feet before entering the main pool?? I have no idea, but all of my students were wondering how to get across because they were wearing their shoes with the coverings. The parent volunteers decided to take off their shoes and carry the girls across, which my students thought was hilarious. I had to carry a couple over, too. Then, the two moms went out to the swimming pool area so that they could watch their sons and wish them good luck before the race. My students didn't know what to do and I felt kind of awkward being in the locker room with them, but I just told them to change into their swimsuits and turned around. I told them if they needed help to just ask, but thank goodness they were good with getting changed on their own. They did need help putting on their swimming caps. No one with long hair can enter our school's pool without a cap. The kicker is that no one was in the locker room to help the boys cross, so they all waded with their shoes and socks on through that water! I asked my co-teacher about it later, and she said that a worker there did not give our class permission to use the other door to enter the pool. Say what? For some reason my class was the only class that had to wade through water, so the worker must have changed his mind and let the other kids through. The boys' socks were so wet that they had to wear their back-up socks in the classroom with no shoes for the rest of the day. What made it even more funny was that some of those boys had to give map presentations, so they had to stand up in front of everyone with no shoes on, and in some cases, they were completely barefoot. At least we all had a good laugh about it.

"Do you get a monthly housing allowance?"
The good news is that the school provides us with some rather nice apartments. They are clean, newly remodeled, and close to where we work. We also do not have to pay any bills for the utilities if we do not go over our month allowance. The bad news is that there is no option to get a housing stipend if you don't want to live on campus with the other teachers. This is why very few teachers live off-campus. 

Is there anything I didn't cover that you're wondering about? Just ask in the comments.

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