Primary School Teacher
In a lot of ways, I’m a stereotype. I wasn’t sure what I wanted when I started teaching in China. It was meant to be a temporary thing, to give myself some more time to figure out what was next. I had come to China as a student but wanted a little more stability and a better living situation. I knew China wasn’t the mistake, but I was too old and jaded to live the student life. Teaching in China is a pretty sweet casual deal, with a time-bound contract, rent assistance, and ample vacation time.
Realizing that more teaching could be next was not this great epiphany, but a slow dawning of realization. After a few months on the job, I was doing well. I looked forward to work more often than not. I had seen progress in many of my students and found it so rewarding. Even on a bad day, the power of a room full of kids being happy to see you can really turn things around–or at least keep you going. I’ve had a lot of jobs back home (which for me is the United States) and I know how rare it is to actively enjoy what you do while still being challenged by it, even a majority of the time.
I am both under and overqualified to be a teacher in the US, with a graduate level degree, but not having taken the correct program during either undergrad or grad school to obtain certification without at least a little more school. In China, I have a TEFL and the 4-year degree required to teach as a foreigner. I self-study and work to improve my teaching both in and out of work. It’s pretty simple to find resources and communities to do so, because any good teacher is constantly seeking to improve their teaching. Of course, the on-the-job experience is also something that most teachers will say is a requirement.
The benefits to “temporary” teachers in China transfer to those who want to make teaching a career, making China an appealing destination. It’s a totally different lifestyle, and isn’t for everyone, but there are perks. Imagine never worrying about whether or not you’ll make rent or a mortgage payment–because your school takes care of it even before you get your salary. While salaries are lower than in Western countries, the low cost of living makes them go much further. Unlike the US, many teachers also don’t need to worry about purchasing supplies and materials for their classrooms, although sometimes it is nice to.
I’ve been in China for four years. I started as a private tutor, then started working for training centers. Now, I work in a private primary school, with ESL classes, along with drama and library/storytelling classes, which have been really exciting and allow me to share my passion for books and reading. Everyday isn’t perfect, but it’s still rewarding. I’m also more financially secure than I ever have been in my adult life. When I have changed jobs, it’s always been an upgrade, while there have also been promotions and raises more significant than any previous job.
I may have stumbled into teaching in China, but I’m grateful for the trip.