Matt Keuler's Teaching Experience in China
Grade 12 English Teacher - Suzhou
In my early twenties, I was still feeling a bit lost. I hadn’t found my calling yet, despite having finished university. A degree in Philosophy doesn’t often get a lot of employers excited to hire you (unless you really know how to market yourself). I decided that it was a good idea at that time to try something completely different. I had a friend who had gone abroad to teach English immediately following university. I thought then if I was going to do something a bit crazy- my mid-twenties were a perfect time.
So, I chose a smaller city in Northeast China: Jilin. I wanted to choose a similar climate to Wisconsin and a region where people spoke Mandarin in a more clear way, making it easier to learn. I was very lucky; I chose a very good English Training school. They gave me a lot of support and helped me learn how to teach. But, once I entered the classroom and started running the show, I had some problems adjusting. I lost a class after about a month and in a “small” town (one million people) in China, that is certain doom of a teacher. The school let me stay on through the end of the term and its summer camp. The headmaster also recommended me to a school in Changchun. So, I headed there and knew that I had to try harder.
After about a year and a half for pushing myself to improve constantly and trying to mirror the actions of one of the school’s former teachers, my new headmaster asked me to be their Head Teacher! I felt so proud; I felt like my idea of teaching abroad and my time spent in China had been validated. Eventually, I served as Co-director of studies. After that, I started to move around.
I went to teach in Haikou, on Hainan and served as the Head Teacher as an English school there. Then, I broke into teaching in International schools. I got a teaching job in Qingdao, Shandong province. I had to learn more about IELTS and TOEFL, British A-Levels. I started teaching students that were really on the road to studying abroad.
Now, I’m still with the same company, but I’m teaching in Suzhou, Jiangsu province. In addition to teaching ESL and TOEFL skills for these students going to a US school for grade 12, I have also been teaching American History. The management here knows I have a good rapport with students, that I know how to help them, and know how to help them adjust their course when things go awry. As such, they asked me to take on the Dean of Students role.
After 11 and a half years in China, I still see opportunities coming my way. I came to China single, nearly broke, and I had only had a bachelors degree. Now, I’m married to a Chinese national with two little girls, doing quite well financially, I finished a TEFL/TESOL certificate and I’m nearly finished with a master’s in education. China is truly a land of opportunity for those who come here that are looking to improve themselves. I’ve learned to never be afraid of doing new things and to keep moving forward; even if you fail at first.
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