FAQ's - Before Coming to China
Do I need to get a teaching certificate?
It is a very good idea for you to do some kind of formal teacher training such as TEFL, CELTA or TESOL before coming to China, and this is for a number of reasons. Click here for more information about various teaching courses for China.
First and foremost, the vast majority of schools in China insist on applicants having a teaching certificate before they will offer an interview. No certificate = no interview. Now, there are a couple of schools who can take on teachers who don’t have a teaching certificate, but these are often poorly organized schools who don’t care about the calibre of teacher coming to their school as long as they speak English and are friendly. Ask yourself this question – is this the kind of school you actually want to work for?
Secondly, most cities in China require this as one of the prerequisites for granting a visa to foreign teachers. If you haven’t done a teaching course, then you can’t get a job as a teacher in most cities in China. Now it is true that Chinese visa authorities, on the whole, don’t know the difference between a 20 hour taster course and a 150 hour CELTA course (they just see teaching certificate, tick the box and move on), but schools do understand, and a teacher with a better certificate is always a stronger candidate.
Finally, and most importantly, get a teaching certificate for you. I’m sure you want to be seen as a candidate who can do a good job and to be taken seriously. Getting a strong teaching certificate not only prepares you better for the classroom in China, but also identifies you as a serious and desirable candidate for Chinese schools. Do the smart thing and get yourself a good teaching certificate. Only do short courses if your budget only stretches that far. If at all possible, elect to go for the full 150 hour course. You can click here to learn more about different teaching courses out there.
What should I bring with me to China?
When I first became an English teacher in China in 2002, I assumed that it was best to pack the kitchen sink and bring everything I could. China obviously doesn’t have things like socks, pants, toothpaste, etc, right? Duh….
Basically, China pretty much has everything you need and shopping is both cheap and excellent. Unless you have particular needs, wear bigger sizes for example, then you can get good stuff right here. Try to pack light and do your best to stay under 20kg for your check-in luggage for China.
Some cool things I always like to bring is a little bag of British 1p coins…these are great as end of term rewards for Chinese students; they are authentic British coins the students have never seen, you can tell them they are ‘lucky pennies’ and to always keep them and they cost next to nothing to give away but will be treasured by your students! Awesome tip right there!
The second thing I take to China is some newspapers from back home. There are some amazing classroom activities you can do with newspapers in the classroom, and you can click here to get some good ideas about authentic reading in the ELT classroom.
How will I be interviewed?
You’ll be interviewed most usually over Skype. Make sure you have Skype installed on your computer and that you have a working camera and mic. The school will give you a time to meet online, but make sure to add them well in advance of your allotted interview time. If you don’t have Skype then click here. For Skype interviews for teaching in China advice then click here.
What will they talk about in my Skype interview?
Many teachers are worried about having an interview over Skype for their teaching job. It’s important to remember that it isn’t in the school’s interest to freak you out with grammar questions and make you slip up; there probably won’t be anything like that at all. Just think about why you want to teach English in China or why you feel you would make a good teacher. Be honest and make sure that you have some questions to ask the school yourself.
What should I ask schools in my interview?
Your interview is the place to make yourself shine and to get the big teaching job in China you’ve always wanted. Many people get nervous about having a Skype interview for teaching, but I always advise people to see it as a ‘chat’ about the job rather than an interview. Seeing it as an informal chat, and calling it so, will make the whole thing way more relaxing and you’ll come across much better. Remember the manager at the school might be nervous too; this may well be his or her first time doing this. To read our article about preparing for a Skype teaching interview click here.
Before the interview, make a list of things you’d like to know about the job, the city and life in China. Have these questions out in front of you during your chat on Skype with the school. Make notes and listen well. What’s the school like? How are the students? Do you guys ever go for dinner after school? What is the traffic like in the mornings coming to work? This is just as good a chance for you to find out about the job and the school as it is for the interviewer to find out about you. Have fun – the person you are chatting with may eventually become one of your best friends in China and beyond.