Is Teaching in China a Good Idea?

Want to know whether it's a smart idea to teach English in China? What's the fun quotient? Can you describe the difficulties? Do you think it's a good idea to apply?

The Realities of English Instruction in China

I taught at a middle school in South China that was still very rural and my pupils were seventeen to eighteen years old.


At first, it was these two aspects that presented the most difficulty. It took a little time for the pupils to grasp that I was their instructor even though I was only two years older than them. After completing my training in a busy metropolis, I had to readjust to life in a quieter setting.

Due to the large size of Chinese classrooms (my own school had over 600 kids the year I taught there), it is usual practice to repeat a lecture many times, each time to a new set of pupils.

At first this was disappointing, as I expected all the students to react to the lesson plan in the same manner. It was a lot of fun to tailor my lessons to the individual needs of my students once I figured out what worked best in each class. I would ask them what they would want to study but actually they were simply hungry to see images of my “hometown.” Chinese kids are incredibly captivated with photographs from your home, Western cuisine, your residence, anything!

It was amazing to realize how much they enjoyed simply being able to look at images they couldn’t access anyplace else.

There were occasions when I wondered how many times my actions may have been seen as offensive to their culture, but I also knew that they would never say anything.

Things will get less difficult with time.

The pupils were understanding and my teaching improved each time. They were really reserved at first, and I had to remind myself that I was an alien to them as well. It took some time for my older pupils to warm up to the idea of participating in group activities and speaking exercises (which they may not be accustomed to) in class.

I made sure to include enough of reading, writing, and listening exercises to appease the Chinese English instructors, but I also found ways to inject some of my own personality into the lessons. Lesson plans benefit from being based on what a language learner would need to know, such as how to order meals, go shopping, inquire about interests, and get about. The pupils found all of these themes quite simple to write down but it is a foreign teachers duty to encourage them to break out their shell and speak about it! There are tons of entertaining methods to aid pupils with pronunciation too.


At the conclusion of the four months, my students finally accepted me as one of them, and I made some great friends among them who were eager to show me the "true" China. While teaching and living in a foreign culture can be challenging at times, the rewards are worth the effort.

Everyone who is considering of applying to teach English in China should do so, be ready for the experience (doing a TEFL course is suggested), and make the most of it.

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