What to expect when teaching English in China


Thinking about teaching English in China, but unsure of what this involves? Whilst a typical day as an ESL teacher will vary from placement to placement, establishments do converge to a general structure. Hence, this blog illustrates this general guideline to give you better insight into life as a teacher in China. 

Work hours

Teaching English in China can take place through various channels. You have the choice between teaching in kindergartens, primary schools, secondary schools, universities, private language schools, or becoming a private English tutor. Your work hours will thus depend on the establishment you are based in.

If you are employed by a school or university, work will take place Monday through Friday and generally fall between the hours of 8am and 5pm. In a private language school, you will be required to teach on weekday evenings and weekends. If you are a private tutor, your timetable will depend on both your own preferences and the availability of your acquired students.

At Teach Globally we offer recruits the opportunity to teach at private schools and private language schools located across China. Thus, we will expand on working hours for these institutions a little more.  

Private school

At a private school, lessons typically begin around 8am and end around 4pm. Each lesson is generally 50-minutes in duration and there is a 10-minute gap between the start and end of each period. You will not be required to teach in every period, and your actual timetable will vary from day to day. For instance, you may have days where you start late and other days where you finish early.

A standard contract requires you to teach 20 lessons in a week, however, if you would like to increase your workload, you should have no issues gaining extra-time. It is important to remember that teaching each lesson comes with a prerequisite of having produced a lesson plan and grading any previous work you have issued to your students; thus teaching 20 lessons will constitute more than a 20-hour work week.  

Private language school

Private language schools are generally the highest paid and the most common place to teach English in China. These are academies that children go to alongside their regular schooling in the evenings and on weekends. As you may have deduced, working in such an institution will require you to work on weekends, however, you will still only work a 5-day week, as you will be compensated with two consecutive days off in the business week.

When working for a private language schools, most of your teaching will fall on the weekend and generally you will only be required to teach around 3-hours when working on a weekday. Weekday classes typically start around 5pm, however you are expected to come into the school earlier to prepare your lesson plans and organise your classroom.   

On weekends, teaching usually starts around 8am and will finish around 5.30pm. Classes are typically an hour and a half in length, and sessions are divided with the customary 10-minute break. The workday is also typically broken up with an hour-and-a-half lunch break and a second half-hour break later in the day.

In China, private language schools either come in the form of large franchises or small institutions that either have a singular location or a few branches in close proximity. The problem is each franchise is independently managed and thus working environments can vary greatly across branches. Smaller establishments present the added difficulty of vast fluctuations in offered salaries and benefits. Thus, at Teach Globally we have taken all the hassle out of the situation for you. We make sure to vet all our partner schools to guarantee that we secure you both a competitive salary and desirable working culture.

The commute to work

The other major contributing factor to the workday is the required commute. This is obviously highly variable, depending on the location of your home in relation to your school and the available transport links that connect the two.

At Teach Globally many of our partner schools provide accommodation, if this is the case you can expect your commute to be relatively short; typically walking distance. However, if you are offered a teaching position at a school that doesn’t provide accommodation, don’t fret; Teach Globally will put you into contact with experienced local agents that will find you an apartment. All you will have to do is provide the agent with a list of your requirements, such as living on the same metro line as your school or having an abundance of restaurants and convenience stores in your neighbourhood, and they will find you an apartment that meets your every request at an affordable rate. Best of all, this is usually done in less than a week.

The nature of work

The final issue I will address concerns that actual nature of the work you will be required to do. Many of our recruits are recent graduates and have never taught before, therefore they are naturally anxious and uncertain about their abilities as an educator. If you find yourself in this position, know that you’re not alone. The thing to remember is, that whilst you may be new to teaching, you are not new to education. You have been learning your whole life and no doubt you have come across your share of good and bad teachers, hence you do have an idea of what it takes to be a skilled teacher. The only thing left to do is apply these principles to your own practice, and no doubt you will become better at doing this over time.  

Above this, teaching English as a foreign language provides an excellent opportunity to gain some international exposure, in a job with a very manageable workload. Moreover, with the relatively high salary of teaching English in comparison to living costs in China and the ample free time afforded, you have the resources to extensively explore the local culture and that of neighbouring cities and countries without breaking the bank. If you want to read more on living cost in China, click here.

Team T.G.