TEFL China: Finding a job, Part I

TEFL China finding TESOL JobsFinding any TESOL job in China, let alone a good one, was not easy for me. As I had mentioned in my first post, I am a Canadian of Chinese descent. I look Chinese and you wouldn’t believe how often I was told by Chinese people in China that my English is very good. In my job search, I stumbled upon a forum that discussed Chinese-looking people wanting to live and work in China. The main message was loud and clear: DON’T DO IT. People reported facing difficulty finding jobs and discrimination. Still, I was determined to go.

Overcoming Discrimination – TEFL China

I find out much later that the reason for their seemingly out-right discrimination is really culturally and monetarily driven. In Chinese culture, how things look is very important. Also, the parents who pay more tuition just to send their only child to a school that advertises foreign teachers probably do not speak any English themselves. Couple these two factors together and you can imagine the fury of parents barging the principal’s door angrily demanding their money back because a “Chinese” teacher is teaching their child when they paid good money for a foreign teacher.

When to Apply for TESOL Jobs in China – TEFL China

Still, I remained resolute, and I began all my cover letters with, “I am a Canadian of Chinese descent,” so if that was a deal-breaker, then let’s not waste time. I continued my search on job boards like Dave’s ESL Café. The best time of year to look starts in April (mostly summer camps for July-August), peaks in August (right before the start of the semester) and wanes in October. There’s usually another peak right after Chinese New Year, which marks the beginning of the second semester. After living in China for a while, I learned that the best way to get a good job in China while still overseas is through the recommendation of a foreign teacher (your friend) who already works there. It’s safer for you because your friend can vouch for the legitimacy of the school. It’s comfortable for the school as the Chinese prefer to hire teachers based upon references rather than dealing with a stranger who may look great on a resume and not-so-great when he/she arrives.

If you’re not so lucky, stick with the job boards. I would try to work at a summer camp first so that I can visit the prospective schools and accommodations during my time off before signing any contracts for September. You will more than likely work with other foreigners who have taught in China for a while, and they might be able to connect you with a job at their school.

I wanted to teach in college or university and most require any Master’s degree as a minimum qualification, even if you’ve never taught English before. Other kinds of jobs include working in kindergartens, middle schools (high school in our terms), and private English language companies like Wall Street English or English First (EF). These latter schools generally do not require a Master’s degree, but an English language teaching certificate, like the TESOL certificate, will definitely help get you in. Either way, I would want to have good foundation knowledge of teaching English, some classroom management skills (because classes can be huge, like upwards of 50), and a repertoire of activities up my sleeve before going to teach English in China as their resources may not be up-to-date or as communicative as you like.