May 16, 2011 § Leave a comment
Just a quick post tonight.
I did a demo class today for a private English Training Center called Web International, and they loved me. But I’m not sure if I want the job, its good money, but its long hours and I want to spend time at home with my family.
I also have a demo class coming up for a 2nd tier university which some of my friends work at that sounds good. Less money, and much longer commute, but less classes.
And I may have another interview this week with a first tier university.
So no matter what happens by the middle of next week I’ll have a signed contract and a new work visa for next year. Also now that the stress is off, I’ll start posting every 2 or 3 days.
May 7, 2011 § Leave a comment
Sorry for not posting for a week, I’ve been busy with classes, traveling and interviews.
If things go well I’ll have a job with one of two good private schools by the end of this week, or a public university in 2 weeks. More on that as it develops.
I said last week I’d deal with contracts, but I would like to wait a bit longer before doing that, it’s a big topic and I haven’t been able to put the time into doing it properly. Instead I’ll talk about something that is a problem for some ESL teachers in China, teaching without a degree.
An acquaintance of mine has been working in Nanjing for 2 years at another small university, he only has a high school diploma and was told at the beginning of April he would not be re-signed. He spent most of April looking for a job with no luck. So he asked me for some help.
I had turned down a job from one recruiter due to low pay, it wasn’t a bad job just not right for me. I thought it would be good for my friend, so I got them in touch with each other. Later that week my friend called me and said that the recruiter had turned him down cold.
So I contacted the recruiter and asked what was up. According to her, there was NO chance that an English teacher without a degree could get a job in Jiangsu now, especially not in Nanjing. If my friend wanted a job outside the province in a poorer province or city that can be done, but that was the only way.
I’ve heard this hardline before stated in ads, and said by school officials only to hear from co-workers that it was all bluster, so I wanted to know more about this new development. A woman I know with 10 years experience as an English teacher has her ear to the ground, she doesn’t know key officials or anythings, but she tends to pick up reliable rumours.
Apparently its true that the government is cracking down on schools and unqualified ESL teachers. This will make it much harder for less qualified teachers to get jobs in public universities, and virtually impossible in public schools. It may still be possible to get jobs in third tier universities, but second and first tier universities are now pretty much out of reach in Nanjing.
Private English schools are still open to any English speaker, but again the better ones will be a bit more discerning about who they hire. Part time and under the table work is available, but getting a school to provide a work visa will be difficult.
It appears that if a teacher wants to teach English without a diploma, they had better have several years of experience, good references and a willingness to work at lower schools. Even teachers with a regular non-teaching B.A, may have a harder time at getting a job. Which could explain why I haven’t gotten quite the rapid response I was hoping for.
So if you have little experience and only a high school diploma, China is still an option, just apply to the less developed areas. If you have the experience and no B.A. Nanjing is still open, but it’s going to take persistence and some luck to get a decent job.
If you’ve heard anything about these stricter guidelines, or would like to offer some advice leave a comment.
April 28, 2011 § Leave a comment
I’ve been busy job hunting for the last week, still no luck, so I’ve been a little too busy to come up with really good PPT’s or ideas for class. Fortunately when dealing with advanced English students there are lots of alternative lessons that require almost zero prep time.
One successful and instructive ESL activity is a debate.
Now when I say ‘debate’ what I really focus on in the first half of the class is simply how to argue your point of successfully in an informal debate. I don’t bother teaching the rules of a formal debate, or how to organize a debate, I teach them how to get their point of view across at a meeting with a boss or co-workers.
Starting the Debating Lesson
My students are all advanced or at least high intermediate English speakers, so I don’t have to worry about definitions or anything like that. However if they were lower level I would write a basic definition on the board and ask how a debate is different from an argument.
This week I began by explaining why knowing how to debate was useful. If they were discussing pay raises with a future boss, pushing their own ideas onto unwilling co-workers or dealing with parents who wanted their children to get a higher mark, knowing how to talk persuasively would be handy.
Many Chinese students have never heard this from a teacher. They do it with friends sometimes, but many of them are very bad at persuasion when it comes to anyone with any kind of authority.
Getting the English Students Talking
After the brief introduction I started asking the students the same question: What is important in a debate?
Sometimes the students try to answer, sometimes they don’t. It depends on the class. When they try to answer I’m always encouraging, and as long as the answer is close to correct I go with it.
If they don’t answer the question I pick a student and ask them directly. This takes a little longer and I sometimes have to give hints, but it gets them talking.
The answers I always look for are:
- Confidence and calmness
- Preparation (before and during the debate)
- Good information
- Ask questions
- No fillers
- Show respect
- Keep it simple
Some of these I came up with myself, others I read on sites such as UK Youth Parliament.
If the English students come up with other ideas such as using humour, dressing well, speaking loudly, etc, I’ll put that on the board as well. But they’re not as important in my class. (Speaking loudly is very important but I’ve told them that from day 1)
As they provide the answers, I’ll always ask why. If they can tell me great, if they can’t or only give me a simple answer I’ll elaborate on it. Some of the reasons are obvious, others aren’t, and some are meant to be twisted.
I consider myself very pragmatic, nice but willing to do whats necessary if the situation calls for it. Since most of my students are in business I want to give them the same attitude.
Remaining calm is an obvious advantage when debating. But I explained that trying to embarrass or anger an opponent is a good idea, if its done well (more on this in my next post). I also explained NOT to try this on a boss.
For having good information, I did a quick example on how statistics could be used to prove almost anything you want, and how the truth could be twisted around. Most of them knew this but had never had it bluntly pointed out to them. Thats when I explained that listening to everything their opponent said was critical in a debate to make sure they weren’t fooled.
As a teacher its up to you to decide just how you want to explain some of these issues. I’m pragmatic and cynical, so I want to prepare my students to enter the business world and not be niave.
Going over all of these points usually takes about 30 minutes, if the class is at a lower level it can take 40 or even 50 minutes. If you want to abreviate it, and only focus on the most important tips without many examples it can take 15 minutes. Personally, I like to provide examples to prove my points and my classes are 100 minutes long so its not a problem.
The Actual ESL Debates
After all of this I prepare the debate. Depending on the time and class size I have them in groups of 2 or 3. This lets them help each other out, so that poorer students aren’t stuck trying to debate a good student all alone, and its easier to control and mark then groups of 4.
I usually had 5 topics, that was one or two more topics then groups. I tried to let the students choose the topics, but when they couldn’t come up with one I’d make one up.
The three I picked were, “Are boys better than girls” (This was funny as the classes are almost all girls), “Should school tuitions be lowered?”, and “Should teachers assign moe than 3 hours of homework a night?”
After I got the ball rolling the students would start choosing their own topics such as, “Should sexy clothes be worn in school?”, “Should students live on or off campus?”, “Should students have a part-time job?”, “Should students date in college?” and similar themes.
If I wasn’t sure of a debate topic I’d ask the class what they thought, if they liked it the topic was used, if not it was thrown away. So we didn’t get to discuss “Computer games: good or bad?”, “Should we care about celebrity weddings?” or “Should people worry so much about their weight?”
Once we had the topics I gave them the rules of the debate:
- One group (chosen by a coin toss) chooses the debate topic, the other group chooses if they support or oppose the issue.
- They have 2-3 minutes to prepare, notes are encouraged.
- 1 person from group 1 speaks, followed by 1 person from group 2. Repeat until everyone has spoken. They can ask questions, answer questions or simply say their points and ideas, as long as they remain in order.
- After they have spoken they have a free for all discussion, until one side has lost or I stop it.
- 2 or 3 students from the audience are chosen at random and asked who won and why.
- I critique each person.
Depending on the time, group size and number of groups. My classes are very small at 13-16 students in general, so the debates typically last anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes for each group. The shortest this week was 8 minutes when the groups were too shy to actually start talking to each other.
The longest was 20 minutes and could have kept going for another 10 or 15 minutes.
Benefits of the ESL Activity
There are many benefits of having English debates.
First it helps students learn how to have informal debates in English, which is useful for future jobs.
Sec0nd they ask questions, come up with answers, listen carefully and make their points clear in English. For an ESL class this kind of thing is rather important.
Third they have to think on their feet with minimal prep time. This is something they’re really not used to.
Fourth they have to work with their partner if they want to win the debate. Watching how one student would jump in when their partner faltered was quite enjoyable.
The fifth benefit was that it was easy for me to do. Minimal planning, minimal talking and it was interesting to hear their ideas, thoughts and methods of winning the debates.
As a back up lesson plan for when computers fail, or an ESL lesson plan just isn’t working, a debate class is almost as good as roleplay. Better even if the students are more literal minded.
If you’ve had debates in your class I’d love to hear how it went, so leave a comment.
April 26, 2011 § Leave a comment
There are hundreds of job sites and forums for English teachers to choose from when searching for an ESL teaching job. Some are good, many are not so good.
These some I use, and a few I’ve heard about.
ESL Employment: This site offers a well organized list of ESL positions by region, country and city which makes it one of the easiest ESL job sites on the net. There is also a forum for teachers, and some ESL articles are available, but I haven’t looked them over closely.
Dave’s ESL Cafe: A mainstay for the ESL community. I personally don’t like the layout of the job board, it is cluttered and the search function hates me. But it offers a large selection of jobs, and the forums can be helpful for checking out schools.
eChinacities.com: If you’re looking for a job in China, information, tips about working and traveling in the country and several other useful things, this site is for you. It isn’t focused on ESL, but it does have many articles and jobs concerning the industry. It also has other jobs for foreigners wishing to expand their careers.
TEFL Blacklist: This site is on blogspot, which I’m unable to access in Nanjing, so I have only heard about it. Some people I’ve talked have said its very useful, so if you can check it out do so.
ESL Blacklist: I just recently discovered this site. It looks good, but thats about all I can say about it.
If you know any other good sites for English teaching jobs, send me a link and I’ll check them out.
April 26, 2011 § Leave a comment
In my last post, I said I was using a shotgun approach in my quest to get a new English teaching job. This means I look through two job sites one for China and one for ESL teachers, and as long as the job is in Nanjing, pays well, and offers a visa I send a resume. This is an effective way for me to find jobs in Nanjing for two reasons.
First, I live in Nanjing. This means I can visit a possible school to get a first hand look at the facilities, students and teachers. This will give me a good idea if the school is right for me, especially if I get a chance to talk to the students and foreign faculty.
Second, I’ve worked at several private ESL schools in the past, and looked over dozens of contracts for teachers. I can safely say I have a decent idea of what to watch out for in English schools.
For new English teachers, especially ones who are not currently in China this shotgun approach can be bad. It is very easy to get caught up in a scam, or end up working for a bad school.
Most new teachers should be very choosy before sending out their resume and CV, as this will help avoid the worst schools.
Worst ESL Job Ad’s
Many of the teaching ads simply say they’re looking for teachers, how much they’ll pay and what they require. There is no name listed, there’s very little information on the students, English level, age or facilities. At best the ad will say something like “students are aged 4 to 15”.
These ad’s should be avoided like the plague. There is no clear idea if the students will be mixed together, if you’ll have to develop an English curriculum, if text books will be provided or anything else. Even in my shotgun approach this is too risky. A competent recruiter or school will almost always provide much more detailed information.
Better Teaching Ad’s
Many ad’s will avoid telling the name of the schools. I don’t know why, but most Chinese schools, especially universities, seem shy about saying they need teachers. So the ad’s will say “University near Gulou looking for 2 teachers”.
This makes finding more details about the school difficult, so a leap of faith is required.
The best way to tell if these are legit English schools is to see what details they put in. They should say the number of positions, teaching hours, is a curriculum and teaching material provided, course subjects, students age and estimated class size, wages, vacation time and other benefits, and a detailed list of qualifications.
If a school only has half of this information it may be worth taking a chance. If the ad lists all of this then send them a resume, they’re at least detailed oriented, which is sadly lacking in many schools.
I’ve sent my resume to schools with both types of ad’s, but I was a little bit faster with the schools that provided more information. If I didn’t need a job in Nanjing fairly badly, I would have only applied to the most detailed ones.
Best English School Ad’s
The best ad’s will post the name of the school, its history and all of the information listed above. These schools should be looked at closely, and web searches should be done to see what other people say about them.
I’ve only seen a few ad’s that list all of this information and all of them seem to be good. It is at least a sign of confidence that the schools are willing to say so much about themselves to potential employees.
Using a Fine Tooth Comb
Now, just looking at the ad’s won’t say if a school or recruiter is good or not. The ad for my current school actually had very little info and listed 5 different jobs in about 2o0 words. It was only because I was very desperate at the time, and wanted any job that would give me money, and a visa that made me apply for it. Fortunately until this term it was a pretty good school.
There are also many stories of schools that sounded like dream jobs in their ad’s turning into nightmares. But generally the more details a school puts into its ad’s the more likely it is to be a fairly secure school, rather than a fly by night one.
So when applying to a job ad, new teachers should look it over carefully before sending out a resume, if it’s very light on details it may not be a good choice.
If you do send out a resume to a school with no name, be careful. After you get a response and learn the name of the school, don’t send a message back right away. Take a few hours to research the school as much as possible. See what other teachers have said about it online. If it still looks good send a response. If it doesn’t send a polite thank you and say you’re no long interested.
Later this week, barring unforeseen circumstances I’ll post some of my experiences with contracts. And hopefully I’ll have a brand new one to talk about.
As always comments of all sorts are welcome.
April 24, 2011 § Leave a comment
I’ve had a not so strange coincidence this week. Since April is the start of job hunting season in the English teaching field, and when schools drop old teachers, I was planning on writing up a couple of posts about ESL job hunting over the last week. I was going to use my previous experiences, along with anecdotes and advice from colleagues for most of the posts. Unfortunately on Monday I was told that I would not be re-signed by Xiaozhuang College.
I wasn’t really expecting to hear this news, so I was a bit shocked at first. But every English teacher in China should be prepared for this. Many teachers have had this experience due to changes in rules, bad student reviews, angering the boss, cutbacks, and mysterious Chinese reasoning, so I was a little nervous about my prospects all this month.
Fortunately I recovered quickly. Still getting my resume spruced up, finding new references and actually looking for a good teaching job in Nanjing has taken up most of my time, hence the not posting for a week.
Here are somethings I’ve come to realize when looking for a teaching job if you’ve been working in China for several months or years.
- When your major employer lets you go, ask why and consider everything they say, as well as some other reasons it may have happened. I did both and realize why they let me go, which I’ll discuss in future posts. Needless to say while they were vague about the reasons, I have a good idea of what I did wrong and won’t do it again.
- If you’ve been teaching for a while, keep your resume properly updated. My resume is a little old, and the newest version is currently on my old broken laptop. I had to get my 3 year old English teaching resume and do some serious updating. I did it, but I had to ask my wife for some help and it took all of Monday afternoon and part of Tuesday.
- When looking for a job the shotgun approach is useful, but not for everyone. I’ve sent out over 20 resumes to various public and private schools in hopes of getting a response. So far there are a few people interested but no sure things. Some people prefer a finer approach, but as long as the ad doesn’t look like a scam I think its worth looking at. Once I get responses I’ll carefully look over contracts and visit the school personally to see if its good for me.
- Keep in touch with your old bosses. I’ve worked at several private English schools in the past and while we may not have been friends when we parted ways, I was almost always respectful to them. This has been very helpful as I was able to put their phone numbers under my work experience. This will provide a big boost to my resume.
- When leaving your current English school always be respectful. I have 3 months to go with my school, meaning three more paycheques, and if I acted angrily 3 months of irritation, petty bureaucracy and hassles. I want to make the last few months as pleasant as possible and get a good reference. When I was informed I wasn’t going to be rehired I simply asked why, thanked the foreign affairs secretary and asked to use her as a reference. She agreed.
- Call on any contacts you may have to help find a job. Two of my colleagues work part time for another university, I asked them for their bosses email. Instead one of them sent an email to her, 2 days later she asked me for my resume, passport, photo and diploma. I’ll hear back from her next week. China runs on contacts and who you know, use it as much as possible but don’t rely solely on it.
Some of this advice won’t be useful for new ESL teachers, but right now I’m a little more concerned with me. Don’t worry though, this week I’ll post some more job hunting tips for everyone.
If you want to post any of your experiences or advice I would appreciate it. And if you know of a job in Nanjing that needs an experienced English teacher able and willing to teach Chinese students of all ages let me know ASAP. I have a wife and baby to support.
April 17, 2011 § Leave a comment
I’ll be honest with everyone right now, I’m not a professional job hunter. This post is merely what I have observed and heard about from other foreign teachers and Chinese administers over the last four years. So consider these helpful tips, NOT iron clad rules.
Schedule for English Teaching Jobs
April and May are the two months when most ESL teachers find out if they have a job in the coming year or not. For people searching for ESL jobs its important that they start sending out resumes at this point if they want a chance at getting the best schools. After May most of the first tier English schools will have their teachers chosen and preparing the class schedule for next term.
Second and third tier ESL schools will still be looking for teachers during the summertime, often desperately. Because the best candidates head to first tier schools, its usually less experienced teachers, high school graduates, and less then competent teachers who are attempting to get jobs at this point. The better schools will take the time to sift through the resumes carefully to get the best candidates.
By August especially late August, usually the only teaching jobs left are with third tier English schools and private schools. These jobs are almost always low pay, low quality and most likely to end badly. However it is possible to get some good ESL jobs at this point. There are inevitably English teachers who quit a job before it begins leaving even the best schools with an open position days before class begins.
This timing for English teaching jobs makes it possible for job hunters to plan when and where they want to apply for the best results.
ESL Teachers with Appropriate BA’s, Masters or PhD’s
For people with degrees in English and teaching related subjects the best time to search for jobs starts in March and ends in May. First tier schools usually plan several months in advance, barring teachers quitting without warning, so by the time summer vacation begins they want everything lined up and ready to go.
There will be a lot of competition from other professionals, so the sooner the resumes are sent the better.
If the job hunt is being done in the summer, professional English teachers must be careful not to get stuck in a bad school. Some ESL schools will say anything to get teachers, especially good teachers, while providing almost nothing that they promise. Its important for teachers to ask questions before accepting a teaching job.
English Teachers Without Appropriate BA’s or Limited Experience
If an ESL teacher doesn’t have any experience or has BA in an unrelated field sending out resumes from March and April is a good idea, but they shouldn’t expect to get a lot of replies. There are many people searching for jobs at that point and the English schools can choose to be picky. Its possible to luck out, but it will be based on how good the resume looks, and how any possible interview goes.
Searching in May and June is far more likely to get a response from second tier schools. These are a good option for new teachers, as the schools will usually follow the contract and have decent, though not good, facilities.
July and August are terrible times to search for jobs, as usually only third tier and private ESL schools are looking for teachers. Most of the good schools will have chosen their English teachers, and will only look for more if someone quitsunexpectedly.
ESL Teachers With High School Diploma’s
With China’s ever changing teaching rules, it may not be possible to high school graduates to get an ESL job in the near future. But until that happens, low skilled teachers can look for a teaching job with some hope of success between late June and early September.
In the spring and early summer, no ESL school will look at an inexperienced teacher without a degree unless they’re very poor, far from a major city, or low quality. There are too many other more experienced teachers looking for work. Again if the resume looks very good and during an interview the teacher does a fantastic job its possible to get a job even in March, but its very unlikely.
During the late summer, especially late August, any schools that don’t have a foreign teacher yet will be getting desperate and will consider any foreigner that shows up. These schools will be primarily third tier and small private schools, some of them will follow the contract, but care should be taken and the contract should be looked over extremely closely.
Second tier schools will also occasionally hire teachers with only a high school diploma in late August and the first week or two of September. If a teacher quits at the last minute, there will be a fairly large gap in the schools schedule, especially if the school term is beginning. This may be the best and only chance for new teachers without a BA to get into a decent school. Waiting for this opportunity will probably leave a would-be teacher without a job for the term, so going with a third tier school is likely the best option.
Remember these are just some tips I have picked up over the years in Nanjing, it doesn’t necessarily follow that it will be similar in all cities, or even schools within Nanjing, but timing when to search for a job and how hard to look for a job at certain points of the year is important. If you send out dozens of resumes at the wrong time it is easy to get stuck in a school beneath your qualifications, or to lose hope when the best English schools say you’re not qualified enough.
Any comments, thoughts, or additional information is appreciated, even if you disagree.
Actually I like well reasoned arguments, so please comment especially if you disagree.