Taught English in China: summer 2012
Current Job Title: Primary School teacher
Careers after the placement
Our teachers gain lots of skills through their work in China, like communication skills, leadership ability and experience with public speaking.
Prospective employers value initiative, and the ability to take yourself out of your comfort zone and thrive.
It means that you have lots of careers options upon completing the programme.
A number of our recent teachers pursued a career in teaching, while others now work in finance, the civil service or for NGO’s.
What did you do after teaching in China?
After my summer of teaching in China, I started a PGCE course to train to become a Primary school teacher. The course lasted a year and once I had qualified as a teacher I secured a job in a local primary school which I am still working at now. I have spent two years teaching in Year 3 and I am currently teaching in Year 4. These children are between the ages of 7 to 9 and are similar ages to some of the children I taught in China.
How did teaching in China help you to make a career decision?
Before I went to China to teach I was unsure of my future career path. I had recently graduated from University and needed to make some decisions about my career. For a while I had considered teaching but I wasn’t sure if it was the right choice for me. I knew that teaching in China would be a perfect opportunity to help me decide! Even if I decided I didn’t enjoy teaching, I would still have the experience of going abroad to a new country and learning new things, developing skills, meeting a variety of people as well as travelling and sight-seeing.
I had hardly any experience of teaching when I signed up for teaching in China and so I remember it being a daunting prospect to go to an unknown environment and stand up in front of a class of children and teach them. I was worried and not very confident in my abilities. I remember within a day of arriving in China, I went to the school, got my class timetable and began teaching straight away. I was apprehensive and thought – Do I really want to teach? Will they understand me? Will they listen to me? How can I motivate and encourage the children to learn? I felt a huge responsibility for being the person in charge of supporting the children with their English skills.
Luckily, other people on the scheme were in a similar position and together we supported and encouraged each other. Some of the people I met had been teaching in China for a bit longer and were able to give words of wisdom or clarify things I was unsure of.
After the initial few lessons I felt myself starting to ease up and to gain confidence. I really enjoyed communicating with the students and helping them to learn. It felt like such a rewarding experience! I would leave work at the end of the day feeling happy and fulfilled – like I had done something worthwhile with my day! Each day whizzed by quickly and lessons were fun. You were able to be creative with your teaching and I remember spending evenings thinking of new and creative ways to help the children learn. I gained lots of knowledge about the teaching profession such as planning lessons, checking and assessing whether children have understood, being reflective upon your teaching as well as self-motivation and preparation to plan the lessons. I felt like I had gained a good understanding of what the teaching profession entailed and felt certain that teaching was the right career for me after absolutely loving my month experience in China! As soon as I got home I started my teaching career.
What skills did you gain on the programme that helped you in your career?
My time in China allowed me to develop some of my skills both personally and professionally for my career. By teaching in China, you are leaving your home comforts to try something different in a totally new environment. This includes a different language and a different culture. It is a big decision to make and not one that all people would be confident in making. To sign up and take the decision to go is courageous in itself. It shows willingness and determination to do things out of the ordinary.
One of the main skills I gained which supported me in my career was communication skills. Before I went to China, I knew hardly any Mandarin aside from a little we had been taught before we left. Regardless of not knowing the language, I would be working and living in a place where I could not speak nor read the language. However, within a few days of being there I had picked up key phrases to help me get by.
I had to communicate effectively with the children that I was teaching so that meant I was forced to use my initiative and find ways of communicating clearly. Therefore I had to try my best to pick up some of the language, I had to listen carefully and I tried to be creative when explaining things. The use of gesture, facial expressions and body language is extremely key in this situation. During my time in China I had no problem in getting to the places I needed, finding what I wanted and most importantly teaching the children. This meant that my communication skills had developed well and enabled me to communicate with anybody. This skill is really applicable to teaching back in the UK. The class I teach is made up of children from various cultures, backgrounds and languages with children that frequently join from overseas. I have to communicate with them and recognise their language needs. From already having this experience in China, I feel confident that I can converse or communicate with any person from around the world! I also feel I have more of an understanding of people’s backgrounds and enjoy learning about their cultures as well as appreciating and valuing them.
Another skill I developed in China was resilience. Going abroad to teach is not all easy and there were struggles or worries along the way. Especially at the beginning of my experience, there were sometimes lessons that I didn’t feel were brilliant or things that I found tough. However, to continue on and to try your best every day shows a huge amount of resilience. This is a key skill in any career as it shows a positive attitude and the ability to keep trying in order to succeed. As a teacher this is also a skill we teach the children as important within life. If you are resilient you will achieve whatever you want to in your career.
I personally gained lots of confidence from teaching in China. I am a fairly quiet person and to be able to stand in front of children and speak for a considerable amount of time took me out of my comfort zone. However I knew if I wanted to be a teacher I had to gain that confidence. Spending a month teaching in China was a great amount of time to practise and develop my ability to speak and deliver lessons with confidence. I knew by the time I got back I was confident and prepared to begin my teaching career and was sure of what was expected from me. Once I started my PGCE course I was prepared as I had had such a unique opportunity and could draw upon my experiences to support me.
Teaching children is a huge responsibility. They are reliant upon you and the parents put their trust in you to provide a good education and experience for their children. This is a big task and to be able to do this shows a good level of commitment and shows that you are a reliable and responsible character.
The list of skills that I acquired or developed in China is endless. The ones mentioned above are particular skills that stood out for me which have enabled me to get me where I am today in my career. However, there are so many more skills that are transferrable to any career such as organisation, motivation, determination and many more. They are respectable traits required for any career.
What’s your advice in terms of boosting your career through teaching in China?
Teaching in China is one of the best experiences I have ever had and it looks fantastic on my CV! I believe it contributed significantly to my employment as a teacher. Not everybody is fortunate enough to have that on their CV and it is a great conversation starter! Every time I mention my experience in China, people seemed impressed and are keen to hear more about it.
Teaching in China helped me to develop so many skills that are valuable in any career – not just teaching! Skills such as organisation, responsibility, resilience, confidence and the ability to communicate with a variety of people are skills that all employers look for. If you are willing and able to go to an unknown place and try something new it shows lots of courage and this is recognised by employers.
A lot of people seem to get degrees now which creates a lot of competition in the working world! Whilst degrees are fantastic, I believe experience is just as important and helpful for securing a job. If you are competing for the same job with somebody else who has a similar degree, employers will look at other things on your CV such as hobbies and experience. Having an experience such as teaching in China shows that you are versatile and flexible – you can work in any environment and be successful. It also gives you a huge amount to talk about with people and makes you unique and different from others.
This programme fully prepared me for my future career. I spent a significant amount of time there developing my teaching skills so when I got back to England to start my PGCE I already had knowledge and understanding of teaching and the skills I learnt and experience I gained were directly transferrable to the course. I felt confident and knew that if I could successfully teach abroad then I could achieve anything that I wanted!
My advice for anybody considering this programme would be to definitely do it! If you are seeking to become a teacher then it is the perfect opportunity to understand what the profession entails and to try it out first hand. If you are unsure of your future career, it is still worthwhile going. You can still put it on your CV and the skills that you acquire are transferable to any job. Not only that, you will be meeting new people, trying something new, travelling around the world and having an adventure.
I think back on my time in China regularly and loved every minute! If you are thinking of trying it out, you definitely should as you would not regret it. Now I have taught in China, I have aspirations to teach in various other countries at some point in the future. Going to China boosted my career as well as my love of travelling the world!
My Journey From Foreign to Primary School Teacher