Tag Archives: reachtoteach

Teaching in China

Part I: School & Structure

I know there are many questions about what exactly I’m doing in Shanghai, who I’m teaching, the ages, the structure and why exactly any teacher would have to work Sundays.  Therefore, these next two posts are my explanation of my job (after 2 weeks of observation & training and beginning my second week of actually teaching).

First, how did I get the job? I found the organization Reach to Teach online and after researching and having Skype interviews with them and other recruitment organizations I decided to use them to find a job in China.  Reach to Teach is one of many recruitment organizations that recruit native English speakers to teach English abroad.  R2T places teachers in Taiwan, China and South Korea. They have hundreds of reputable schools they work with in these countries in order to find the right fit for each teacher.

Because of my (lack of) experience, my geographical preferences and the openings which were available, R2T connected me with Kid Castle Educational Corporation in Shanghai.  Kid Castle is a Taiwanese based company, but they have numerous branches in China. Kid Castle operates kindergartens as well as English training programs throughout the country.  I work at an English training center, one of about 12 or 15 Kid Castle locations in Shanghai.  The center offers classes for children pre-kindergarten through primary school ages.  Classes are held after school on weekdays (Wednesday – Friday from 4:30 – 8:10pm) and all day Saturday and Sunday (9am – 5:30pm).

The students are broken out into three groups, K (for Kinder), J (for Junior) and S (for Senior).  Within each group there are several different levels, (K1, K2…).  The K group only goes up to level 3 or sometimes 4, as many students are then switched into the J group because of their age.  The J group goes up to level 7 (J1 – J7).  There are only a couple senior level classes at our school and currently I am not teaching any of them; regardless, there is a set curriculum for seven levels of Senior classes.  However, at that age (around 12-13, I believe) students are involved in many other extra-curricular activities and tend to leave Kid Castle.

Apart from the senior level classes, all classes are one and a half hours in length (two 40 minute sections with a 10 minute break) and classes meet two times per week.  Every other class is instructed by a “foreign teacher” who speaks English as a first language.  The second class of the week is taught by a Chinese teacher.  Each class ranges in size from 15 to about 20 students.  I think my largest class has about 21 students and they are a handful!  For the K level classes taught by a foreign teacher, a Chinese teacher is provided as a teacher’s assistant (TA) to help keep the little ones under control on task.  Keeping 15 three to four year olds on track is a lot to handle when you speak the same language; when you don’t – a second person is certainly helpful!

My school shares a building with a "7 Days Inn" and a foot massage parlor


Why China?

People frequently ask what I’m doing after I graduate from my master’s program in December 2010.  I would love to find my dream job based here in Portland that allows me to travel the world, but considering:

a) I still don’t know what I want to do with my life

b) the economy is still in the toilet and

c) I really have nothing tying me down at the moment

I decided if I wanted to run off to travel, have fun and try something totally new and different this is the time.

So why China?  What am I going to be doing there?  Originally, the idea was to get a scholarship from the Confucius Institute, go to China, and continue my education in Mandarin Chinese (the 9 months of Chinese I had at PSU is very limited and fading from my memory quickly). However, because of a technical issue with submitting my application online (might have been the fact that the website was in Chinese) I did not get the scholarship.  Laoshi Meiru (my Chinese teacher at Portland State) tried to help me get a scholarship anyway, but nothing worked out. 

My mind had already gotten fixed on the idea of going, and when my mind gets stuck on something… well, I want to make it happen.  I have friends who have travelled to China and let me know that as a native English speaker is really easy to get a job teaching English there.  I never thought I would be a teacher, but I love kids, it could be fun, something different!  Leah, my sister, teaches, my mom teaches ESL, it must be in the blood. I’m always up for something new and an adventure. I found a few places to apply through referrals and searching online.  I had a couple interviews and was most impressed with Reach to Teach.  I passed the interview process and now they are in the process of placing me in a school.

Currently, I’m looking at a school in Shanghai.  It will be a bit of a change, from little Portland, Oregon,population about 1/2 a million, known for it’s liberal culture, being bicycle friendly, environmentally conscious and micro breweries to the most populous city in the world, with 20 million people and well, in China. But I’m really excited.  Still waiting for more definite answers and placement before giving notice at my job, buying a plane ticket, etc.  I’m a planner though, my head is full of thoughts, what I need to do, what I need to buy, what I need to get rid of, dates, times, everything. 

Everything, obviously, includes being 100% prepared to share about my journey with anyone and everyone wanting to hear about it.  So here we are, come take a peek into Julia’s Life in China.

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