Ready or Not, Here Comes Teaching

This time around I’m ready. I can’t wait to get back into the routine, get to know the students and my colleagues, planning, preparing lessons and teaching. What I am not quite ready with is my work visa, though I hope very much that it will be completed this month. I’ll probably need to take a trip to Hong Kong to apply for it. I thought I had all my documents in order, but I have to update some things like my health certificate, background check and diploma authentication, which is why it’s taking longer than I had thought to be able to apply for the work visa.

I’m really excited about my job teaching Cambridge English ESL and Music in a Chinese boarding school. My colleagues are all intelligent, kind and enthusiastic, and the teaching materials are high quality. Even the work-environment is good with lots of trees and beautifully landscaped gardens; the workload is fair and the lunch is amazing – large variety to choose from at a very reasonable price, which was a pretty strong deal-maker for me even though I hadn’t tried it out in advance. I believe people are much happier and learn better when they have a good diet, and that is certainly the case in this school.

It would be difficult to find a more ideal teaching environment. It’s unusual to not only get along with all your colleagues and the administration but actually like them and enjoy them all. I am definitely thanking my lucky stars on this one.

What I find to be truly blissful in my current position is that there is enough time and flexibility for planning, preparation, collaboration and evaluation. That is rare indeed in education these days. The program director makes himself easily available to the teachers and even teaches a section of economics, so he also has day-to-day contact with the students.

It’s an amazing program, really, considering that these high school students are taking all of their subjects in English, compressing two years of instruction into less than one, because their goal is to attend university overseas in the UK, the US or a major Chinese university. Imagine for a moment an entire class of native English speakers (or any other native language) learning Chinese well enough to take their whole high school program in Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses in Chinese! That is the caliber of students we have. I have deep respect for the effort that these children and their parents have put into their education, and I am delighted to have been chosen to be their teacher.

The levels of bureaucracy between countries when one is an international teacher are actually not very different from each other. Everyone who is qualified (with an accredited degree and preferably also teaching certification) who wants to teach in China should be able to manage it, it just requires a certain number of official documents to be processed and it takes some time to get them. Patience is definitely an asset because there are several things which take weeks or longer to process. There is also an age limit, but it varies depending on the subject, the need (read: desperation level to fill a post) and one’s highest degree.

This school is a joint venture between the local Suzhou government, Nanjing Normal University and a private education group. I worked at Nanjing Normal University teaching violin to violin majors ages ago! It never occurred to me that I would ever be teaching for the same institution again in China, but I’m very glad I am.

Like the old saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” Only in this case, when the teacher is ready, the students will appear!

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