Ask anyone who has done it and you’ll find out that teaching English in China is a challenge. However, with a bit of tact and skill, you can navigate these challenges to become a successful teacher. Here are ten of the biggest challenges you’re set to face in the classroom
Fighting Through the Language Barrier
The language barrier in China is quite thick. If you teach English in a European country, where English is more prevalent, you’ll find it a bit easier to teach a lesson. This isn’t the case in China. English is rarely ever found in the country, whether in the country or the city. This means that you’ll need to find your method to get points across to students.
There’s a Little Workplace Inequality
Workplace inequality exists in just about every market and this holds true for China, too. When you arrive you may notice that you’re pampered more than the Chinese staff who works at the school. You may work less hours, get paid a sizeable amount more, and be treated more kindly.
This sounds great, but it becomes difficult to live with. Can you deal with the fact that your counterparts are paid half as much as you?
“The Little Emperor Syndrome”
While this has a funny name, it’s a recurring issue in China. This syndrome stems from the one-child policy in China. Because families now only have one child there is an excessive amount of personal wealth. This wealth is then spent on material goods for their kid.
Children also receive attention from everyone in the family, such as grandparents. While children in China are usually well-behaved, some act quite spoiled and parents feel they can do no wrong.
Parents Are Tough to Deal With
Going off the last challenge, the parents are also difficult to deal with. Since they feel that their child can do no wrong then if they fail it ‘must be’ the school’s fault. As a result, the school itself will impose a rule that it’s impossible to fail a student. You’ll be forced to give a minimum of an 80% to every student whether they succeed or not.
Inconsistent Scheduling is a Pain
Forget a consistent and comfortable schedule. In the United States we enjoy set schedules and if something changes we should find out well in advance. Well, not in China. You may not even get a full 24-hour notice if you schedule changes. This makes for missed classes by both you and your students.
Figuring Out How to Make Your Class a Student Priority
Chinese students are overworked due to their class loads. Getting into high school and college is competitive and often is the set standard for how successful they will become in life. It’s up to you to make sure that you English lessons are a priority for your students.
Getting a Rowdy Class Under Control
Keeping your class under control and student noise level down can be more difficult than you realize. It’s no surprise that when you’re stuck in class all day you want to move around and make some noise, especially when you have the American teacher.
If there’s any open room in a class, expect your school to fill it. There are so many students in China that schools are often overloaded, especially in English courses. Expect that it’s going to be challenge to get face-to-face time with your students on a one-on-one basis.
Developing Personal Boundaries
In China the personal boundaries between student and teacher are a little more relaxed. In the US, it’s almost unthinkable to invite a high school teacher to your home for dinner. However, in China it’s not uncommon to be invited to their family home or to do an activity outside of class.
How you deal with teacher-student boundaries is up to you. You’re going to want some alone time at some point and if you are choosy with who you go to dinner with, then you may make other students jealous.
Making China Feel Like Home
Making China feel like your home may be the biggest challenge of all. You’re in a very different culture than what exists in the US. The food, workplace conditions, and the language barrier will all play a role in making you feel uncomfortable. This is just one of those things that takes time to get over.
If you can handle these challenges, you will love teaching in China. There are times where it feels incredibly rewarding. You will develop strong bonds with students and have the chance to travel frequently.