Behind classroom doors

Behind classroom doors… No it’s not that kind of story, it’s a lot less exciting. Sorry.

Teaching English overseas appears to be a pretty popular thing to do when looking for that package deal of live/work/travel.  So I’ve decided to add a new section in the blog ‘Behind classroom doors’ and have a chat to some other globe trotters about their awesome overseas teaching experiences. I’m excited to share their stories and see how various countries compare to one another!

I thought I would kick start this and enlighten you on how things are going on my end…

Currently I am living in China and teaching 12-13 year old Chinese kids how to speak the finest English…“Fish n chups” “cheers mate”, as well as rock at games like hangman and pictionary.

I decided to pack my bag and teach English in China because it’s such a different and diverse country to explore, and can’t say I know many people that have been there! Teaching gives me the opportunity to earn and travel; and picking up Mandarin is something I’ve contemplated for a long time, so what better way to do it than be immersed.

I have a sweet roster of 10 hours teaching time per week, plus lesson planning time on top, so I get loads of free time (hence why this blog exists!) The downside is that I have 50 students in each class which does make things a tad challenging; such as lack of space for activities, difficulty engaging them and limited interaction time with each student.

Of course there are cultural and classroom etiquette differences in every country; just a few I’ve learnt in China is:

• It is rude to point with your index finger – you should use an open hand.
• It is very normal for people to speak loudly even when next to each other (I swear I get a bit deaf after some classes!)
• Chinese students aren’t taught to be critical or creative but to conform (one funny example is when I told them to choose a blank page to write in, and it turned into such a debacle..“Teacher I don’t know I don’t know, what page??”… I soon learnt to just give specific page numbers).
• Kids with ADD or learning difficulties can go unnoticed here so these kids struggle to stay focused in class.
• Being really expressive with facials and gestures can be amusing and at times, hilarious for the students (i’m a teacher and a performer apparently).

A lot of people have asked me – how do you communicate and teach the students with the language barrier? Well, most of the students have been learning English since a young age, but never practice speaking it, which is where we come into play. Key is to be clear, concise and speak sloooowly (sometimes I feel stupid doing it, but they won’t understand you otherwise!) Also, I found speaking in an American accent helps… they seem to struggle with the Kiwi accent, and when I say “yeeeah naah”…….Really, that isn’t clear enough for you?

I’m not meant to have favourites, but… This is Rex 🙂
Rex is always bubbly, polite and hard working. He is never afraid to give things a go, even at the most challenging times!


I have been challenged in so many ways living and working here in China. The best piece of advice for anyone keen to do something similar is keep an open mind, appreciate the difference, enjoy the ride and eat heaps of yummy authentic Chinese food!