What attracted you to this
I was more attracted to the school than to the specific position. From
my communications with the principal I could tell that the
administration was extremely supportive of all their teachers. Even in
the application process, they made me feel like I would be a needed,
contributing member of the community. This was appealing since new
teachers are often seen more as a burden from my experience. Since I was
going abroad, I thought preschool would be perfect for me since there is
less planning and grading than an upper grade. This gives me a little
extra time to get out and explore the city.
What are the most gratifying
aspects of your job?
The most gratifying aspect is seeing students make progress. At the
beginning of the year, many of my young preschool class understood very
few English words. Now, they are starting to use the words they know
without hesitation. I think everyone’s first words were apple, pear,
milk, and bread, which is what our snack is each day. I also love when
they start initiating conversations with me in English. As their
language skills improve, they become more and more fun to play and learn
What has been/was your biggest
challenge as a first-year teacher?
Boys! I have one class that has 11 boys in a class of 16. I’m learning
how to channel all that energy into something constructive, but it’s
hard! The worst days are “Red Flag” days which mean the air pollution is
so bad that we can’t go outside. The other big challenge has been
managing classroom behavior in a group of ESL students. Since they are
only 4 years old, they are still learning how to listen, but teaching a
student to listen in a language they don’t understand very well is a
How did your time at GCC prepare
you for the teaching field?
I think aspects of Early Literacy methods, Children’s Literature, Art
and Music methods are the courses I am pulling most strongly from. When
I was packing my suitcase, I found my phonics flashcards I had made for
class. I couldn’t find space for them in the end, but I regret it
because I just spent 2 hours remaking a set to use here. GCC also did an
excellent job teaching me how to find information when I need it. I have
been doing a lot of research on how to teach English as a Second
Language as well as how to teach boys effectively.
What advice would you give to a
current pre-service teacher in order to better prepare for his or her future
Keep copies of favorite journal articles stored on your computer rather
than just having copies in your portfolio. When I came to China, I
brought 2 suitcases and had to leave all my portfolios at home. Now I
wish I had “that one journal article from literacy methods” and have no
way to get it. If you are planning to teach overseas, start collecting
any materials you can’t live without—CDs, books, posters, calendar,
etc. Teacher supply stores are non-existent in China, shipping takes
forever, and it is extremely expensive.
What job search tips would you
give to GCC students?
Just keep applying! I estimate that I applied to about 40 places.
Personally, I had no clue where I wanted to live or what type of school
I preferred. I applied to public, private, and charter schools in
several states, as well as International schools. If a school really fits
your personality, send in your application whether or not they have
posted openings. My only interviews were with schools that did not have
postings. Also, complete your PA-Educator application before the spring
semester starts and check the postings daily.
In terms of International Schools, try to find out as much as you
possibly can about the school and its reputation. Beijing has at least
80 different International schools and the public schools hire Western
teachers as well. Each school has different expectations for teachers
and different philosophies on education. Search for one that fits your
style. There are lots of companies that place teachers in schools, but I
applied directly through the school. Ask about the demographics of the
staff to get a sense of whether or not you will be the sole American. If
you don’t speak the language, you will likely get lonely if you’re the
only American at school.
What are the challenges and
rewards of teaching in another culture?
I love how my students are able to teach me just as much as I teach
them. One day, while lining up to go inside from recess my class taught
me how to count to 10 in Mandarin. I love that my Mandarin skills are
equal to their English skills and it helps me relate to their
frustration in my class. But it certainly is a challenge to discipline
students who don’t have strong English skills. They don’t usually feel
like trying to understand me or my actions when they’re mad!
Another great reward is getting to work with a diverse group of
teachers. At 3e we work in teams of 4: two Western teachers and two
Chinese teachers. We share the same students and work to create
consistent expectations across both classrooms. My co-teacher is from
the Philippines and that adds another facet to our diversity. It’s fun
to be able to share my experiences as an American, but it’s also great
learning about Filipino and Chinese experiences and traditions. I’m
looking forward to teaching my students and fellow teachers about
The biggest challenge has been learning the various cultural
expectations parents have for their children. Chinese parents are
particularly concerned with how much their child ate at each meal and
whether the food was hot or cold, how often they went to the bathroom,
how long their nap was, how many layers they wore outside, and what
caused the tiny scratch on their arm. These aren’t things I’ve been
conditioned to notice and I was a little shocked that no parent has
expressed concerns over the length of recess time or the quality of the
curriculum as parents would do in the USA.
What are the challenges and
rewards of living in another culture?
Beijing is a very difficult city. I consider myself to be a very
adaptive person, but I get so frustrated when I can’t take my antsy
preschoolers out to play because of the awful air pollution. The
language barrier has also been challenging, but I’m starting to get
creative with taking photos of signs and buildings to show taxi drivers!
I think one of the greatest rewards has been making friends with local
Chinese as well as expatriates. China has a rich history and a lot of
cultural traditions which are most appreciated when you have someone to
share them with!