A few weeks back, I wrote a post about how teaching English in Asia can help one to establish a financial base. While I still believe that teaching English can be a decent gig, there are times when it absolutely sucks.
Most people that think about teaching in China and get their first job overseas searching online will likely end up teaching at either a training center or a university. Generally speaking, both have their drawbacks. Training centers often have grueling hours and office politics to deal with, but the pay is reasonable, especially for people that are willing to commit to a frugal lifestyle. Universities, on the other hand, offer more freedom, but at the cost of offering low salaries. This can of course be made up for if accommodations are provided.
Personally speaking, I have only worked at training centers, and while I am indeed thankful for this opportunity, and my financial situation has been drastically improved, something inside of me cannot be satisfied doing this for a living long-term. In fact, teaching English in Asia probably shouldn’t be one’s final career objective, but rather a springboard to other opportunities, whatever they may be, to build a financial buffer, pay off debts, or see the world while earning an income.
Heading in to work at eleven in the morning might sound appealing, that is until you realize that you will have to work until nine at night. This might sound cool to people that want to drink every night away and party (which is something that I experienced two years ago in Xi’an), but these hours make life very difficult for those of us that want to explore or build a business on the side. Given the hours that most venues operate here in China (places, including the gym, all seem to open at around ten in the morning and close at ten at night), there is not much time to do anything in a day except for work.
Biased Lesson Plans
Depending on the company that you work for, you may be presented with biased lesson plans. For example, I have had to teach lessons regarding gender equality and multiculturalism. Of course, these lessons were not about real equality, but took a rather Leftist-biased approach to the topics. Of course, I’d love to live in a fantasy land of equality, but this simply is not the truth. Part of why I am not a full-fledged teacher in America is the fact that I cannot bring myself to teach political correctness which would not prepare students for the real world. Living in China, a country that can often display open racial bias and pure Machiavellianism, I would think that such lessons would be thrown out the window. I guess that I was wrong.
Occasionally, I slip in some of my personal beliefs and redpill rhetoric into such lessons; I am supposed to share culture and engage students with my own personal flare, after all.
They Try to Control Your Life
Depending on the company that you work for and the contract that you sign, you might not be allowed to have a side hustle at all. Oftentimes, your main salary will keep you afloat, but it is tutoring on the side or doing business outside of teaching that brings in the real money. If your contract does not allow you to do anything else, then essentially your company has capped your income and made you a financial slave to their whims.
To top this off, some schools may try to force you to socialize with your coworkers after hours. I have nothing against my colleagues, but I would much rather come home to some delicious cooking or hit the gym than spend my time not getting paid, and probably spend more money on transportation, activities, food, and beverages.
As always, avoid shaming tactics. Use your contract to your advantage is at all possible. If you are contracted to teach five classes a day, then you shouldn’t have to spend more time goofing off with colleagues if you do not want to.
Being the Foreign Sales Monkey
One of the selling points of English training centers are the foreign teachers (particularly the blonde/blue ones). Although I look nothing like Leonardo DiCaprio, I am still expected to perform sales duties, without being paid a sales commission. From what I have heard, this varies between different companies, so those with good sales skills might be able to make a substantial amount of income if they work for the right company.
At the end of the day, I realize that I am an expendable employee, and as long as this is the case, I will have to put up with things that I disagree with. This post is not written to complain, but rather to point out some issues that I have with my experiences in the ESL industry, and to potentially warn you, dear reader, of some things that might tick you off should you come to China to teach English.
I would still recommend teaching overseas for those that are interested, or might have reasons to do so. It certainly is a wonderful opportunity, but it is not all sunshine and rainbows like some people (particularly one’s superiors and recruiters) might try to make it out to be.