Erica Fairchild

Are you thinking about making the leap to teach English overseas? Wondering what it'll take to get yourself started? Whether you're a fresh grad, starting your gap year, or just someone who wants a bit of a change, teaching English in China could be the perfect fit for you. It isn't as complicated as one might think to get started, and with big English institutions such as English First here to help, most of the hard stuff is already taken care of.

Read on, readers!

STEP 1: Become a Certified Teacher

It can be daunting to think about becoming an English teacher. We have spoken English our whole lives, but teaching it is an entirely different story. How would I plan a lesson? How can I describe this grammar point? What happens when someone asks me a question I can't answer? You'll be happy to know that all these questions (and more!) are answered for you in a course known as TEFL, which stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language.

Taking a teaching course before you start teaching is single-handedly, the BEST way to set yourself up for success in front of a classroom. It's safe to say that almost all schools in China will ask that you have some sort of teaching certification, so it's a win on all fronts to have this. Furthermore, in taking a TEFL (120-hour) course, you'll have access to experienced instructors who can answer all your questions. You'll be given topics to study and asked to complete a set of assessments in order to up your teaching credibility. Some of the best courses require a practicum- a certain number of hours in front of a class, so that you can really hone your skills.

Now be careful- not all teaching courses are created equal. Depending on what you want for your teaching career, you might opt for a TEFL certificate that can be used in multiple countries, doesn't expire, and gives you the maximum amount of teaching practice. A 120-hour TEFL certificate is just that.

The costs of TEFL-type courses vary. A well-run, online 120-hour course should cost you about $1,000 on average, but there are ways around this price tag. For example, EF provides their new hires a free 120-hour TEFL course. That's right - FREE. What's even better, is that you'll be learning under one of the biggest and best English teaching institutions in China.

STEP 2: Tick All the Other Boxes

So, you now have an idea now about TEFL. Awesome. What you should do next is look at the helpful tips below to make sure you aren't forgetting anything before you start your teaching English in China adventure:

Have an updated passport. This is especially helpful if your future plans are not concrete. Many of our teachers planned on staying for six months, and five years later are still with us! How about yourself, are you open to staying if you love your job? Maybe planning an Asian backpacking trip afterwards? Are you thinking about it now that we've mentioned it? Having a passport with at least two years of validity is a sure way to keep out of sticky situations, and while you're at it, make sure you've got plenty of pages empty for all those country stamps you're about to collect!

Utilize all your experience. Oh, we really do mean all of it. We have much more experience in teaching than we sometimes realize. Have you ever helped a friend with a problem in class? Tutored someone after school? Even the times when you've corrected your own or a friend's spelling in text can be used as teaching experience. Some of our teachers have even used past friendships with international students as examples for cultural and teaching experience. Don't forget any volunteering work with kids, and yes, this includes babysitting!

Don't forget to mention your in-class tactics. One fabulous way to ensure you've got the goods as a teacher, is capitalizing on your experience in lesson planning. Don't have any experience? Think again! Remember all those book reviews you did in elementary school English? That's an example of evaluation. All those peer-reviews and edits you did? Editing experience. Do you remember any of the games and songs you played in school? This is all top-level material for life as a teacher. Jot down a list of the games you most enjoyed and you will have extra-time in class sorted. Better yet, think about the different ways your teachers split up the class or rewarded you for a job well done. An interviewer who hears you're already thinking of games and classroom management techniques will score you highly, so make sure you keep that list handy.

Teaching English in China is one of the most eye-opening, cultural and life-enriching experiences you can ever have. We can't stress enough how much fun you're going to have, and we haven't even started talking about how cute the students are! Best of luck on your teaching adventure!

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