Interview With Kirsty Grace – Teaching in Shanghai, China
This week, we bring you a teacher from Scotland who decided to make the leap from working with children in London to teaching in Doha, Qatar before heading on to the hustle and bustle world of Shanghai. Read on for Kirsty’s best tips on living and teaching English in Shanghai, China.
1. Please tell us a little about yourself.
From Scotland, Glasgow, my friend’s refer to me as a ball of tumbleweed, because I love to travel. I fell into teaching when I moved to London and began working with kids; after that I gained my TEFL qualification and a world of possibility opened up to me. I spent last year teaching in Doha, Qatar before deciding to explore another continent and come to Shanghai.
2. How have you enjoyed teaching in Shanghai to date?
Teaching has been fantastic so far. The kids are so much better behaved than at home, and providing you have good classroom management, they’ll always do as they’re told. The majority of the battle is holding their attention and making them eager to learn, so you have to be creative and constantly keep them on their toes with games and rewards. Once you do that the rest slides into place.
3. What advice can you give to new teachers interested in teaching in Shanghai?[contextly_sidebar id=”MhawlSUrxRUeWcWm1xEmOXMgFuhclLsp”]
Make sure you have your visa sorted beforehand, because you don’t want to be caught working on a tourist visa. If you have any questions throughout the application process you should always have a point of contact with your employer, who’ll be able to give you advice. Reach to Teach were also really helpful if I had any questions. Going through an agency is the best option because you know the companies they’ll pass you on to are reputable. Also, read the contract thoroughly so you know about severance fees etc. All pretty basic stuff, but good to know nonetheless.
4. Can you tell us about a particularly powerful moment in your classroom?
When I first started at my school I had a K1 class; the kids are 4 years old without a word of English and no classroom experience. The first few weeks were utterly exhausting and trying to get them to sit down, let along speak English, was a bit of a mission. Suddenly though, just a couple of weeks ago, I told them to sit down and they all sat. I asked them questions and they answered perfectly. I drilled them and they knew all the phrases. It was a breakthrough moment and a reminder to be persistent and the work will pay off.
5. What are the positive and negative aspects of living in Shanghai
There are so many positives to living here. The city is the biggest and one of the most vibrant in the world. All you have to do is go on CityWeekend or SmartShanghai, and select a date, to see just how much goes on here. You’ll never be bored, and there are lots of cheap/ free things to do if you’re on a budget. With the city comes the millions of people within it. It’s so easy to make friends. There are lots of networking events, and more than that people are just keen to chat. You’ll likely get talking to various folk on nights out, and once you get on WeChat (the networking app here) you’ll find more and more people become part of your network.
On the negative side, Shanghai is really polluted. I often feel the remnants of it in my throat, and find that I get dehydrated more easily. You can pick up a mask for next to nothing from most pharmacies though. Obviously the language barrier is a bit of a bummer, though it’s actually easier to get by without a word of Chinese than you’d think. There’s an app called Taxicard, where you type in your address and it bring it up in Chinese to show to the driver. I’m not suggesting you don’t learn Chinese, but when you first arrive it’s handy to know.
6. Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about?
The best thing to do when you arrive is just say yes (unless someone is offering you tea in People’s Square. Look up the tea scam.) If someone offers you bizarre looking food, eat it. If there’s an opportunity to go on a trip or adventure then go. There’ ll be some things that will completely throw you off guard when you first arrive, but that’s all part of the experience, and ultimately you’ll be a better traveler, and a grown person through trial and error, from throwing yourself into being here.
7. Do you have any favorite blogs or websites about Shanghai that you’d like to share with our readers?
Please see my suggestions in the sidebar. Also, here’s a link to my blog with my experiences so far: http://gracingshanghai.tumblr.