Hello to all. I am from the U.S. and have been living and teaching in Asia for the past five years, four of those in Thailand. I absolutely love teaching Asian students, and my goal is to try and set an example with them, helping them to learn to think for themselves and enjoy the learning process as they grow.
While living in the U.S., I had a series of high stress jobs spanning over several years. My last job in the U.S. was a state job. I worked for the local corrections department at a medium security facility in our state and believe me; I definitely looked forward to my vacation time. All my vacations were spent in Asia. I traveled to the Philippines, China, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Japan mostly. For me anyway, Asia just seemed to get under my skin and I looked forward to each vacation period in which to return. It wasn’t until my last trip to Beijing in 2002 that I learned about ESL teaching when a young Chinese woman approached me while I was sitting on a park bench near my hotel reading the China Daily newspaper, and asked me if I spoke English.
“Yes, I do,” I replied.
“May I sit with you and practice my English?” she asked.
It turned out she was worried about losing her ability to speak English since she had just returned from Ankara, Turkey where her husband was working for a large corporation. She told me that in the circles she frequented while living in Turkey, everyone spoke English and now that she had returned to Beijing, she was finding it troublesome to find anyone with which to practice her English so she had joined a night course, but said she found it too basic. Her English was exceptional, and our conversation was delightful, going on for almost two hours. Before she had to leave, she asked me, “Do you like Beijing?”
“I love it!” a very truthful statement at the time.
“Then you should come here to live and teach,” she commented. I laughed and told her I was the farthest thing from a schoolteacher, but she persisted, telling me of numerous openings at local universities, primary and secondary schools and private schools.
Then suddenly she looked at her watch, turned to me and asked, “Do you have time for me to show you something?”
“Sure,” I said, and then she got up and motioned for me to follow her.
Her nickname was Jo, and as we were walking Jo told me that almost every university in Beijing had an English department and were always hiring foreign professionals to teach different subjects in English.
“But, I’m not a teacher!” I emphatically told her. “I am a parole officer, a person who looks after criminals! I teach, but surely not what your people are interested in learning!”
Jo shook her head and waved me off, leading me to whatever she had in store for me, which turned out to be a nearby university. We entered the university and I was quite impressed with the cleanliness of the place and the beautiful architecture. Once inside she led me to a huge billboard full of announcements and other articles, quite naturally most in Mandarin, but with a small section in the right upper corner devoted to want ads for foreign teachers in English.
The requirements were fairly simple and straightforward. You had to be from a country such as the U.S., Canada, England, Australia, etc., and you had to have at least a bachelor’s degree in any field. TELF, CELTA, TESOL certificates were not necessary, but surely were a plus, and you did not have to have any prior teaching experience. The university provided you (free) with an apartment, free water and gas, air conditioning, a portable heater for the winter months, a T.V., CD/DVD player, cable T.V., a microwave, refrigerator, water boiler, washing machine, rice cooker, bed and bed clothing, wardrobe, iron and ironing board, living room furniture, desk, bureau, telephone (except for long-distance calls), and a LAN connection to the university computer network. But, you had to pay your own electricity bill…Awwwww!
Afterwards, Jo led me up several stairs and down two different corridors to meet somebody she knew. Luckily for us, he was in his office. We knocked and an American emerged, much to my surprise. Mr.
Dan, as he was introduced, was a very pleasant gentleman from the state of Virginia. We exchanged pleasantries and after a brief conversation, he got down to business and told me he left his “dead-end” job as a realtor in Portsmouth, to come teach in China. He told me he had “absolutely no experience” as a teacher of any kind, but had taken a TEFL course near his home, and sold everything to come and live and work in China.
Mr. Dan had lived and worked in China for ten years. At the time I met him, he was the head of the English department at the university, had a Chinese wife, a 2-year old son, and another child on the way. Before we left, Mr. Dan offered me this surprising, yet tiny little tidbit of advise should I decide to come to Asia to teach:
“Stay as far away from other foreigners as you can. They are like a plague. They’ll gossip about you, steal (ideas, teaching materials, money, plane tickets, train tickets, clothing, lesson plans, etc.) from you if they can, stab you in the back, blackmail you, lie on their mother’s grave, and generally make your life miserable, whereas Asian’s will usually treat you right.”
I left our little meeting with Mr. Dan feeling very odd that he would say something so blatant and terrible about other westerners.
Six years later, all I have to say is this: “MR. DAN WAS ABSOLUTELY RIGHT!!!!!”
After five full years of employment in Asia, I have ONE good friend who is a foreigner. He is from England, which doesn’t really mean anything, since I’ve met twenty-fold Brits who were flaming arseholes, but I can honestly say I choose my friends very carefully, and the majority I meet, I could diagnose with some form of DSM-V diagnosis or severe personality disorder.