Teach Enrich Empower
I swapped a sunny South African summer for a Chinese winter
Hi my name is Mark Jepson and I am from South Africa.
Hi my name is Mark Jepson and I am from South Africa.
I would describe myself as a man that has worn many different hats in my career so far. After finishing high school, I worked in a few different jobs and travelled to the UK for a working holiday. After a few years of that, I returned to my native South Africa and worked in some more random jobs from bars to movie sets! I left my hometown of Cape Town and moved down the coast to a small surfing village where I began working for a retail company. I worked in this role for almost 7 years but due to the poor economy at the time, I was made retrenched and left the position. I took my severance pay and completed a sailing course and some maritime diplomas which led me to work on the ocean and quite literally drifted from job to job! I decided it was time for a life-changing experience and more adventure, so I looked to Asia. I had my heart set on China as I’ve always dreamt of going off the beaten track by exploring temples, monuments, statues, and the Great Wall. But what would I do in China?
I saw an advertisement from the TEFL Academy to learn how to teach English to foreign nationals. As a native English speaker, I knew this is something I could do. I was encouraged by the fact that their certificate was internationally recognised so I signed up. TTA’s course allowed me to study at my own pace and slowly gave me a foundation and understanding of what to expect when teaching English as a foreign language. I was busy with my course and on the second assignment when a friend of mine that worked in China forwarded me the contact details of a recruiting agency for ESL teachers in China. I spoke with a recruiting agent who arranged an interview for me with a school in a major city. However, as I did not have the minimum requirements academically for this school I had to seek a position elsewhere. What I did possess was real-life experience in teaching so I managed to get another interview and secured a teaching position with the same school/language center but just not in a major city. Schools and language centres outside of the major cities are not so strict with requirements for English Teachers. However, I had to agree on a deduction in salary as I did not have a bachelor’s and I was also placed on probation for two months which is standard in China.
After completing my TEFL, I supplied the language center with my documents such as diplomas and criminal background check who then arranged the z-visa interview at the Chinese embassy in Cape Town and the rest is history. Many YouTube videos later (on what to expect in China), I swapped a sunny South African summer for a Chinese winter. I slept one night in Beijing and travelled the next morning by bullet train to my new hometown Jinzhou in the Liaoning province in the Northeast of China. It is a fantastic small city with an easy-to-use transport system with really good and cheap restaurants, pubs, markets, shopping malls and BBQs and other attractions like ice skating on the frozen rivers and 4D IMAX cinemas. The people are very nice and generous local people willing to help you in any way that they can.
After one week, I began my month-long training at my new school/language center and familiarized myself with the syllabus I was about to teach as well as the tools available to me e.g., realia, toys, games, flashcards, food (we baked a lot of cake) and the interactive whiteboards (IWB’s) a fancy name for a gigantic touch screen, smart TV. Once the training period was over, I began learning about many important aspects of my job, I got the chance to practice lesson planning and used the local Chinese staff at work to attend my mock-up classes to gain confidence and received great feedback from the ex-pat teachers. I got the chance to slowly start teaching classes and I immediately felt more confident in the classroom. I mostly worked with 3–7-year-old students and it was amazing to see their quick progress after just two one-hour lessons each week. It is a known fact that language acquisition is stronger within younger age groups, but seeing that first hand, week in week out as a teacher is both amazing and rewarding. I had various duties within this role including but not limited to; on and off-site teaching, lesson planning, grading, student exams, record keeping, writing report cards and parent-teacher conferences and graduation ceremonies for children 3 – 7 years old on campus and then some demos with teens and adults off-site.
In conclusion, completing my TEFL course and moving to China was a great experience for me and I couldn’t be happier. I gained valuable teaching experience and now it is easier for me to get employed. If you are reading this and contemplating whether or not to go forward with it, I highly recommend you do so, and hopefully, you will have as great of an experience that I had. From the one student who insisted on having the English name “Bumblebee” as he was very shy (but having that name his confidence grew in class) to the exciting challenge of making lessons fun and stimulating. I take a lot of great moments and experiences from China.
All in all, there is really an exciting world out there waiting for you to explore and earn a living from teaching English and it starts with an accredited TEFL course.
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