Eastern vs. Western Learning and Education

I’ve had a few requests to share what I do to help train teachers to go to China. This is my 5th year helping with this training. It’s the program that I went to China with way back in 2006. They help teachers find jobs in China and train them to go. The training includes things like the history and culture of China, information on living in China, and teaching in China. To be a teacher in China, you need a bachelor’s degree in any subject area. It doesn’t have to be in education. However, in the last few years, many provinces in China are starting to require either a teaching background, teaching experience, or a TEFL certificate. Therefore, we now require all our teachers to go through some sort of online TEFL training that China will recognize.

So, my job at orientation is to give them detailed information on teaching ESL, and, more specifically, teaching English in China. I do four sessions that are about an hour each.

In the first session I teach, I try to help the teachers understand the different mentality between the east and west when it comes to teaching, learning, and education. The difference is quite vast!

For example, the concept of the teacher is extremely different between the East and the West. In America and Europe, the teacher is more of a facilitator. The teacher leads a discussion, as opposed to dominating it. ┬áIn opposition, in Asia, the teacher is “the sage on the stage”. The teacher is the authority on everything and shouldn’t be questioned. That was such a strange concept to me as an American teaching in China. I could literally write the word “kat” on the board and no one would dare correct me.

Americans are very individualistic as a whole. We focus more on me, me, me. In the educational world, this translates to being very competitive in the classroom. In the Eastern world, students are more group-oriented. They work together more and help each other more often. This also translates to more cheating, because they feel the need to help their classmates.

In China, students are most often respectful and polite in the classroom. Students are eager to please the teacher. As we know, Americans are like this when they are very young, but, usually, after elementary school, this sadly disappears.

In the West, students are taught to think outside the box, to do their own thinking, and to challenge existing ideas. Whereas, in the East, students usually memorize, usually take official answers without questioning them, and have trouble being creative in the classroom.

These are just a few of the differences in learning and education between the East and the West. If you plan to go to Asia to teach, knowing these differences is extremely essential. You might try a teaching method or a way of managing your classroom and it just doesn’t work and you don’t get why. Culture affects learning. Expectations affect learning. Learn these differences before you go and teach. These concepts are also helpful even if you teach in the US and have Asian students in your classroom.

More teacher training to come!

Starting Your ESL Adventure Abroad

I’ve had several people ask me recently about how to find an ESL (English as a Second Language, in case you didn’t know) teaching  job overseas, so I thought I might share my wisdom, if it can indeed be considered wisdom. :]

I think the first step is to narrow down where you want to be. You’re not going to find a job by simply saying, “I want to teach ESL abroad.” Narrow it down to a part of the world- Asia, South America, etc. Do a little research and decide on your country. If you already know that, you’re doing well! Then on to the city. Consider things such as cost of living, average ESL teacher salary, weather, etc. Would you enjoy living and working in that city? Ok, you’ve got it narrowed down to a city. Some people can skip this step, because when they think of teaching overseas, they already picture themselves in a certain place.

Let’s take Shanghai, China as an example. As you probably know, Shanghai is huge (a mere 23 million people live there!), so think about what area of town you would like to be in.You don’t want to accept a job that you think is in the city-center of Shanghai, and it turns out to be on the outskirts 2 hours away from downtown.  After you narrow that down to one or two areas, research what schools are located there.  Are you wanting to teach at a university? An elementary school? A private language center?  Most schools advertise their foreign teacher positions on their website, and you can go from there. It’s difficult to just do an internet search for “ESL jobs” or even a search for “ESL jobs in China”; the results will be overwhelming!  So the more specific you can be, the more success you will have.

Finding a credible job can also be done through some organizations. Are you a member of LinkedIn? LinkedIn is a social networking site that is used for professional purposes. People post and look for jobs and just make connections with people in their field of study or field of work. Both professionals and students have accounts. LinkedIn also has groups that you can join. Groups such as TESOL International, ESL International, and even ESL Teaching Jobs would be perfect for you to look at. It could also connect you with others who have either already taught abroad or are planning to. Here is the link to their homepage. http://www.linkedin.com/home?trk=hb_home

Have you heard of the organization TESOL International? I am a member, and it is such a great resource! They give practical teaching information but also open ESL job positions around the world, everywhere from Saudi Arabia to Thailand to Costa Rica. And the best part is, they only post jobs from trusted employers.  You can become a student member at a cheaper rate, so if you’re a student, look into that. Check out their site: http://www.tesol.org/s_tesol/index.asp

Once you are seriously considering a job at a specific school, TALK TO SOMEONE who worked there. This is by far the best thing you can do. The school will talk itself up to the high heavens, but someone like you, a person leaving their home country to teach in a foreign land, will be able to tell you the truths and the myths, the pros and the cons, and answer any questions you have. Ask them all the important questions- did the school always pay them and pay them on time, did they provide a place to stay, did they give any travel stipends, did they give paid holidays, if so how many, did they treat their teachers well, etc. Ask anything and everything. Your potential school should be willing to give you the e-mail address of  a former teacher. If they are unwilling, there’s your first sign!

I think that if you follow these steps, you will be well on your way to finding an ESL job. I can see you now…teaching ESL during the week in a Thai university and relaxing on a sunny beach on the weekends. Ah, that’s the life! If you have any more questions, feel free to ask! I’d love to help. Or are you currently or have you been an expat teaching abroad and have some tips on finding an ESL job? Please share with us!

Love,

Your resident ESL expert :]