It’s the year of the horse and to those who believe in such things – the horse represents energy, brightness and warm heartedness. The Chinese see the symbol of the horse as an unremitting effort to improve themselves. How apt then, that it should be the year that I move to China! And for snakes such as myself it is set to be a great year. I have to say, I feel my ‘fortune’ is already coming true!
Frances Waller is an international teacher currently teaching in Shanghai. Here, she shares her experiences so far of the vibrant, lively city she already considers home…
I came to teach in China just over three and half weeks ago. I am already overwhelmed by how at home I feel and how easy the transition has been. Mostly however, I am amazed at what can be accomplished with the words hello and thank you! I’ve set up home, survived the obligatory Ikea trip, settled into a new school and am now enjoying the first days of my holiday! Eleven days off – just one of the many pluses to being a teacher in Asia!
A vibrant city
So after a short teaching term I am now embracing the chance for my feet to touch the ground and to generally take stock of where I am. And where I am is immense! This city is eclectic, vibrant, welcoming, eccentric, and bursting with the new and the old. There is an insane amount to see and do, and other places to travel to. The good news is, it’s all possible! The great thing about being a teacher abroad is the improved work-life balance, that elusive dream we are all always chasing.
Don’t misunderstand me, its still a tough job and the hours are still long. The rumour that international teaching hours are shorter and you don’t actually have to work is a rumour! After all, I’m still a teacher and that hasn’t changed from London to Shanghai. Lessons still need planning, work still needs marking and those levels need improving. However, what has changed is the ethos in which I now do these things. Somehow there is a security in the transience of international living. Both the teachers and children come from all over the world and move on to all over the world! The turnover of families and staff is frequent but this means relationships with the kids and your colleagues are fast tracked. People are enormously welcoming and I feel more at home here then I ever did in a London school.
The freedom to teach
Teaching out here is also what teaching should be. Less tick boxes and doing things for futile reasons and more actual teaching! Of course all the paperwork needs to be done and the progress of children needs to be evidenced; you are still accountable for your class and their achievement / happiness. However, there is a freedom here which I never felt in the UK. I am trusted to teach uniquely and diversely, not just teach in a colour by numbers fashion. Being a teacher here has given my love of teaching the wake-up call that it needed. Even after a matter of weeks I can already feel myself becoming a better teacher. It feels like the final piece in the puzzle. After this I will be equipped to go anywhere, work anywhere. I will have challenged and improved myself professionally far more than any opportunities back home allowed me to, and on top of all that I will have done it in an exciting and captivating country.
Before I left the UK a friend said to me that even if it wasn’t an amazing experience, it would still be the best thing I ever did. She wasn’t wrong. I know its early days but my instincts tell me there is more good stuff to come. I don’t have any real regrets in life, but I do wish I had done this sooner. If you’re toying with the idea of teaching abroad then do it! By thinking about it and never deciding you’re effectively choosing to stay. Choose to go. It will be the best thing you ever did.