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7 things you should not bring to China

Travelers are often told what they should bring with them when they go to China. But what about the things that are best left behind?
Here are some things you should not bring to China.

There are some things you should not bring to China (pictured: Great Wall of China).

Here are seven things you should think twice about when packing your bags for China.

1. Your big, expensive camera

These days even travelers on a shoestring budget seem to carry around the latest Canon digital SLR camera. Unless you’re trying to get your photos published in National Geographic, or you really really can’t part with your beloved optical instrument, leave it at home.

Digital SLR cameras are often big and bulky, meaning you’ll have to factor this in to your travels. Plus, you don’t want to take the risk of leaving it behind at some far-flung tourist attraction.

And, although China is a really safe country, there’s still a risk of it being pinched while you’re not looking.

The easy option? Pack a small, lightweight digital camera, or if the quality of the lens is good enough, use the camera in your smartphone.

A digital SLR camera is one of the things you should not bring to China.

Don’t bring your digital SLR camera to China unless you absolutely have to.

2. An inflexible attitude

If you’re really set in your ways, and not open to change or a challenge, then teaching English in China may not be for you.

Last-minute plans and changes are part of everyday Chinese life. For example, you may be given your ‘final’ timetable for the semester to plan around, only then to be given a totally new timetable.

Similarly, you may be invited out to dinner at the last minute to help entertain some important faculty heads. The dinner starts in less than an hour, but you’re about to play badminton with some of your students.

Structure and planning in China are carried out very differently to what you’re used to. The quicker you can accept this little quirk of Chinese society, the sooner you’ll adapt to this fascinating country.

3. A money belt

Seriously, do these things still exist? Well, if you look in any store that sells travel accessories, apparently they do.

It’s a hassle getting money out of one without looking like you’re undressing in public. It can also irritate your skin as it rubs against you while you walk.

Keeping money in the same bag, wallet or purse you use in your own country is the way to go. While it’s never a good idea to flash your money around, China is a safe country. Simply exercise normal safety precautions when you carry money.

4. A phone locked to a network

If you’re relying on using only your locked phone from home, you’ll be in trouble.

A locked phone is one of the things you should not bring to China, unless you plan on buying a new phone there.

Don’t use your locked phone in China. Instead, buy a new phone when you arrive so you can contact people locally.

The calls and messages you make in China will be billed per your phone plan’s international roaming charges. And you can’t expect your new, local friends and colleagues to contact you on an international number!

The easy way around this is to buy a cheap phone in China, or bring an unlocked one from home that you can use. This could accompany your locked phone.

So you might have two phones – one for local use and the other for international use.

5. Heavy textbooks

By all means, bring useful teaching materials from home, but don’t lug heavy textbooks all the way to China.

Firstly, your school will most likely have a prescribed textbook, which you may be expected to use. Why bring something you’ll never use?

Secondly, while it might be a good starting point for a discussion, a textbook is not going to improve your students’ speaking or listening skills.

Use fun ice-breakers, games and team activities to get your class talking.

6. Common toiletries

Ever heard someone say “China is a backwards country and you can’t buy any Western toiletries there”?

Don’t believe them – it’s a total myth. China is, in fact, a rapidly developing country and a wide range of Western toiletries are available.

While the corner store may not stock your favorite brand of hair conditioner, if you head to a large store like Walmart you’ll find many of the big American brands.

Walmart also stocks Western-style deodorant, like anti-perspirant spray and roll-on, which can be hard to find in smaller stores in China.

If you’re super fussy, best bring your own toiletries.

Toiletries are some of the things you should not bring to China.

A wide range of toiletries are available in China, but deodorant can be hard to find.

7. More than 10 days’ worth of clothes

You’re an English teacher, not a catwalk model! Clothes that last you 10 days should be sufficient.

If you feel that you need to freshen up your wardrobe, go on a shopping spree. Clothes in China are cheap and there are clothing stores everywhere.

When you finally bid farewell to China, consider those who are less fortunate and leave behind any unwanted clothes. It’s a nice thing to do, plus it’ll free up your suitcase for any travelling and shopping you do on the way home!

Want to know what to bring to China? Here’s our top six items.

Connecting with students: one teacher tells how

Want to know how to connect with your students? Australian teacher Nicholas McKay reveals his techniques.
Connecting with students will help you in the classroom.

Connecting with students is an important part of being a teacher.

In my previous blog, I wrote about balancing student connections with behavioral management. However, I did not discuss how to form these connections.

Sometimes, students will spend more time with you, their teacher, than they will with their parents. Teachers, after all, have a massively important role in shaping the lives and values of students.

Naturally, because of this, students are curious to know more about you. Some teachers I’ve met have misconstrued student interest as misbehavior.

Children can be very tenacious when they want something. Most students I’ve met say they don’t want their teachers to be their BFF.

They do however want to know, who is the stranger at the front of the class? What are they like? What punishments do they dish out for unruly behaviour? And how far can they be pushed before they run screaming towards the nearest psych ward?

One such strategy is one many teachers overlook – learn students’ names. Students love it when a teacher remembers their name. This shows you have a vested interest in them.

Some students experience difficult lives outside of school. To know an adult is paying attention to them means a lot.

Whenever I have a new class, I begin by asking students to write me a letter for homework. They are required to discuss who they are and what hobbies they enjoy. I also ask them what profession they want to enter, and what they wish to achieve in the subject.

I sometimes ask what teacher practices they appreciate. This way, I understand what students like, and can accommodate them. I will try to incorporate activities they enjoy into the classroom experience.

Connecting with students is important, according to teacher Nicholas McKay

Ask your students what they want to achieve in the class.

I am also able to analyse how proficient a student’s language, spelling and grammar skills are. This will come in handy when constructing essays.

Additionally, at the beginning of a new class, I play the game ‘two truths, one lie’. I provide students with a sheet of paper containing multiple statements of three. Two of these are true, one is not.

In pairs, students are required to guess which of the three isn’t real. I give students a few minutes to work on these. I allow them to ask me questions, to better their odds of guessing correctly. We then go through their guesses as a class, with often hilarious results.

When introducing myself to a Year 10 English class, I provided many statements. The following three are just one example I asked them to identify the lie in:

  1. I have a fascination with Asian films, Korean drama, Japanese anime and A-Pop.
  2. My favourite A-Pop groups/singers include Big Bang, G-Dragon and Xia.
  3. My favourite American singers/bands include Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Don Henley, Joshua Kadison, Richard Marx, Lifehouse, Daughtry and Nickelback.

Almost everyone assumed 3. was the lie. I don’t know why, but I’m the only person I know who listens to Nickelback (sob).

One student responded by saying “everyone likes a little G-Dragon”. Unfortunately, I don’t, and when I told the class this, he was devastated.

When he wrote his letter to me, he said he couldn’t believe I didn’t like G-Dragon’s music. However, because I liked Ace of Angels, he said we were cool.

Furthermore, every teacher has their own special abilities. As for me, I write poetry in my spare time. Students in the aforementioned year 10 class were fascinated with this pastime of mine. So, as a reward for doing the work, I would sometimes read them poetry at the end of a class.

Moving on, I argue, teachers need to accept responsibility for their mistakes. I’ve observed a number of classes where a teacher made a spelling error on the board or on a worksheet.

When students picked up on these, the teacher’s automatic reaction was to save face. “I deliberately inserted those to see if you were paying attention”, is a common response.

Students see right through this. In short, the teacher is being condescending and dismissive.

I always own up to it. There was a time I developed a word search for a Year 10 Media class. I spelt the term ‘lighting’ wrong. After printing off 25 sheets, and only finding the error at the last minute, I simply notified the class.

On another occasion, I had a conversation with a student in a Year 8 English classroom. She raised a very good point, and I chose to write it on the board for others to copy down. Instead, I wrote her name on the board by accident, only to have her think she was in trouble!

For me, I always make a joke about this. I laugh, or I say “my bad!” A person who can laugh at themselves is obviously very comfortable. Do however avoid sarcastic responses – this detracts from teacher-student connections.

Students enjoy picking up on teacher errors. As I inform my students, I’m not God, so I don’t know everything.

I make mistakes, just as they do. This conveys a sense of humility. Besides, self-correction is a technique students are required to learn – so, why not show them an example of it?

The classroom is a vulnerable place for students – responding incorrectly can lead to moments of embarrassment. Seeing a teacher in an equally vulnerable position will garner their respect.

Admitting your mistakes helps connecting with students, according to teacher Nicholas McKay

Admitting your mistakes can convey a sense of humility.

Lastly, I will argue for teachers not to be afraid to have random conversations. Previously, I taught a year 12 class. There were two girls who rarely did the work. They experienced difficulty, yet never asked for help, because of a lacking connection with their teachers.

After two weeks teaching them, both girls were happy asking for my assistance. Why? Sometimes I would stop and listen to what they were talking about while walking around the room. I would then involve myself in their conversation.

There was a moment one student was talking about her boyfriend. By asking the simple question, “is he hot?”, I became part of a conversation about their relationship. She admitted the struggles they were having, and asked for my opinion.

When you build a connection with students, don’t be surprised if they see you as a confidant. Sometimes these will be very hilarious. Others may even be heartbreaking, and might cause you to involve coordinators, or even police.

However, even those moments prove one undeniable truth. The students trust you, and because of this, they are likely to be more willing to learn.

Having recently completed a Master of Teaching in Secondary Education, Nicholas McKay is currently studying a Graduate Certificate of TESOL and considering his long-term teaching career options.

What strategies do you use for connecting with students? Please share your thoughts below.

8 good reasons why you should teach English overseas

Weighing up your gap year options? Here’s eight reasons why you should pack your bags and teach English overseas.
Teach English overseas and broaden your horizons.

Teaching English overseas is a great gap year option.

1. Earn money while you travel

Teaching abroad is one of the best ways to travel the world and earn money at the same time.

Some people squeeze as much traveling as they can into weekends and vacation time during their teaching contract, while others complete their contract and travel afterwards. Some do both!

Seasoned English teachers, armed with experience and a hunger for travel, often ‘job hop’ from one country to the next. It’s a great way of seeing the world without breaking the bank.

2. Enhance your CV

Overseas teaching experience can significantly improve your resume.

It demonstrates that you’re flexible and resilient, and have loads of initiative! Most importantly, it shows that you’ve got experience in leading and managing people – one of the toughest gigs out there. This is highly valued by recruiters and a great way to differentiate yourself.

As soon as you’re back home, make sure you update your resume and LinkedIn profile so you can stand out from the crowd.

3. It’s easy to get qualified

To teach in China, you need a teaching certificate to accompany your degree qualification.

It's best to get a teaching certificate before you teach English overseas.

You need a teaching certificate to teach in China but it’s easy to get (Pictured: Summer Pagoda, Hebei province, northern China).

The most common certificates are Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL), Teaching English as a Second or Other Language (TESOL) and Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA).

The good news is that it’s relatively quick and easy to get certified. We’ve teamed up with TEFL Source to give you access to special rates on a range of courses from different providers.

The length, inclusions and price of each course varies between providers, so it pays to do a little bit of homework first.

4. It will open your eyes

Working overseas opens your eyes to new cultures, new experiences and new ways of doing things.

When you return home, you (or those around you) may notice that you’re more open-minded, tolerant and patient. That’s a good thing!

Afraid of culture shock? Don’t be – there’s a way you can easily overcome it.

Teach English overseas and experience new cultures.

Open up your eyes to a new culture.

5. The job market in your country probably sucks

Don’t worry if you can’t find work in your own country – there are plenty of teaching jobs overseas. In fact, demand in some countries is so strong that schools simply can’t fill all the advertised positions.

China is regarded as one of the world’s teaching hotspots, where demand outstrips supply year after year. It’s good to feel wanted!

6. It will provide a new challenge (in other words, you’re sick of your job)

Are you bored of doing the same old thing every day? Want to learn something new? Teach English overseas and it will give you a new lease on life.

For many, the journey starts with the teaching certificate. The content is interesting and will really make you think. Studying can also be a nice change from work, and is an exciting lead-up to your trip abroad.

Once you’re there, the new culture will challenge you, so too will your classes. It’s a challenge that you will want to take on as it will stimulate and motivate you.

7. You’ll make new friends

Teaching overseas is a sure-fire way of meeting new people. Whether it’s your fellow English teachers, local teachers, your students or simply the friendly face at the corner store, you’re bound to make lifelong friends.

Teach English overseas and meet new people.

You’ll meet new friends while teaching abroad.

China, in particular, is known for its friendly and inquisitive people. You’ll be asked about your home country a lot, and you’ll even have strangers wanting to practice their English with you!

Being out of your comfort zone effectively forces you to speak up, gain more confidence and connect with new and interesting people.

8. Feel good by helping others

Why would you want to work in a monotonous, depressing job when you could touch the lives of hundreds of aspiring students?

Teaching English gives students real opportunities. It improves their communication skills and gives them the confidence they need to handle everyday situations. For older students, it helps them advance their careers, improve their job prospects and compete in a global marketplace.

Knowing that you’re making a difference in people’s lives is rewarding. And helping others gives you that warm and fuzzy feeling inside (awww!), so it’s a win-win situation.

So there you have it – eight good reasons to start planning your overseas teaching adventure.
Any questions? Drop us a line and we’ll help you find the perfect teaching position.

How to strike a balance between behavior management and student connections

In this personal account, guest blogger and teacher Nicholas McKay provides insight into how he balances student connections with behavioral management.
Striking the right balance between behvavior management and student connections can be challenging.

How do you strike the right balance between behavior management and student connections?

Personally, I find behavioral management to be challenging. It’s a classroom practice I’m not particularly confident in. Though mentor teachers of mine have praised my techniques, they likewise felt concerned.

Considering some of the nightmarish stories I’ve heard about unruly behavior, I’m not surprised. A friend of mine once worked as a year level coordinator. One day, he was called to a classroom because the teacher had lost total control.

Tables and chairs had been knocked over. Students were running around, screaming and throwing papers. Some of the boys were even playing a miniature game of football.

The unfortunate truth is, once the respect students have for their teacher is gone, it’s very difficult to get back.

When I began teaching, I was like a Dalek: “If you do not do the work,” I commanded robotically, “you will get a detention.” I shudder at the memory.

While undertaking my teaching qualifications, I was told not to smile until after Easter. In short, do not let students see you as a person, else they will lose respect for you.

I don’t believe this is the case. In being a robot, I built the same wall Donald Trump wants to construct, between my students and me. In being myself, I developed connections.

Getting the balance right between behavior management and student connections is important, according to teacher Nicholas McKay

Teacher Nicholas McKay was told not to smile at his students.

During my first ever English classroom, I was surrounded by a sea of Asian faces. I was quite possibly one of the whitest people they’d ever seen. Being a robot wasn’t going to cut the mustard.

We were studying essay writing. When the topic of stereotyping came up, I used my class as an example. “Who here’s heard the expression all Asians are bad drivers?” I called out.

The class heatedly responded “yes”. “I’ve had three girlfriends in my life,” I announced, only to have many class members whistle and cheer. “Yes, I’m a player!” I teased. “Out of my three girlfriends, two of them were Asian, and both were better drivers than I will ever be.”

During this transaction, not only did the class gain an understanding of a stereotype, they also learned that I had prior experience communicating with people from their ethnic background. They, in turn, trusted me more.

Some of my favorite students have in fact been those who misbehaved.

I interacted with them so frequently I came to know them, not as learners, but as people. In doing so, I understood them, and what was required to ensure they did the work.

On the first day of teaching at my second school, I was told: “There are four absolutely atrocious boys in Year 10 – and guess what? They’re all in your English class. Go get ‘em, tiger!”

My experiences with this classroom was a wakeup call on behavioral management. For starters, students MUST immediately recognise you as the teacher at the beginning of every lesson. The simplest way to do this – have students line up!

Secondly, seating plans; friendship groups frequently result in distractions. Indefinitely separating friends will often result in increased concentration.

Thirdly, don’t ever be afraid to raise your voice. The first time I yelled in my Media classroom, I scared some of the students. They weren’t used to me shouting.

If ever I do yell, I remember to approach the student before the end of the lesson, to make it known that no hard feelings are held. You’d be surprised how easily students can grow to resent their teachers, because they’re convinced the teacher hates them.

I also never use the word ‘please’; it sounds like I’m begging. “Please child, could you do this for me?” No, not on! Instead, I say ‘thank you’. “Could you stop talking and do the work? Thank you.” This implies I trust students will do as instructed.

Students, however, don’t like being told off, even when they know they were misbehaving.

“But Sir, Tiffany was talking too!” This rebuttal could easily be one a student makes.

In that case, I make sure not to argue with them. “That may be so,” I begin, “but you were the one I saw talking.” By saying this, I am acknowledging their statement, while fairly disciplining behavior that I witnessed.

At all times, I try to remain calm. One student I taught almost always refused to participate in other classes because teachers frequently responded to his misbehavior with yelling. He would, in turn, yell back.

An unruly class can test you when it comes to getting the balance right between behavior management and student connections

Even if you have an unruly class, try to remain calm.

During my class, I didn’t yell at him, instead, opting to speak in a calm, non-argumentative manner, resulting in him doing the work. By knowing your students, a teacher will learn which behavioral tactics are most appropriate for each.

Fourthly, detentions are one of the most powerful devices in a teacher’s arsenal. Students often realise the importance of the work when this consequence is used.

Detentions should only be handed out unless absolutely necessary, for teachers are technically giving themselves a detention as well.

If, however, students refuse to attend, a detention with the coordinator is the next step.

Finally, and this is probably the most important part, don’t forget to have fun. Yes, you’re a teacher, but these are children you’re working with.

When asking students in the aforementioned English class what qualities they liked in teachers, many responded, “For teachers to be themselves”. They found this behavior to be weird, charming and cute.

Students dislike boring environments. So make sure you don’t inadvertently create one while being hung up on maintaining your distance. We’re all people after all.

Having recently completed a Master of Teaching in Secondary Education, Nicholas McKay is currently studying a Graduate Certificate of TESOL and considering his long-term teaching career options.

How do you manage students’ behavior while trying to maintain connections with them? Please comment below.

Teaching abroad: Why China is better than South Korea

You’ve decided to teach overseas but can’t pick between China and South Korea. To help make the choice easy for you, here’s five reasons why China is the better option.
Shanghai's standing as a world city is just one reason why China is better than South Korea as a teaching destination.

China has so much more to offer than South Korea (sorry, Psy!).

Tossing up between China and Japan? Read our comparison here.

It’s cheaper

China is a developing country, South Korea isn’t. This means that things are generally cheaper in China.

You can buy a delicious, piping-hot lunch from a street vendor for just one or two U.S. dollars, and wash it down with a supermarket-bought bottle of water for about 20 cents. Now that’s cheap!

Cheap food is just one reason why China is better than South Korea as a teaching destination.

Food’s cheap in China.

Accommodation, utility bills and even your internet connection are covered by many schools in China. This means your spending will be restricted to just food and public transport, and any extra-curricular activities like sightseeing or hitting the bars and clubs.

Unless you’re constantly eating out at Western restaurants, you can easily live in China for under $10 a day.

There’s loads more to do

If you could pick up South Korea and place it in China, you would have to do it 95 times to fill up all of China. That’s how big the country is.

Luckily, bullet trains connect cities and towns of all sizes thanks to an extensive transport network. This means you can, quite literally, train-hop from one place to the next, taking in all that the country has to offer.

The capital, Beijing, is a treasure trove of attractions, from the Forbidden City and Temple of Heaven in the city center to the Great Wall of China just a couple of hours away.

There's loads more to do - just one reason why China is better than South Korea as a teaching destination.

The Temple of Heaven is a popular attraction in Beijing.

Prefer the road less traveled? Then head to Xinjiang, an ecologically diverse area which is home to the Uyghur people and borders eight countries including Russia, India and Afghanistan.

American teacher and Xinjiang resident, Josh Summers, recommends staying a night in a yurt, a tent-like dwelling covered with skins or felt traditionally used in central Asia. It’s an experience you simply can’t get in South Korea.

Whether you teach in Beijing, Xinjiang, or somewhere in between, you can be guaranteed that there will be plenty of things to do in China.

Demand is super-high

It’s estimated that over 400 million people are actively learning English in China. That’s more people than the combined population of the US, the UK and Australia. It’s an impressive statistic – and one that you can take advantage of.

The strong demand for native English teachers means upward pressure on salary and working conditions. With China’s relatively low cost of living taken into consideration, it’s now comparable with many other overseas teaching destinations.

High demand is another reason why China is better than South Korea as a teaching destination.

Foreign teacher salaries in China keep climbing.

In addition, as China’s middle class continues to grow and get wealthier, parents will spend even more money on their children’s education. The ability to speak English is highly regarded by Chinese people, and access to a native English speaker is the pinnacle.

Shanghai has more style than Gangnam

Imperial foreign influences blended with Chinese tradition has resulted in Shanghai becoming one of the world’s coolest cities.

While South Korea can claim Gangnam Style songster Psy, Shanghai is teeming with world-class museums and exhibitions, chic shopping and cosmopolitan cuisine.

Take Xintiandi, for example. This redeveloped car-free area, just a stone’s throw from the heart of Shanghai, combines ancient Shikumen housing with modern shopping, eating and entertainment facilities.

And who could forget the Bund, a foreigner favorite. This waterside walkway gives you the best views of Shanghai from street level, including the exquisite European architecture of yesteryear.

The culture rocks!

Chinese culture is incredible. It’s unique, diverse and constantly changing.

Whether you’re interested in learning more about martial arts like Kung Fu, admiring the ‘feng shui’ of Chinese gardens or listening to Peking opera, China is brimming with culture.

China's incredible culture is just another reason why China is better than South Korea as a teaching destination.

Carefully designed gardens are an important part of Chinese culture.

Due to China’s enormous size, you’ll notice distinct cultural differences between the various provinces. For example, spicy food might be enjoyed in one place while sweet food is the preference in another.

There can be recognizable cultural differences even within a province. This makes teaching and traveling in China all the more interesting!

Do you agree that China is a better choice than South Korea? Have your say below.