Alright, it is 10am on a friday, we’re in Changzhou and Dhiten is just waking up. Dhiten is a 30 year old ESL English teacher from Leicester, England and this is his average day. He starts his morning with a hot shower before making his usual breakfast of porridge oats with milk and honey. Dhiten’s apartment costs him 2500RMB per month and its located in the city centre of Changzhou, a 2nd tier city in southern Jiangsu. Because it’s a weekday, he doesn’t start work until 11am however, on weekends he would normally start at 8:30 am. Dhiten first arrived in China in 2018 where he worked as an English teacher for a year and a half in the city of Jining, Shandong province. It’s 10:40am and time to go to work. Dhiten works between two branches of his school and this morning he is starting at the school furthest from him, so he is taking a DiDi. DiDi is the leading ride-hailing app in China and features a full English interface tailor-made for expats and English-speaking users. In just minutes his car arrives and we’re off. ESL stands for English as a second language and in China this is mostly taught at private language centers teaching students outside of public-school hours. These schools eagerly compete for tuition fees to teach English to Children and Adults of all ages. But their quality can vary greatly. ESL centers range in size from multinational corporations such as Education First, to sketchy companies renting out a room in a run down shopping mall. However, Dhiten works for a language center called Saint George Education, which is run by a British Expat and his Chinese wife who are locally known for their quality and transparency. They even have a degree wall on display listing all of the relevant information of their teachers. Alright? Hey mate, you alright? Yeah not too bad, thank you. Get stuck in with the work. To start his day, Dhiten will finish working on some lesson plans. He actually won’t start teaching until later in the day. A lesson plan is something you can refer to. It’s got notes about the games you’re going to use. So we’re going to start with possibly a warm up game and then we’re going to do a song. After the song we’re going to do another game to drill in the vocabulary. And… Soon after that, we’ll probably have and extra game, a break and then do a bit of grammar. ESL teachers usually work around 35 hour a week and have up to 18 teaching hours with the rest being office hours for lesson planning. It’s 12pm and time for a quick staff meeting for everyone to catch up before the busy weekend ahead. At present the TEFL industry is worth over $4 Billion USD per year and is still expanding with an estimated 300 million English language students in China. As the market has matured Teachers are now more strictly vetted with a 3 stage notarization process that includes criminal records, medical checks and fingerprints. Five years ago, the average salary for a foreign English teacher in China was around 8000RMB a month. Today that average has now doubled to 16,000. Of course this can vary depending on the tier of the city or if the salary comes with free accommodation. It’s lunchtime, so Dhiten and his colleague head out to eat. They will be teaching at a different location this evening so they take their bags and belongings with them. Today Dhiten will only teach two classes which is fairly normal for a weekday. Today’s lunch takes place at an average Chinese fast food restaurant, also known as Kuàicān. Thank you. Got here some fried chicken with some pepper. And then these strips of potato. Potato is usually a staple dish in China. These potatos, with long stripes. With the rest of the afternoon free, Dhiten and his colleague go for a stroll in Hongmei Park. As a British Indian, Dhiten is often met with some confusion when it comes to his nationality. A lot of people think I’m actually from Pakistan. Mainly because, any type of brown person that you see here are generally from Pakistan. But soon they find out I’m actually Indian. But not only that, I’m British Indian. Parks in China are a popular spot for recreation and socializing, especially between the elderly. It’s very common to come across groups of people singing, dancing or in this case jamming on harmonicas. Can’t get an experience better than that in China. Probably the penultimate. It’s 3pm and time for Dhiten to head across town to resume work and to do so he’s using DiDi. One of the must-have apps for foreigners living in China. While we wait for his DiDi to arrive, let’s ask him how he first started teaching in China. I got here via an agency. And… They ran me through the whole process. All the ins and outs of the visa. Once you get through the long winded visa process, everything is easier later on. I happened to search for a really good recruitment agency, it was called Noon Elite Recruitment. They were the ones who helped me out. Essentially I fell in love with the China lifestyle. The fact that I can save a lot of money. But also at the same time I can learn new skills. Skills in teaching that can be beneficial in the future. In case I wanted to become something like a science teacher, or something like that, you know? Because before this I was just working in the NHS (National Health Service). In the microbiology labs. Many schools in China outsource recruiting to agencies. With an average of 100,000 teachers recruited per year, these agencies generally work in two different ways, they either work for a one off agency fee or they take a cut each month from the teachers salary. There are many horror stories about agencies online, from sending a teacher to a town in the middle of nowhere after promising them a school in a city such as Shanghai, to garnishing up to 60% of a teacher’s monthly salary. So it is worth doing your research before choosing which agency to go with. In this case, Noon Elite Recruitment is the agency Dhiten has used and seems very happy with. Let’s ask Dhiten what plans he has for the future. I’m thinking about… maybe carrying on teaching, but only for the short term. So for the next two years, let’s say. In terms of the future, I’m maybe thinking of possibly going back home. Because that’s where all my friends and family are. Eventually getting a job there. I mean with such a varied skill set right now, I can definitely move into the teaching field Or I can move into something related to China. It’s now 3:28pm and we are back in Dhiten’s neighborhood and headed to another branch of his school. After signing in Dhiten heads to his desk in the teachers area to finish planning his classes. I heard about it. The documentary, did you hear about it? Mm. Do you like Mamahuhu? No. You don’t like them? No, no, no. Have you seen them? Yes. What ones have you seen? Have you seen… He showed them to me. I could not finish the comedy skits. Oh no Dhiten, which ones did you show her? I showed her the Chinglish one. Aw man, she thinks you’re going to take the mick out of her. And Laowai Park. Laowai Park’s a good one though, it’s a good starter. You should have shown her the documentaries. Where did the guy go? They’re a bit longer and not as funny as the short things. Well… I guess you can’t please everyone. Anyway, it’s finally time for Dhiten to set up his first class. Here it is. His first class, titled Super Safari Class, is part of an early learning english course for 4 to 6 year olds. How’s going, Marius? I am busy preparing for my classes. I am in a hurry. I can definitely tell. Because you’re very fast when you talk. And my movements, yeah. Gotta get everything prepared! Yes, exactly. Right, so… I’m going to go to the store-room and get the rope for the game. It’s 4:30pm and the students have arrived. I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P… Chinese culture places huge emphasis on their children’s education. The heavy academic pressure means a high percentage of mainland Children don’t even get enough sleep due to homework and extracurricular programs such as learning English. Okay everybody, let’s get the bags on the table! Each class taught is an hour and a half long with a 10 minute break in between. Mum is the Queen, Dad’s the King We’re a royal family! This is my Dad, Hi! My names Dad! While ESL schools were first established to teach English to adults, in the last decade the demand has shifted to parents who are willing to spend up to half of their household income on language classes for their children. This! Is! My! Sandwich! Very good, thanks! 10 minute break. Toilet break. Okay! Okay, shhh! Teacher sit! Okay! We’re going to draw yourself, okay? You want to draw the eyes? As the class winds down let’s check in with Dhiten… Yeah, it’s going alright so far. Very energetic with the song then afterwards they’ve just calmed down with this. It’s just a matter of getting them to do it the right way. It’s 6pm and Dhiten’s first class over. Now it’s time to clear the materials from his class and begin setting up for the next one. These are their project papers. This on one side. This is their test paper. This is their question sheet. These are the sheets I’m going to give them for their test. Guess what is the title of Dhiten’s second class, which focuses on grammar and storytelling. The children of this class are aged between 7 to 9. For each Guess What class, Dhiten individually tests each student on their grammar. Do you like motorbikes? No. Say, no I… No I have. No I don’t. No I don’t. Okay. What’s this? Pl.. plane. Its… Its a plane. Okay. It’s 8pm and the school is wrapping up for the day. Goodbye. Alright, bye bye Gerry, Bye! Tomorrow being the weekend, Dhiten can expect to teach up to 5 classes and will start work at 8:30am but finish at 6. Last one to leave for the day. Bye bye, Olivia. To unwind and wrap up the evening, Dhiten and his colleague are headed to a local expat bar. Every Chinese city with a substantial expat population tends to have at least one bar catering to foreigners with import alcohol and western food. For Changzhou that safe haven is called Koala Cafe and Lounge. This place is a foreign owned bar. Australian themed bar. It’s where most of the foreigners actually hang out. So it’s got a lot of people I know, familiar faces. It’s my usual haunt. It’s got all the good brand beers on tap, so… that’s really nice. You got the Chinese menu. Their Chinese menu. There’s a western one. Steak and mushroom with… fries. While teaching ESL abroad can be a rewarding and exciting experience, it’s not uncommon to become burnt out or feel trapped in the profession if you stay too long. This is something Dhiten’s colleague Marius is currently experiencing as someone teaching in their 7th year. So I came to China with a goal in mind to spend two years and then head back to the Stateside. My whole background is in health and wellness, fitness and kinesiology. I’ve got 7 years working with kids. So I’ve got a lot of experience on that. Adults and children. You know, you teach the word “apple” enough times and enough classes and as much as you love kids I… you start… some part of you starts dying inside. And I don’t mean that in a bad way because I go to class every day and he’ll tell you, he’s seen my classes. People will tell you I always give 100%. And I always give the children my energy. He does. That’s what I’m here for. I’m here to make whatever company I’m working for money. Enough to turn a profit and keep business alive. But at the end of the day my job is I’m a teacher for these kids. So while I’m doing it I want to make sure I still give 100%. Even though I’m dead tired of doing that job. You could easily just say alright, this year I’m done. But I’m married in China, my wife is Chinese. I can’t afford to not have a job or an income, you know? I can’t be like I’m going to go Stateside and pick up a job. I can’t just up and leave. You only really have three options as a foreigner in China. You’re either a teacher, and engineer or you start your own business. Pretty much, yeah. Cheers. Shortly after this, Marius will leave his job and move to Shanghai. It’s 10pm and with an early start tomorrow Dhiten heads home to bed. Goodnight, dude. Alright mate, take care. And that’s it. We hope you’ve enjoyed this insight into the life of an ESL teacher in China. Have you taught English abroad? Did your experience vary? Let us know in the comments below. If you’re interested in teaching English in China, China Tefler and Noon Elite Recruitment come highly recommended as trustworthy resources. You can find links to them in the description below. Lastly, if you’re looking for a comfortable way to get around town, be sure to use DiDi. Wither your destinations in Chinese or English, DiDi English Version has you covered. Goodnight!