Interviews with 3 ESL teachers in Xiamen, China

Xiamen is a great little city in the southeast of China. These three teachers were interviewed outside of Kings English School on this hot and humid summer evening. They talk about life as an ESL teacher, culture, their jobs, their challenges, offer teaching tips, and advice.

The following is a transcript of the video:

What is your name? My name is Steven Gillis.

Steven where do you come from? I am from Kansas city, Kansas.

How long have you been teaching English? I have been teaching English for 7 months now.

How do you like it? It's been a great experience. Lot's of different kinds of people and a different culture. It's such a different experience than what I am used to.

How's your Chinese? It's not bad. It's improving. Getting better everyday.

What's been the biggest challenge that you have had teaching abroad? Learning not to cross cultural boundaries. To not disrespect them unintentionally. Getting away from home has been a big step for me. But once you get over those humps it's not so bad.

How's your housing? The housing's great. My friend is doing business out here and his company pays for the apartment. It's not so bad. Life is good out here.

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of coming abroad to teach? Do it. Just come here. I didn't even train. Just show up they are in dire need of teachers out here. They will accommodate you well. Just get ready to adjust to some of the differences. But there are people from all over the world teaching English. It's a great gig. It's not too difficult. It just requires some patience and persistence.

Do you have a favorite tip, tool or classroom game that you would like to share? I like playing this game called Word Up. It's a lot of fun because it gives you different options. You can do spelling, math, multiple choice, matching and the students usually get into it. They can learn new words as they play it.

How do you play it? You land on a certain spot. Either a blue, green, yellow or orange and depending on the color that they land on is the question that you ask. They get a token. It's pretty simple.

The end.

What is your name? My name is Steve.

Where do you come from? I am from Canada.

How long have you been teaching English in China? About four years.

How do you like it? It's a different kind of experience. I'll tell you that much. This is the only kind of job where you can act like a fool and still get paid to do so.

What's been the biggest challenge that you have had teaching abroad? Ughh, I can give you a hallmark reason and a genuine reason. The hallmark reason is that you get attached to a lot of the people that you meet. I guess that's the bane of being a teacher. You always stay and they always go. But not only that, but in the sense of being in a foreign country. A lot of the expats that come tend to move on with their life. I have been here four years. I have seen a lot of guys come and go.

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of coming abroad to teach? Be sure you know what you are stepping into. There are two kinds of people who come into the job. People who are passing through and people who take it seriously. Be sure if you step into a place that is serious about work that you go at it 120%. Otherwise you are going to find that there is a lot of heat doing that kind of job. But if you are passing through then tutoring is great. There's lots of money in that.

Do you have a favorite tip, tool or classroom game that you would like to share? I am a very visual person. In the teaching that I do I do a lot of drawing. So if you are able to do so you will find that one drawing can be used to explain and entire scenario all in a matter of seconds. People of all ages can react to drawings.

Do you prefer teaching adults or children? I'd say adults mainly. Unless you speak the language it's kind of difficult to get them to relate to something even if they do not know it in their own language. When you are introducing new ideas to them they may be completely oblivious to them. Adults - you can talk to them and they seem to be more mature in the responses that they give you. If they are female that's always a plus.

How do you get them talking? How's the weather? Talk about simple things. The beautiful thing is especially in this country (China). People love to hear what you think about the country. Because it's so closed to foreign ideas and what not. Anytime you can tell them that there country is great. They love it.

The end.

What is your name? My name is Ed.

Where do you come from? I was born in the Philippines. I did live in the States for a while. Then I went back to Asia and now I am in China.

How long have you been in China? Two years. Give or take. I have stayed in Xiamen.

What's been the biggest challenge that you have had teaching abroad? Teaching here, discrimination I guess. Cause I don't look white enough. The first time that I applied for jobs here I was obviously turned away because they didn't think I could speak English. But this school that I am working with now gave me a demo class. They gave me a chance. I started teaching part time and slowly became a full time teacher. Now I am the head teacher.

How's your housing? It's pretty good. Especially in Xiamen, the living standards are cheap. You can make less than $2000 and you would only be spending 3 or $400 a month. So did the school arrange your housing? Initially the school helped me to find suitable housing, but later on I looked for my own apartment.

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of coming abroad to teach? Come with a open mind. Come as you are and if it doesn't happen for you then go home. If you feel that it is nice then stay.

Do you have a favorite activity or classroom tool that you would like to share? Well, English Corner... free talk is good cause you get to share things with students that are not in the curriculum. And the students interact a lot and they give you ideas. You get to talk with different kinds of people. We have monks, people who were in the 1989 Tiananmen protest and all these different kinds of people.

What is the English Corner? Basically you have a teacher and a bunch of students and you come up with a topic and everyone talks about it.

lazy teacher's guide to TEFL

Ian's profile pic

How's it going? I am Ian. If you found this to be helpful you can sign up for the latest updates of new blog posts and other resources that I create.


"Hi Ian! I loved the course! It wasn't really difficult, but it was not easy - and I feel like I learned a lot. I definitely plan to continue using the resources. I have applied for and set up over 7 interviews already in China. If you add on various additional certs, like Young learners and what not I would take those. I plan to take a job in China and blog about it for the year to qualify for the 1000 hour cert. Thanks so much for an awesome learning experience" - Sandra Dee Bonadonna, TEFL 120

Yes, I want you to teach me how to teach English abroad

3,400+ have subscribed to ESLinsider on Youtube

Add comment


Security code
Refresh