When I started teaching online five years ago, I chose italki as my platform to find students and it has been working perfectly for me. However, at times, italki doesn’t accept new English teachers and competition has also increased. So you may decide that you need more opportunities, especially when you just get started. Or you may prefer to teach for a company so that you don’t have to worry about finding students at all. And for English teachers, there are endless possibilities.

Teaching English to Chinese Students

Recently, I’ve met some digital nomad teachers who told me that they were working for Chinese or  Korean companies. This made me curious and I asked some of the members of my Digital Nomad Language Teachers Group to tell me about their experiences with teaching English to Chinese students – both online from everywhere in the world and offline in China.

First, I intended to summarise the answers and compile them in one article. However, I soon realised that such an article would become much too long. So, instead, this is the start of a series “Teaching English in China”.  

My first interview partner is Alexandra McArthur from the US who I’ve already known for a while on Facebook and hope to meet personally one day.

alexandra MacArthur, USA

Alexandra is an English teacher from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She spent one year in China from 2015-2016. Nowadays, she works completely remote and mainly lives as a digital nomad. She has lived in California, New York, Guatemala, Mexico, China, Japan, and visited many countries in Europe and Asia. Find out more about Alexandra on her blog and social media accounts:

Blog | Facebook | Instagram

Which company did you work for? Did you teach online or offline? 

I worked for the Education First online center as well as their Academic Partnership. I spent 5 months teaching English to adults online and five months teaching English at a university in Southern China.

EF has a lot of different schools, and while it’s usually hard to switch or teach in multiple schools, you can make it work if you want to. For example, if you teach online, you can sub for classroom teachers who teach kids or adults.

How many hours a week did you teach? Was there a minimum of hours required? 

For online, it was all nights and weekends. At EF I taught three different shifts, 3pm-10pm (this is the shift everyone starts on works for a few months), 6pm-12pm (this is called the night shift , but doesn’t necessarily apply to weekends), and the 9am-6pm shift (Monday to Friday only, weekend is more like 12 – 9pm). That’s the name of the game because those are the most in demand hours for both kids and adults. If you taught for a Chinese institution abroad, you’d be in a better boat. For example, now I teach adults from China in the morning in the U.S. This is the main reason why I decided to switch to university teaching during the latter 5 months of my time in China. I worked 8am – 12, and one day a week 8am-4pm and had off all weekends and holidays. I was about 3 billion times happier with this schedule, and the work was dare I say it, more fulfilling.

Did you have to sign a contract for a certain amount of time?

One year.

How much did they pay you?

I made about US$1900 a month when I taught online (online teachers make less than other EF teachers with the exception of EF AP teachers who make about the same). I made US$1300 at my university because I lived in a smaller city that was cheaper and my accommodation was paid for.

What was the application process like? 

I applied via the website and heard back right away.  I was given two lessons plans and had to do a mock lesson. I didn’t do the best, and got a lot of feedback from the recruiter. After she gave me feedback, I got another chance and she said I improved a lot. After that, I had totake an online TEFL course and develop a sample lesson plan. Considering I was flying across the world for the job, I didn’t find these requirements unnecessary. I thought the application and on-boarding processes were incredibly organized.

What are the requirements to teach English at EF? 

Native speaker, university degree and then they made you complete a TEFL (that they paid for) before they’d allow you to come over. The Chinese government requires a teaching certificate of some kind.

How flexible were you as far as your schedule was concerned? 

There really wasn’t much flexibility. If you wanted different hours, you could switch to one of the other schools but they had their own set hours.

What were the biggest challenges?

For the online school, the hours. I felt like I barely made any friends in China because I was always working nights and weekends. I would never do that again. However, you really don’t have to do that if you get a job at a university or international school.  For university teaching, the workload was quite heavy at times but I would take that over the hours of online teaching any day, plus if you worked in Shanghai, you’d make a ton of friends via your fellow teachers.

Would you teach in China again? 

After teaching in China, I discovered that I never want to be location bound again. While I loved my job in my second city as a university teacher, I didn’t like the city and wanted to leave pretty much every day.  I also missed my family. So I decided to teach online and go 100% after this experience.  However, if I was looking to teach abroad with the goal of making money, I’d do China or Korea. I can’t speak for Korea but there was a lot of money to be made in China. I knew friends who tutored groups of kids outside of work for US$60 an hour. Likewise, I knew people who taught at international schools who had over a month paid vacation, housing, and a salary of about US$50-60,000 a year (twice what some teachers in the U.S. make). China has a lot of opportunities even if you’re a newbie to teaching. If you’re skilled and know how to network, you can go from making US$12 an hour to US$40 if you meet the right people. You can also teach subjects like art and acting that you could never teach in your home country without a billion degrees.

So what are you doing now? Where do you live and is there any special project you’re working on? Any goals you’d like to achieve in the next couple of months? 

I’m currently teaching English independently on italki. I decided to do this because other language schools weren’t offering me the rates I wanted, while charging the students top dollar. I’m currently living in Philadelphia, where I was born. This winter I lived in Guatemala and Mexico. I’m currently thinking about making a YouTube show about learning Japanese, as well as updating my travel blog and series, Alex Goes There. This fall I’m hoping to either work remotely while traveling up the east coast of the U.S. to take pictures of the changing leaves, or to spend a few months exploring southern Italy. Haven’t decided which I want to do yet. I definitely plan on spending next winter in Thailand, though!
Thank you very much, Alex and all the best for you. 
Questions or remarks? Please don’t hesitate to write in the comments or get in touch with Alex directly: 

Author: Daniela

Hi! I'm Daniela - a native German who's currently living in Lima, Peru. Besides making a living teaching German and English, I'm constantly trying to improve my Spanish and Portuguese. On my blog, I write articles for (aspiring) language teachers to help them get started and for people who want to travel the world and make some extra cash teaching their native language.

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