Sam & Bex (Foshan, Guangdong)

Samuel Bartrop & Rebecca Horsley

A day in the life of a TEFL couple in China – with The China Teaching Experience 

Our day usually kicks off at half past seven when the alarm goes off. Can’t escape the dreaded alarm – not even in China! We get to our office at half past eight every morning. It isn’t too bad having a regular routine and it sets you up for the day. Besides, if we don’t have lessons in the morning we can head back to the apartment after an hour or so. The walk to school is just five minutes and we usually munch a banana for breakfast on the way, far too early to think about feeding ourselves properly.

In the office we say hi to everyone, catch up with our Director of Studies, check our emails, and do a bit of lesson planning for the day (or if we’re feeling ambitious, the week!). At break time the students have clubs which we supervise. I used to supervise dance and got asked in my first week to teach the children how to ballroom dance – sadly my moves are limited to the robot. I have now been set free from dance club (totally unrelated – probably.) Now we are starting up a student band which is really exciting, feels like something out of School of Rock! There is an English Festival coming up in four weeks so the school wants us to have something ready by then – we’ve chosen Gold Lion by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I think the school might be regretting buying a drum kit very soon!

Most of the time we have one or two lessons before lunch. Don’t be surprised if you get given a lesson to cover last minute, an impromptu meeting or even a photo shoot– such is the nature of China. The timetable nearly always changes from week to week and things gets prioritised all the time. Organised chaos. Lessons are 40 minutes each and we teach Grade 7, 8 and 9. There are only fifty students in the whole department so class size is really small which makes our lives much easier. I teach English, Creative Writing and Drama and Sam teaches Music, PE, Maths Vocabulary and Science Vocabulary. It’s quite a mix of subjects so it keeps us busy. We wrote the Creative Writing and Music plans ourselves and it’s great to see the kids engage with the new subjects.

Lunch time is at 11.50 although usually one of us has finished early so is at home making some food. We keep it pretty simple and quick so just have a sandwich or something. After lunch it’s nap time! At first we thought this was a bit strange, but as the weather gets hotter we are becoming more and more partial to a little lie down!

The first lesson after lunch is 14.25. If I don’t have a lesson I stay at home, do a bit more planning or maybe chill out with cup of tea and Skype a friend. The last lesson finishes at 16.45 and the bell rings for ages, I will still be humming the tune in my old age.

On Monday’s we have a half hour meeting in the office with all the staff at 5pm. Most of it is in Chinese so we just sit and smile and try to laugh in the right places. This meeting is usually followed be a post-meeting/what just happened session with our Director of Studies who also doesn’t speak Chinese. Then we head to the supermarket to stock up for the week. We like cooking a lot but it’s hard to find some of the typical home comforts here. Really wish we’d packed our suitcase with Old El Paso fajita kits! In the supermarket, different parts of a chicken are laid out on ice like a pick ‘n’ mix. Also, don’t get too attached to the little fishes and turtles in the aquarium in the corner.

Sometimes after school we hang around and play table tennis in the sports hall for a bit. We have also been known to let loose on the drum kit, the surrounding area love it… Sometimes we go for dinner at the canteen, because it’s so cheap and most of the time pretty good. Try not to think too hard about what meat you’re eating because, more often than not, it’s not what you think. We have a canteen card which we just top up as we go.

On Wednesday we both work an evening session, which runs from 18.40-21.30. This is pretty simple really, we just sit in the class and read a book or get on with work whilst the kids do their homework. That’s where I’m writing this now. On other days we might head into town to get some food at the mall or wander round the park. We’ve got a great group of pals here who are always up for a beer or two!

So that’s a typical WEEKday in China for us!