What to expect in a TEFL interview.

TEFLAt the moment, there are hordes of job advertisings for TEFL teachers in Chengdu. Because the new semester started in March, many public and private schools are desperately looking for English teachers. If you know what type of school you want to work for, full or part time, and where in China you want to work at, now is the time for applying for a job.

If you are not in China but hoping to get a job, as you probably know, many employers will have a Skype interview. First they will ask you to send them your degree cert, you’re CV or resume and other TEFL related things, like a TEFL cert. Most employers prefer people with a TEFL certificate, but you can easily get jobs without one. But it is an advantage.

Also, being a native speaker is another plus, but if you are a non-native but have good English then you’ll be fine. Although some employers specifically only want natives speakers… oh and to be more picky, they have this idealised teacher who is white, blonde hair and beautiful. This to them, and to other Chinese people, is the ‘perfect’ foreign teacher.

After that, they will contact you for a Skype interview. In the interview you will be asked about yourself, if you like children, about classroom management (how would you deal with a rowdy student), how you would teach a certain topic, how would you give a lesson, if you have experience teaching English phonics,if you have an idea about teaching English grammar, and if you have any prior teaching experience.

In my case with my recent job interview, they asked me if I taught phonics before. My answer was simply no. I told them that I didn’t teach it much with my students because A; I’m not sure of the phonics myself, and B; I didn’t actually know where to begin with teaching it. I told the truth, simply because if I did tell them and if they tested me then I wouldn’t have a clue! The employer wont think any less of you if you cant do something, because at the end of the day you can learn this stuff.

An important question is about classroom management. How to deal with difficult students. This is important, as if you can’t control a classroom then nothing is going to get done. I still struggle with this, but different things work with different students. Rafa has found out that bribing a student with 1 jiao ( a tiny amount of money) works with one of his students. Others have found bribing them with sweets, stickers and balloons. But the employer wants to know that you can be strict with the students.

Another point about tefl teaching is personality. I’ve met one guy and his personality was well, not exactly suited to teaching. He was shy, didn’t speak much, and was very introverted. Unsurprisingly he quit teaching after a few weeks. With teaching, you need to be active, energised, motivated and confident with the kids. If you can’t be these things, then teaching isn’t for you. The students will complain that the class is boring, thus the parents will complain that their child is bored in class. So, in the interview you have to portray yourself as being fun, you can play loads of games, like teaching children, but can also be strict in class.

After the interview they will most likely set up a demo class for you. This is only if you’re already in China of course. Usually it’s just the employers in the classroom and yourself. With mine there were three people. They will give you the age of the students, maybe a topic you have to prepare for, and the duration of the demo. In my demo class, they gave me a book and I had a few minutes to prepare something short from a choice of two topics.

Each company may want you to focus on something that they specifically want; to focus on reading, writing, listening or speaking. Usually, because you are a foreigner they want you to practise listening and speaking. To me, this is easier to teach than reading and writing.

In the demo, they will be looking at your teaching style; if you prefer to move about with the kids or if you prefer to sit more with them. They’ll be looking at your personality, how you react with them, how you can manage the class. How you approach teaching a topic and what games you would play to help the kids with retention.

During it, they might throw some curveballs at you. in mine, we were playing a game and the lady said ‘I like apple’. After the game, I explained to her about plurals and gave examples. The man then asked me whats the difference between a flat and a house, so I had to explain in simple terms the difference and by drawing on the board. So they may do that to trick you.

Once it’s over, they might have a short discussion with you about your performance and what they liked and disliked.

Thats basically it. Because they’re so many foreign people in Chengdu, a lot of people will be looking for jobs. But because there are loads of students and schools needing teachers, there is still a good chance of getting job.

So in a nutshell, for a TEFL interview:

You need to be friendly, like working with children and active.

Preferably have TEFL experience already.

Know how to manage a classroom and students.

Have games that are entertaining for children.

Able to convey a point for students to understand clearly.

Can correct mistakes.

Good Luck!


My Job Interview.

I was searching through GoChengdoo; a website based on Chengdu. You can buy and sell things, you can see what events are on, and search for jobs. I found a job that was pretty near to where I live now so I decided to contact them.

So I got a call from them and had a chat, me not knowing that this was in fact the first stage of the interview process. He then text me asking for an interview. So I met them, arriving ridiculously early because I wasn’t sure how long it would take me. But, rather be too early than too late I suppose. So the interview went well, and they showed me around the place.

After a few days, I get another text asking for a demo! I thought ‘god, this is a long interview process.’ So today I had the demo and thankfully it turned out quite well!

As everyone is, I was a little nervous. They gave me a book and gave me a few minutes to prepare a demo class, of just 15 minutes, so that was easy. I just treated them as any other student, playing games with them and teaching new vocab. After the time was up we discussed the demo.

I was so surprised that they really enjoyed it. They interviewed a lot of people and saw a lot of demos, but apparently mine was the best. I was shocked! Me? All I did was play some games with them. I like to be more interactive in my teaching and not having them sit down for the entire 45 minutes.

I remember going for my first demo interview. It was after I was finished my internship and I was looking for a new job for when I came back from Ireland. I remember I didn’t know what to do in the demo. I remember making silly mistakes and generally, not knowing how to teach! Of course I taught older students before that, but It’s totally different when you’re teaching young children and there are not 50 in the class. I remember one man from a company saying to me ‘Some things need touching up on, but there is potential.’ I’ll never forget when he said that! I of course was happy. Potential? I have potential!

So after a year of teaching younger children, I was much more prepared this time. From back then, I’ve actually learned quite a lot. And that, you know, I’m an alright teacher.

They said I will hear back from them soon about it, but just the fact that I did a good job and they liked it made me a bit more confident in my teaching skills. For me, one of the most important thing is to make the student feel comfortable. I must admit I’m quite good at making students at ease in the classroom. Making them like you helps the class go better. If they don’t like you, you’ll know. . . and they’ll MAKE you know.

So from this morning of being quiet and withdrawn, thinking about this demo interview, to coming out the other side feeling proud of myself that I did a good job is good enough for me. Even If I don’t get the job, I know that I can do demo interviews ok and I can perform ok.

But… I’ll still wait for that phone call.


My new student visa!


Because I started studying in the university, I had to go and get a new student visa. My current one for the year is almost over, and seeing that I’m only working part time, the company has to cancel my current one. Now I’m not sure if they HAVE to cancel it, or if they thought ‘well, she’s not working full time with us so we’ll cancel it on her’ but, whatever happened, it was going to be cancelled.

So we took a trip up to the PSB at the heart of Chengdu. This is where they sort out the visas for Chinese and foreign people. We were both hesitant; usually we were accompanied by a Chinese person that can help us and who know all about this. We didn’t have a clue, apart from having papers for this and papers for that. But we thought ‘hey! Sure we’ll give it a go by ourselves, we have the correct papers so it should be fine!’ Well, it didn’t exactly go to plan!

So we arrived and we were asked did we have originals of everything. We knew we didn’t, as the company told us the copy’s ‘will be ok’. One paper was a copy. But we got moved onto the waiting room. ‘Great!’ I thought, this will be handy, we have everything!’

My number was called, so I walked into the room with the officers. I started to become nervous while she was flicking through all the documents. My boyfriend was a few seats down.

Then the dreaded question ‘Do you have a document from the University to say you can work part time?’ I thought ‘what document??? I gave her everything!….thats it, no visa for me!’ But apparently I left it in Rafas bag which he then gave me. Phew! Thats sorted!

But then… another question. ‘Do you have the original document of this?’ I replied no, saying the company said the copy would be sufficient. Bad news, they wanted the original one. Then she said ‘will the company give you the original one?’ I said yes, to which she carried on.

Picture time arrived, and that was when I knew I made it to the other side! She made sure I knew to bring the original document to her when I pick up my passport and away I went to pay the quite impressive visa fee. Rafa was sitting in the waiting room for me.

So, I was very happy then, explaining to him what she needed, until I hear ‘Excuse me Miss’. I turn around and there she was, with my passport in her hand….. I thought ‘Aw no, something went wrong, she’s giving me my passport back.’ She asked me did I work with the company before in which I said yes. Apparently I needed proof to say that I finished my contract with them.

She ushered me back into the room. Talked Chinese to another lady whilst I nervously waited for the verdict. But by luck, and by the fact that she already put my passport through the system, she allowed, or more likely HAD to keep my passport. Her mistake but lucky for me! So she assured me that I must bring the original document and the contract document to them when I pick up the passport.

And then I was free to go.

But not so lucky for Rafa, he was in the same predicament, but his lady officer wasn’t so forgiving, meaning he has to get the same documents as myself and apply for his visa again.

Hopefully though it will go ok next time as we will have all the correct papers!


Our Food Dilemma.

There is one thing that is the bane of both mine and Rafas life. Where to get food. Every day, twice a day is when we must ponder, and decide where to go for something to eat. Everyday is ‘What do you want for dinner?’ or ‘Where will we go for food?’ I know they are coming, but I blot it from my mind until those questions come up, and then my answer is, as always, ’I dunno.’

Because our timetables before Uni were much more hectic; finishing class at different times during the evening and the such, plus me travelling over an hour to get home, meant that the handiest thing was to just go to a restaurant and get food. Oh and because our light was broken in our kitchen apartment meant that we had another excuse not to cook in the evening. Oh, and because of my lack of fondness at the idea of cooking.

But now, we are sort of managing a routine so far. With the Uni 5 minutes away from us, we have set a routine for lunch at least! But for dinner, we’re still pondering. Once we get into a proper routine, and when I find another job and know my working hours, we should be able to start cooking more food. One problem though is that our kitchen is very small. Because the microwave is on the counter, we literally only have 1 foot of space to cook from. So not very convenient. THEN, we have our huge oven, which has now taken up that 1 foot of space, so we have nowhere to cook unless from the dining table, where I must mention isn’t a dining table as such, it’s a wooden patio table with a handy hole in the middle so our umbrella fits in for those sunny days.

And somehow, I’ve ended up having to make my boyfriend a cake! And I have no idea how to do it! First, we don’t have any ingredients, second, we have no utensils to actually make one, and we also don’t have a proper working oven. One side of the oven doesn’t work, so if he wants me make a half baked cake then that will have to do.

I’ve promised him I would make him one in Ireland, but I don’t think he wants to wait that long. It’s more of a ‘well you told me you would make me one, so I expect you to make me one in China, and not in Ireland.’ But I think I have an option up my sleeve, so I’ll see how that pans out.

Other than that everything is going fine, I’m liking our new apartment more and more; its funny how your own stuff can make it more homely. Plus, we plan on getting a lovely sofa that would fit in nicely. Only thing is, the current one we have is a little cumbersome, as we don’t know where to put it. We could show the landlord our new one and maybe she could get rid of the old one and the buy our one when we leave. The old one is not particularly nice or comfy, adding to the paint marks on the sofa when they were painting the walls adds to this fact. But we will see what happens.

And Uni is also going well. This week we are going to start learning the characters. I have no idea how to write them so this will be totally new to me. It’s great when there is a reason for getting up and not just to go to work.

Oh and it’s Saint Patricks day today! We plan on going to an Irish pub/restaurant for a few hours, but we’ll be home by 12am (I hope) as we have Uni in the morning. But I don’t mind, I enjoy learning Chinese and I don’t want to miss out on anything important.

But I do have to find something to wear that’s green for tonight….


Correcting my Chinese!

I’ve just finished my first week of being a student again. And I have to say, so far I’m glad I decided to study Chinese. At the moment we are studying the phonetics of the words and their tones. Basic stuff. But, so far, I’ve noticed an improvement in my tones, but I’ve also realised that some words I am pronouncing wrong. Subtle differences in the sounds of words, such as ‘zai’ and ‘cai’ can make the whole sentence you say wrong. It’s not so much that the tones are important, which they are, but a lot of it has to do with the pronunciation. I may say something to something and my tones are all correct, but its the way I”m saying the words that gets Chinese people confused. In English, if someone says, while we are at the beach ‘I see a sheep’, we know that that person meant ‘ship’. In China, if you say one thing wrong, they wont understand you. It’s very annoying and I’m sure everyone in China has experienced this before.

I was in a shop once, and I asked the lady in Chinese ‘Do you speak English?’. My tones were perfect, and I thought I did a great job, but she replied ‘what?’ in Chinese. I know my tones were correct, as I’ve studied how to say the sentence, but now thinking back, I’m sure a big part of why she couldn’t understand me was because of my pronunciation.

So it’s great being able to actually pronounce the words correctly now. We have 2 books that we use. The first book we have for the basic phonetics, and we hope to have that book done in a month. Then it’s starting the characters, which I’m quite excited about!

And with our level dilema, as you’v probably realised, we’re going to start at level 1. Level 2, although we understood the teacher, that group know a couple of hundred characters, whereas I know about 10. The teacher put a sentence on the board (all in characters) and all the students started reading it aloud. I was just sitting there having no idea what to do or say. Although we could have stayed at level 2, that means catching up on maybe 1 years worth of reading and writing. So that would be far too stressful.

What I’ve realised though is how much you catch onto while just being in China, not even studying. I’ve been in China 1 year and a half, I’ve realised that a lot of the pronoun cation of words you pick up naturally. Like the difference between ‘c’ and ‘ch’ , or ‘z’ and ‘c’ are things that came naturally to me. However ‘feng’, I realised I was saying it wrong. I was pronouncing the ‘e’ like ‘elephant’, whereas it should be said as ‘fung’ .

So this week was good. In level 2, I was shocked when the lady said we must pick a partner and do a role play about an appointment. I was like ‘oh god!, how will I manage that! ‘ Thankfully it went ok though!

So I’ve surprised myself by the amount of Chinese I’ve picked up while in China. It just goes to show how much you can pick up while just living in China and by listening to people. Hopefully now when I get my phonics and pronunciation right the Chinese will understand me much more.


Moving & becoming a student again.

Things are finally falling into place, well nearly. Moving into our new apartment was a struggle, with me having to travel to work and then starting Uni, add to the fact that my boyfriend ‘thought’ his contract ended in a week; to realise that it was in fact only in a few days, so we were busy sorting all our clothes, toiletries, pots, pans and everything else.

We have been in our apartment two days, with our belongings strewn all over the place. Our weekend will consist of unpacking everything. It’s amazing what stuff you can hoard without you realising. Also, the apartment is much smaller than the one we are in now. In this one, there are two floors and it is big. Whereas in the new one, the whole apartment takes up one floor of the current one. But much easier to clean!

And I have 3 days left of my working contract! This time last week, I had it decided that I was leaving Zhonghai campus. I told the parents and students, and that was done. Then I had a change of heart. I’ve decided to just come on a Saturday and teach maybe 2/3 groups. That means I know I will have a few classes already. Ha I just couldn’t give up my students! Plus I have one favourite who I have on a Saturday. She is great. When we told her parent I was leaving, I expected her to be angry. But, when I asked, the PA told me she was disappointed, because her daughter enjoyed having me as a teacher. So that night I decided I would come just on the Saturdays for a few hours. It will take me over an hour to get there but I could study my Chinese in that time. Well thats the plan anyway.

And I’m a student! I started Uni on Monday. But we are in a pickle. Level 1 is far too basic and I know we would become bored. Level 2 is a bit better; with speaking and listening its fine and it’s interesting; but they use a lot of Chinese characters. I have very little knowledge about characters as I’ve never studied them. So its either stay in level one and become bored, but start from the basic and learn the phonics and more importantly; the characters. Or stay in level 2, improve my listening and oral, but struggle to keep up with the characters.

Some students I noticed who were in level 1 had very good Chinese, but they want to learn the characters. So they are back at the basic level. Maybe that is what we should do. Today we tried level 2, and for homework, we have to write about 15 words in chinese characters, which I have no idea how to write! So we will talk more and decide which is the better option.

So 2015 already has been a year of complete change to 2014! New apartment, hopefully new school to work for, new university, new nephew! Yes my sister had a little boy on the 25th of February. They called him Nathan. I’m so excited to see him!
And just 113 days until Ireland!


Hangzhou in Pictures.

West Lake with plenty of smog.

West Lake with plenty of smog.

Fishing for gold fish.

Fishing for gold fish.

Scene of a smoggy Hangzhou from a temple.

Scene of a smoggy Hangzhou from a temple.

Light show

Light show

Dreaming of the Tiger Spring Scenic Spot

Dreaming of the Tiger Spring Scenic Spot

The view from a huge mountain we climbed.

The view from a huge mountain we climbed.


View of the fields.



Longjing tea, famous tea from Hangzhou.

Wuzhen Water Town.

Wuzhen Water Town.


View from our boat

The huge crowd of people.

The huge crowd of people.





Cute clothes for the babies for Spring Festival.