International marketing talents recruitment: special session
Marketing Talents - China Opportunities
Helping Chinese companies locate international talents
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Perceptions of English Teachers in China
Let's be honest: in China, those who teach English aren't exactly held up as shining examples of success. It's time to examine the roots of these misconceptions, which are fodder for endless debates on anonymous online forums.
How Expats Who Don't Teach See It
The acronym LBH (Loser Back Home) may be found in almost every expat discussion forum online. Many persons who work in the TEFL field have the unfortunate reputation of being entirely unemployable in their native countries. To a certain extent, this is often the case. I've worked with folks whose drinking problem would make John Wayne blush, whose work ethic amounted to a limp noodle, whose lack of focus on the task at hand, and whose chronic tardiness made them a perpetual nuisance. To put it mildly, this view is oversimplified.
People come to China to teach English for a wide variety of reasons, including to save money for future travel, to learn the language, to take a break from their problems at home, to pay for a gap year, and even to meet a life partner. Some individuals are content to work a fraction of a typical Western work week for an income that is sufficient to cover their basic needs. To me, the animosity that some "professional" expatriates feel against English instructors stems from a subconscious pattern of lateral aggressiveness. Not limited to, but included, these are some of the most frequently used insults:
As an English professor, you've got a lot of brains.
You must teach English, therefore, which explains your idiocy.
You teach English; I'll make an effort not to hold it against you.
I don't understand why you didn't simply go work at McDonald's.
It's true that teaching English abroad is the McDonald's of the working foreigner world. To put it simply, foreigners in China have no real say or sway over anything, making it easy for those who see themselves as more deserving to pick on others they view as less so. Extensive study of this phenomena has been conducted in the context of violence in communities of ethnic minorities and bullying in the workplace by those who want to curry favor with their superiors, but it is just as applicable here. Living in China can be quite trying, and foreigners who are seen as "losers" are an easy target for hostility.
People sometimes assume that all foreign teachers do is perform for their students in front of a classroom full of young children, despite the wide variety of courses offered by these educators and the significant effort many of them put into raising the bar on the quality of their teachings. But in my experience, the quality of English education in China may range widely, from excellent to humiliating.
How Chinese Companies See It
The vast majority of Chinese people, in my view, do not understand why a person from a sophisticated Western nation would choose to live in China only to teach English. In the same manner that many Westerners want to escape the rat race, many Chinese people hope to do so as well. Moreover, most proprietors of Chinese language schools hire foreign instructors for the sole goal of "spending money to earn money," as the saying goes. By having a foreign educator, schools may charge more rates without offending parents.
The vast majority of business owners despise the idea of forking out a hefty sum of money to non-native speakers of the language in exchange for a very straightforward service. My Canadian friend in Shenzhen who was recently hospitalized due to e.coli contamination was informed by his supervisor over the phone that the school-provided medical insurance would not cover the price, and that he was not eligible for sick pay. To me, this perfectly encapsulates how many students feel about their language instructors.