Establish Yourself as a (Likable) Authoritative Teacher

When I was in primary school, I had enormous respect for my teachers. I didn’t always behave well, but I was a good student and hardly ever got into trouble. I knew my teachers well, and I had a good idea of how much fun I could have in class before my teachers would get angry with me. I was attentive, did my homework, and behaved. However, when we had a substitute teacher, things were different. It was like it was a lesson without consequence. Substitute teachers rarely got mad, wouldn’t call your parents, and if you forgot your homework they wouldn’t care. They were always nice and played games, so we liked them but didn’t respect them. At least not as much as we respected our regular teachers.

In China, I feel there’s a similar comparison between Chinese and Foreign teachers. I’ve seen it in all three schools I’ve worked for. The local Chinese teachers command a lot of respect in the classroom, the students seem very disciplined, and the classes run smoothly. But, as soon as the Foreign teacher starts, the students flip a switch and go into “play mode”. They test your limits, act up, and if you scold them in English they don’t understand. I’ve seen many examples, including myself, of foreign teachers being treated like a “play uncle” in the classroom. Although our teaching style is often more interactive than Chinese teachers, it’s not how the students should be perceiving us. We should command the same respect from the students as their Chinese teachers do.

When you first start teaching a class, it’s important that you show yourself as an authority figure early on. It’s easy to be too sweet at first because we want the students to like us. However, if you’re too much fun at first, they’ll always think you’re playing around and not being serious. It’s easier to start strict, then gradually ease into a friendlier version of yourself. But, it also means being patient with the students because they won’t fall in love with you as fast as they otherwise would. In the long run though, they’ll respect you more, and will treat you more like an authority figure.

As with anything new, you should start any new class with setting clear rules and boundaries. Let the students know what they can and can’t do, what you expect of them, and ask them what they expect of you. Getting the students involved in the rule-making process is also a good idea, because it gives them ownership. With older students, you can simply take the first class to discuss class rules and expectations. With younger students, it’ll take longer, but it can mostly be done through games and activities. Teach them words like “stand up,” “sit down,” and other vocabulary related to classroom instructions and rules.  Practice with the students, and be strict at first so they know your boundaries.

In my opinion, it’s important to find a balance between being strict and nice. A good teacher never needs to yell at students, but always has clear rules, and consistent methods for punishing bad behavior. In my classes, I have a scoreboard for each student. When they do well they earn points, represented by checks; when they do something they’re not supposed to, I erase their checks. Students quickly learn what earns and costs checks, and they behave accordingly. I have taught my current students for about two years; now they know me well enough to know how much they can play around, and when to sit down and listen.

There’s a maxim for teachers to establish discipline early on in their classes: “Don’t smile until Christmas.” This may be an exaggeration, but it’s true that establishing clear rules and discipline is easier if you start early. Kids feel more safe in a classroom with clear rules; this leads to better academic performance from the students, and less stress for the teacher!

By: Mikkel Larsen

Mikkel Larson

Mikkel is a Chongqing based teacher, blogger, and photographer. He’s lived in China since 2010, and can be found blogging here, here, and here

City Profile: Wuxi, Jiangsu Province, China

Wuxi is split down the center by Lake Tai and is one of the urban cores of the Yangtze River delta region. Known as “Little Shanghai”, Wuxi is one of the origins of China’s modern commercial development. Located in the Golden Triangle of the Yangtze River, Wuxi is a key member of the “Wu” region of China which comprises the triangular-shaped territory near Shanghai and includes southern Jiangsu Province and northern Zhejiang Province.

This area is notable in China for its distinctive dialect, architecture and its unique waterway transportation along the Grand Canal. Owing to its pleasantly warm and moist climate, it boasts a reputation of the ‘Land of Fish and Rice’. Relying on the near-by Yangtze River and ancient Grand Canal, it had been a port city with the busiest rice and cloth market in China before 19th century.

Besides being a rich cultural repository, Wuxi is blessed with charming natural beauty: the vast Tai Lake with its fascinating water scenes, the ‘Sea of Bamboo’ in Yixing, the Second Spring, Huishan Mountain — the ‘First Mountain South of Yangtze River’ — and so on. Various aspects of nature give you a new experience at every turn.

Located along the main intercity high-speed railway, Wuxi can easily reach Shanghai, Nanjing, Suzhou and other regional hot-spots. The international airport flies directly to most major Chinese cities and other nearby transit hubs in Asia. The new metro line offers city dwellers convenient transportation to points of interest within the city.
With its moderate climate and beautiful natural surroundings, Wuxi is an attractive destination for people to live and work as well as for tourists. With plenty of parks and green spaces, mountains nearby and its proximity to the Yangtze and the Grand Canal, Wuxi offers attractions for all types of travelers, seekers and explorers.

Take a look at the ESL Suite job board for more about teaching jobs in China and in Wuxi City!

Career Resources – ESL Suite

We just added a handy new page to the website: Career Resources – ESL Suite. Any subjects you’d like to read (or write) about? Let us know – we’d be happy to add it to the page!

How to Nail a Skype Interview – Follow These 9 Tips

Webcam
Don’t forget to smile!

“Can you hear me? I can see you but I can’t hear you….wait….OK….no….now I can’t see you, either.”

Sound familiar? The fact is, Skype interviews probably require as much preparation as interviewing face-to-face. An online interview gives the interviewee a few advantages, but several unique disadvantages.

For instance, one good point is that you can keep some notes in front of you out of sight of the camera. That’s great, right?

Well, the bad news is you’re talking to your computer – or a tiny, robotic-eye sitting next to your computer. And some people (such as me) don’t come off very well on camera.

Good and bad aside, there are a few keys which will guarantee you make a positive impression. Most of these won’t be revelations, simply because they’re the types of things you ought to do in a face-to-face interview anyway.

Here they are:

  1. Be on time for the interview. It’s a good idea to be sure you’ve added the interviewer a day before the call. If the interviewer is late on the day of the interview, be patient. Send an instant message if it goes past 15 minutes. It’s possible an earlier interview ran longer than expected. If you can’t connect, send an email to ask if you can reschedule for another day. Something unexpected probably came up, and they’ll likely be happy to chat with you another day.
  2. Make sure the surroundings behind you are tidy, and find a QUIET place. If you have roommates or live together with family, remind them of your interview time so you aren’t interrupted.
  3. Test your equipment the day before and the day of the interview. There’s nothing more frustrating than having technical problems during an online interview. If problems arise and persist, explain politely what is happening and ask to redial.
  4. Dress for the job. If the job is for an ESL teacher, business casual would be best. Men should get rid of the 5 o’clock shadow – shave before the interview. Oh, and if you’re thinking of pulling a “Ron Burgundy” and not wearing any trousers – think again. You never know when you might have to suddenly get up to check your internet connection or webcam.
  5. Smile. This is a no-brainer if you’re interviewing in person, but being personable and smiling are more difficult when you’re in a room alone. Test your appearance on camera before the interview to check for posture, gestures, facial expressions, etc. Try a practice run with a friend or family member and ask for honest feedback.
  6. Use the interviewers name often – it can help develop a connection between the two of you even though you’re not in the same room.
  7. Before the interview begins, tell the interviewer in advance that you will be taking notes. You can politely begin, “I apologize in advance if there are a few pauses here and there, I’ll be jotting down some notes during the interview.” This will ease the awkward feeling when no one is speaking. Plus taking notes will give you a few ideas to come back to when you have questions at the end.
  8. Cheat like crazy. Keep notes about the company handy for easy reference. Being able to glance quickly at information about the position, company or questions for the end of the interview can work in your favor. That said, keep the notes short – if you’re shuffling through dozens of pages off camera it’ll definitely tip-off your interviewer that something’s amiss.
  9. Be yourself. You have a lot to offer to the company – it’ll be more likely to come through during the interview if you’re relaxed!

This list is probably not exhaustive – if you have any other tips I’d love to hear them!

Oh, and if you’re wondering what not to do – just watch this clip:

Teaching English in China: Equal Parts Indiana Jones & Mister Rogers

I’ll never forget the day I announced to my family my plan to move to China to teach English. The astonished looks on their faces followed by the predictable question, “WHY???”, will stay with me for a long time.

One good friend was particularly supportive: “That’s a third world country, bro. Good luck.”

Little did they know the amount of research and planning I had done before I announced my bold plan. In fact, I had already gone so far as to finish a 100-hour TEFL course at UCLA.

My TEFL course instructor spent several years in China and Taiwan – he urged me to reconsider my original plans to teach in South America. His reason was simple, “Move to China and learn Chinese. That’s a language you’ll be happy to know in a few years.”

So I did.

Four years later I can say with confidence it was the best decision I ever made. I was 29-years old and had only been outside North America two times – it was time to go see the world.

I taught for two years with a great school in Tianjin then was lucky enough to stumble upon a job as a project manager for a growing Japanese company on the outskirts of the city. Two more years later, I established enough of a professional network to start my own recruiting company in China, ESL Suite. My “one year plan” quickly became four; four years will likely become seven or eight.

Now people ask me all the time: “What’s it like teaching English in China?”. I like to tell them, “It’s equal parts Indiana Jones and Mister Rogers.”

Admittedly, I’m probably more like 80% Rogers and 20% Indy (if that), but you get the general idea.

Now when I return to my hometown in Buffalo, my friends and family are thrilled to hear about the interesting experiences I’ve had. Their faces are just as astonished as that fateful day I told them I was heading to the Far East.

I’m not usually the type to say, “I told you so.”, but I never miss the opportunity to tell them directly to their faces, “我已经告诉你们我来中国生活就是个特别好的想法!”. (Roughly Chinese for: “I told you so.”).

Gratuitous self promotion: 

If you’re the adventurous type and a native speaker of English, don’t hesitate to fill out our application form today! Exciting opportunities may be just around the corner!

How to Inspire Trust – WSJ.com

I recently read “Extreme Productivity” by Robert Pozen and was particularly moved by the chapter about using your personal values and morals to guide your decision-making. He quoted investor/philanthropist Warren Buffett, “It takes twenty years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” Sound advice, indeed. The book is excellent and I highly suggest you give it a read.

A day after finishing the book, I stumbled on this article in the Wall Street Journal which echoes many of the same ideas: How to Inspire Trust – WSJ.com http://ow.ly/pFHTH

By focusing on always doing the right things right, you will find decision-making becomes much easier!