A Typical Day as An ESL Teacher in China

Ever wondered what an ESL teacher does in an average day? It’s not all eating street food and experiencing exotic cultures…

A typical day ESL teaching in China

Firstly I am going to calm your nerves by saying you don’t have to wear a shirt and tie to work as a teacher. The picture below was my first day and I was fresh faced and ready to impress. Soon after you realise all the other guys wear casual clothes all the way to borderline pyjamas to school so jeans will be ok. One teacher wore genuine Mickey Mouse jogging bottoms.

Posing with a Teacher

I am lucky as I am a slow 15 minute walk to my school, however many friends of mine have to commute some distance, luckily the transport networks in Beijing, especially the subway, are very good and very cheap.

School campuses in Chaoyang district are extremely similar so you can pretty much take a look at some of the pictures and imagine the school you would be working at. I get a desk and a computer at school in the English office, again this is very common.

Lunch is provided at all schools in Chaoyang district however this is the one thing that can vary considerably. I am very lucky with the variety and quality of the food I get, having seen some of the ‘buffets’ other schools provide. But it is all provided free of charge so complaining would probably make you a huge douche.

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OK, down to the important stuff. School starts from 08:00 to 08:40 depending on if you have first period. Lessons are 40 minutes long across the board in Beijing at public schools. You will be expected to have produced a PPT and lesson plan for the lesson; you can see an example of this in the pictures.

In the lessons you should have a Chinese teacher who speaks English to help with behaviour and management. I say should have because sometimes they don’t come because they are busy but this is almost never a problem and I speak no Chinese. Between lessons I have on average 10 minutes to get from one lesson to another and prepare the PC for the lesson, this only takes 2 minutes so then I spend 8 minutes getting swamped by hundreds of kids. Being the only foreign teacher in the school and probably the only foreign person they know, they tend to get quite excited.

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And that’s basically it guys, at 14:45 I go home. That’s my longest day with 6 lessons and I only have two days like that. Tuesday and Thursday I start work at 10:25 and Friday I finish work at 11:05. And to bring those figures home even more, that includes overtime. My contract is 20 lessons and I do 23 and Jade does 26. So with overtime you’re looking at a very nice schedule.

I personally do some extracurricular stuff for the school without pay, like a choir club, and a debate club. You have no obligation to do these activities or in fact anything they ask you to do apart from lessons. However the relationship and fun you can have is well worth it and you don’t get home at 15:00 and think to yourself ‘what the fuck do I do now’.


Before I came to China I had so many questions and worries. Ask below if there is anything we can help you with because we have experienced it all. Doing 1 hour speeches to 1000 kids with 4 days to prepare, Halloween parties for the teachers, impromptu lesson cancellations, going to hospital, sending money home and even adopting 3 week old kittens found in the school shed. So feel free to ask!


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A typical day ESL teaching in China

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About Kev Shepherd

Hi, I'm Kev. I am currently in China making the money to start travelling the world with my partner Jade. I have a degree in Sports ands Exercise Science which aids me in no way when faced with the challenges of exploring new cultures and places.

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