Do you want to teach in China, but the idea of standing at the front of a classroom full of children who don’t speak your language makes you shake in your boots?
Or you doubt that any school will hire you?
This guide will address any concerns you might have about going to teach English in China with no experience.
Many Newbie Teachers Work in China
Have you ever heard of imposter syndrome?
Simply stated, it’s when a person is afraid they’re not as qualified as the other people in the room and are a fraud in some way, when in fact their skills are about on par with everyone else’s.
You won’t find imposter syndrome listed in any medical books, but it plagues lots of people.
If you’re worried you won’t be able to live in a foreign country or that you aren’t qualified to teach, you may or may not be suffering from something akin to imposter syndrome.
Either way, it’s perfectly normal to feel nervous when embarking on something as huge as going to teach English in China.
The fact is, you can teach English in China with no experience, and you won’t be faking it or doing less than anyone else.
In fact, lots and lots of people teach English in China without experience, and they use different techniques to gain skills and make themselves more valuable to employers.
And you can, too!
Read on to learn about some of the ways to make yourself more attractive to employers.
This article also talks about how to gain some experience before you start teaching, how to look for jobs, and what types of jobs you should look for.
It also goes over the base requirements for teaching abroad.
Base Requirements for Teaching English in China With No Experience
It may seem like you need the experience to teach abroad, but in reality, the requirements for teaching in China are fewer than you think.
First, you should be a native English speaker with a passport to prove it. Thus, a passport from the United States, Canada, Australia, England, Ireland, South Africa, or New Zealand will give you a huge advantage.
Next, you should have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited four-year university. You’ll need to provide your diploma along with your passport when you’re applying for a work visa in China.
The only other requirements for teaching English in China are a clean criminal background check and a TEFL certificate.
If you go to China through an agency they may even provide the TEFL certificate for you.
There are Jobs for Non-Native Speakers, Too
As a matter of fact, the above isn’t exactly true. While you need a 4-year degree and a passport from a native English-speaking country to get a work visa, many people work under the table on business or travel visas.
If you aren’t a native English speaker, don’t have any teaching experience, but have a degree and native-level English proficiency, you should have no problem finding legal work given the high demand for foreign teachers in China.
However, you may have to be patient and settle for a lower salary at first.
Recently I noticed a job listing by a language school that got a special permit from the Chinese government to employ Filipino teachers on a regular visa. (In the TEFL industry, the Philippines are not considered a “native English country”.)
You’ll find jobs posted on Wechat groups and other forums that specifically mention they’re available to non-native speakers.
However, you should talk to other employees at the job to make sure they feel safe and comfortable with the arrangement they have with their employer before starting work.
Your TEFL Class Will Give You Valuable Skills
Don’t worry about feeling like a fraud because you don’t have any teaching experience!
You’ll need to take a TEFL course in order to get your work visa, and during your TEFL course, you’ll learn valuable skills that will help you in the classroom.
Aside from learning teaching theory, you’ll get a chance to design a class and teach it to your fellow TEFL classmates!
That experience will give you the confidence you need stepping into the real-live classroom.
Additionally, your school will know what level of teacher you are, and will work with you. It’s common practice to have new teachers shadow up to a week of classes before they start teaching, and many schools also offer teacher training and even curriculum materials.
You’ll also most likely have a teaching assistant in your classroom, so you’ll never be completely against the ropes in a trying situation.
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Highlight The Skills You Have In Your Resume
Even if you don’t have formal teaching experience, you probably have a lot more to bring to the classroom than you might think.
You’ve lived a rich and full life that will benefit you in the classroom, and your innate personality traits are also an asset to you.
Let’s look at a few qualities and assets you can highlight on your resume and when speaking in a job interview.
You Might Have More Experience Than You Think
Many TEFL jobs in China ask for two years or more of experience, but the truth is that “experience” can mean more things than you might think.
If you’ve never taught in a classroom setting, have no fear.
If you’ve been a camp counselor, private tutor, nanny or babysitter, or youth group leader, you can count that as experience.
Basically any position, volunteer or otherwise, where you’ve had a leadership role or interacted with children can count as experience.
Even if you led a club or book club in high school or college, you can put that on your resume.
Group leadership is obviously an integral part of being at the head of a classroom, and so you should demonstrate any past leadership experience you’ve had.
Schools know the difference between formal teaching experience and other types of leadership and childcare experience, so it’s not like you’re hoodwinking people into thinking that you’re something you’re not by including alternative forms of leadership experience on your CV.
Furthermore, previous childcare and leadership experience will help you in the classroom, so there’s no reason to not include them on your resume.
So think about all that you’ve accomplished, and proudly display it! The key to getting any job is selling yourself.
Let Your Personality Shine Through
At the end of the day, what matters most is not what’s written on your resume but how you perform in the classroom.
Schools want teachers who are dynamic, engaging, goal-oriented and driven. Far more important than what certifications you have is what you can actually bring to the classroom.
By showing the school that you’re a go-getter, you’ll put yourself at a high advantage for teaching jobs.
This next section will address a few ways to showcase your strengths and capabilities to the school outside of your resume.
Teaching With No Experience? Sell Yourself, Not Your Credentials
Potential employers obviously care about a teaching candidate’s credentials and background when considering them for a position, but those aren’t the only factors they evaluate.
In fact, the other factors can matter even more than experience for certain positions.
If you leave a strong impression in your demo class, job interview, and demo video, you’ll leave schools begging to hire you.
Be Confident In Your Job Interview
The length and nature of your job interview will vary widely by school, so don’t spend too much time stressing over it.
If you work with an agent, you may not even do much talking – just sit there and smile while they chat away with the heads of school in Chinese.
Some establishments have more extensive job interviews where they ask you about specific items on your resume, how you would handle certain situations in class, or what your salary expectations are. It’s a good idea to think of answers to these questions and others beforehand.
You can refer to this guide to acing your job interview to help you prepare for what questions might be asked.
Most important for the job interview, however, is being confident and friendly.
Lastly, remember to always speak clear, slow English. After all, you are an English teacher!
Create A Memorable Demo Class
Most schools require you to do a short demo class to showcase your skills, and this, combined with your other previously mentioned qualifications, is what really determines the outcome of your job interview.
If you’re going to spend time preparing for one thing, make it your demo class.
Schools want teachers who are outgoing, confident, and comfortable with children. If you are able to instantly create a fun classroom in your demo class, you will be a total standout in the school’s eyes.
In your demo class, project your voice, move around the classroom, exaggerate your movements, and address a number of students personally. Talk slowly and clearly, and be vivacious.
The best way to get a sense of how your demo class should go is to watch a number of YouTube videos of demo classes for whatever age level you’re teaching. Note the teachers’ mannerisms, introductions, reward systems, and speaking habits.
Next, create props and teaching tools.
If you’re teaching older students, you’ll probably just need a PowerPoint, but if you’re doing a demo class with younger students you’ll want flashcards and maybe even realia to represent the vocabulary you’re teaching.
For example, if your demo class is about animals, you could bring in some Beanie Babies. A USB of songs and activities is always a good tool to have on hand in a pinch.
Creating props may seem like a lot of work, but it will make you look prepared and give you confidence once you’re in the classroom.
The last step to preparing for a good demo class is, of course, practice. Practice in front of the mirrors, in front of your friends, in the street.
Being well-prepared will make you more confident, which will let your great personality shine through!
Your Demo Video Is Your Time to Shine
Some jobs may have you send a shorter demo teaching video instead of teaching in the classroom.
The advantage of a video is that you can film it as many times as you want, and you won’t be intimidated by all the eyes on you. The disadvantage is that you don’t get the energy of interacting with real students, and you may feel silly pretending to teach an empty room.
Overall, though, the same principles that apply to a demo class apply to a demo video.
And the best thing about a demo video is that once you’ve filmed it you can use it for interviews over and over again!
Make A Compelling Intro Video
Not all jobs require intro videos, but if the one you’re applying to does, you should view it as an opportunity instead of more work!
Your intro video allows you to show off your individual side and showcase your personality.
Your intro video doesn’t have to be anything fancy, and it generally doesn’t need to be longer than 30 seconds to a minute long. It should include basic information about you like your country of origin, age, and alma mater.
Make sure that your intro video is filmed in good lighting with high sound quality, and, of course, that you enunciate and speak slowly. As in your job interview and demo class, make sure you’re well-groomed and presentable.
You can also use some fun props in your intro video to set yourself apart — perhaps you can show your hometown on a map, or find an object that represents your hobbies or interests like the teacher in the video below did.
Love basketball? Hold one on camera! Got a passion for skating? Film your video at the skate park! Whatever you can think of, don’t hold back!
Look for Jobs that Cater to New Teachers
Not all schools are going to be a great fit for incoming teachers fresh out of college.
However, you can absolutely still teach English in China with no experience. In fact, a large proportion of the people who teach abroad are recent college graduates with no teaching experience.
The demand for foreign teachers is high in China right now, and schools are happy to help new teachers develop their skills.
Some jobs are not designed for fresh college graduates, and so it’s important to be up-front and communicate about your level of experience when applying for jobs.
Even if your resume is good enough to get you a higher-level job, you don’t want to end up in a situation where you feel overwhelmed by duties you can’t perform or the school feels that they’re getting a different teacher than the one they signed up for.
So, sell yourself but be honest about your experience to ensure that you end up with the school that’s best for you.
No Experience? Try Teaching Young Children
While it’s possible to get hired for any type of job teaching English in China with no experience, you’re much more likely to get hired teaching younger students without a teaching certificate or prior classroom experience.
Schools often want teachers with a formal background to teach older students to ensure that the teacher is able to effectively help them learn new material and guide them through difficult concepts.
With younger students, where the concepts being taught are much more basic, a teacher’s strength of personality and ability to connect with and lead the children are much more important.
Therefore, if you’re able to show that you can effectively discipline and engage young children, you’ll be a shoo-in for any position teaching young children.
Read this post about the pros and cons of teaching to children for more insight into how to prepare for a kindergarten, preschool, or other similar position.
Consider Using An Agent
Especially if you’re a recent college graduate, the best way to get a TEFL job with no experience is probably to use a recruiter.
A recruiter or agent will help you market yourself, and will also help you get set up once you’re in China.
The services different recruiters offer vary, so be sure to ask what any recruiter you talk to provides, but they often help with or entirely pay for TEFL certification, and may also help you find an apartment, pick you up from the airport when you arrive in China, and connect you with a group of teachers that also work for the company.
Recruiters and agents also often provide resources like Chinese lessons, teacher meetups, and cultural outings, so you’ll have a good community and opportunity to learn more about Chinese culture.
Most importantly, however, most recruiters have good relationships with the schools they work with and know what their expectations are. Thus, you’ll be sure that you’re at a school that’s comfortable with the amount of teaching experience you have, and you’ll be more likely to find a school quickly.
#1 Tip: Don’t Be Afraid to Be You!
At the end of the day, don’t worry about having the perfect resume. There are innumerable teaching jobs available, and they call for innumerable kinds of teachers.
If you let your fun-loving, creative, or goal-oriented personality shine through, you’ll be sure to have jobs lining up to hire you!