Following the Rules in China – A Good Insurance Policy

Too many foreign teachers in China feel like they are treated like royalty in China and think they can do whatever they wish.

If they want to show up late to class who is going to stop them? If they want to skip a staff meeting who is going to care?

In fact, no one may stop them or even say anything about this behavior. But following the rules and thus establishing a good relationship with your school is like taking out an insurance policy. You want your school to be enthusiastic about helping you if a problem arises.

Unless you never step foot outside your apartment, you will inevitably encounter problems which are beyond your ability to solve.… Read the rest

ESL Ideas

ESL Discussion Topic – UFO’s and Aliens

Level: Intermediate & Advanced

This is an interesting topic because every country has stories about Unidentified Objects and strange men.

Warmup: Print off a news article about a UFO sighting. Ask the students to read the article and discuss new vocabulary.

What to talk about:

  • Have you ever seen a UFO? (Remind them that UFOs can be anything that can’t be identified
  • Do you think humans are the only living beings in the Universe?
  • How would you feel if you found out you are not alone in the Universe?
  • Do government know more about UFO’s than they are letting on?
  • What is the meaning of aliens?
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Living in China

The Paradoxical Land of China

Some years ago, I was invited to be a guest author on the website, an online magazine which provides helpful and timely information about living and traveling abroad. This well known and award winning website featured a webzine on Asia which includes an article I wrote entitled This is China, Living Abroad in a Land of Paradoxes. Below you can find the introdution as well as a link to the rest of the article (and pictures) on

Sitting in a dark room in front of four men who were dressed in burgundy robes, their hair shaved close to their heads, I nervously held a cup of warm butter tea in my hands.

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ESL Ideas

ESL Conversation Topic – Random Questions

Level: Intermediate to Advanced

Sometimes I just don’t have the energy to lead a ESL topic discussion so I will resort to using a series of random questions which can be discussed amongst my students. After all, the purpose of an ESL conversation class is to get your students talking.

Warmup: Divide students into groups of two and hand out a copy of the following questions to each group. Tell them they will have 20 minutes to discuss the questions amongst themselves. After the discussion, you will reconvene the class to discuss the answers.

1. Talk about three problems that you have right now that you can’t solve.

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Living in China

Exploring Your City in China

I was fortunate enough to have had an ancient wall within walking distance of my apartment during my first year in China. There were also numerous temples, museums, and ancient structures close by. Because the area was once a major part of the ancient Three Kingdoms, walking around was like traveling through ancient history.

While you may not be fortunate enough to live in a city with such historical value, you should definitely research the area and do some exploring. And don’t trust the Chinese locals to tell you where the scenic or historical spots are located. It never ceases to amaze me how little people know about their own city.… Read the rest

ESL Ideas

ESL Class Idea – Childhood

Level: Basic-Intermediate

This topic will likely bring some passionate responses from your students. Be compassionate and sensitive to their comments.

Questions to discuss:

  • Did you have a good or bad childhood?
  • What makes a childhood good or bad in China?
  • How do parents discipline their children in China?
  • When you have children (or if you have children), what do you do differently than your parents? What do you change?
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ESL Job Tips

Non-Native English Speakers Teaching in China Revisited

A little while ago, in an article entitled Can Non-Native English Speakers Teach English in China? I discussed some of the difficulties non-native speakers of English may encounter in China in relation to finding teaching jobs.

Since that article was posted, this site has received hundreds of hits from non-native speakers of English asking me to help them find a place to teach in China.

Unfortunately, I am not a recruiter and nor do I run a school, but the overwhelming response the article produced prompted me to do some further investigation into the issue of non-native speakers of English teaching in China.… Read the rest

ESL Job Tips

How to Make Your Chinese Boss Angry

Although I risk a vehement chorus of disagreement for saying so, my Chinese bosses have been relatively easy to please.

Yes, their constant requests to appear at business dinners or be photographed in school advertisements can be annoying, but in general I have found Chinese bosses do not ask for so much from their foreign teachers.

Of course, there are ESL teachers in China who still manage to drive their bosses crazy. How? Often, they are just plain bad teachers who think they can get away with anything.

Here are some actions (or lack thereof) which are sure to annoy your Chinese boss:

  1. Showing up late to class — No matter how much your Chinese boss likes you, he or she is not going to appreciate a tardy teacher.
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Stories from China

My Student Mary – A Lonely Girl from Rural China

Her name is Mary. She is only 19 years old but already she has many grey hairs. On Thursday mornings in my freshmen oral English class, she always sits alone in the back of the room. No one ever talks to her; she appears to have no friends. Whenever she speaks, the disdainful expressions I detect on the faces of other students betray their true feelings about her.

She is different from the rest.

“I come from a very poor family in the countryside,” Mary candidly shared with the class during a biographical ESL activity. While she is well dressed and healthy, her face displays a hardness and maturity which stands in contrast to the other youthful faces in the room.… Read the rest

ESL Ideas

ESL Class Idea – Presidential Election

Level: Intermediate – Advanced

If you have the right students, holding a presidential election in your ESL Conversation Class can be a great activity! Plus, it is a good learning experience since most of your Chinese students have probably never voted.

Warmup: Explain to your students that they will be participating in a presidential election. Choose three people to run as presidential candidates and explain to them that they will need to prepare a short speech. Instruct the rest of the class to prepare questions for the candidates. At the end of the class, they will be voting for president.… Read the rest