Training centers are great for teachers who like variety. You may be at the center teaching a group of three-year-olds one day, at a public school teaching thirty third graders another, and on-one-one tutoring a teenager the next. Some training centers only offer courses within the company walls themselves, while others send teachers out on assignment all over the city. Your experience is whatever you make of it.
Unsurprisingly, the teaching experience itself also varies greatly depending on the center and the nature of the class. Often training center classes have both a foreign teacher and a Chinese assistant teacher to translate (and discipline) when necessary. Class sizes range from one to thirty or forty, and everything in between.
Many training centers provide course material to guide teachers, but most allow flexibility. Some lessons are already pre-planned by the company, but need a fun review game at the end. Varieties of “Duck, duck, goose,” tag, and Tic-Tac-Toe always go over well. One Chinese teacher even once suggested a (heavily) modified version of spin the bottle! Some lessons require more planning, like a one-on-one tutoring experience in which the student wanted to learn slang and basketball lingo—I designed custom lessons just for her.
The biggest complaint I have heard about training centers are the hours. The more lucrative courses at a training center are their after-school and weekend courses, which are meant to supplement the kids’ actual English classes in their full-time school. And of course, the only time these students are available is in the evenings and on weekends, so that’s when the classes are offered. Most training center teachers work evenings and all day Saturday and Sunday, then have their “weekend” days off during the week.
In addition, some training centers are simply better run than others. When foreign teachers sign up to work at privately owned companies in China, they run the risk of visa issues, and salaries either being much lower than originally offered or simply not getting distributed. I usually recommend that people find work at a Chinese training center through a trusted friend or through a consulting company, like Go Global, that can advocate for and defend you in case there are any problems.
On the flip side, training centers have a lot of advantages. Being privately owned, training centers can offer very competitive salaries. Mornings free leave time for Chinese lessons, sight-seeing, or just sleeping in. You can enjoy the company of your Chinese co-teachers and the other foreigners at your company. You have some flexibility on the ages of your students and the amount of students per class. Plus, for the most part, the classes are supposed to be fun in addition to being educational. I’ve seen cookie-baking classes, Halloween parties, one foreign teacher even did an “English Through Magic” course. The experience varies from city to city and center to center, but the experience is almost unanimously a positive one.
Teacher in Nanjing, China