With a Backpack

Teacher interviews / Teaching

Teaching Abroad Interview with Fernando – Teaching in China for 17 years!

Transcript below

Hi, hello and welcome to another edition of China teacher where I share with you what it is like to be an English teacher in China today I’m going to be answering some questions sent to me by a website called www.withabackpack.com where teachers shared their experiences teaching abroad so if you want to see the answers to their questions don’t go anywhere…
…and roll that intro

So, quick information about how I got contacted by www.withabackpack.com. They saw one of my videos that I posted on a Facebook group and they hit me with a message asking me if I was willing to contribute to the website. So this is some sort of cooperation collaboration that we’ll be doing, it will be posted on my channel and it will also be posted over there so if you want to support www.withabackpack.com just click on the link down below and you can go check them out.

Alright so without further ado let’s start with the questions!

Describe yourself in a few lines

All right, so my name is Fernando, I am 44 years old for a few more days I’m really from Colombia and I like adrenaline sports, extreme sports, skydiving, scuba diving, downhill skating things like that now that I do much of that anymore but I’ve always been into that. As a good Colombian, I love coffee and one of my other weaknesses is ice cream and chocolate as you can see. I had to give it up for a few years while I
was training for running ironmans but now that I stopped training for that and going back to the daily routine.

Which country do you teach and what age group do you teach?

I have been in China for the last 17 years and in that time I’ve done a lot of teaching a lot of types of teaching I taught universities at corporate I taught adult business, children, middle school, high school, kindergartens, all kinds of teaching but right now and my company Easy Kids I focus mostly on kids of course but I still do some work for some international departments in certain schools and I do a few corporate lessons as well. I dedicate a lot of my time to actually train the teachers that work for me that’s a very important part of my week.

What made you get into teaching?

Well in my country we have an option. When you’re about to graduate from high school you can do what is called the military service which is
mandatory or if you don’t want to do that then you can choose other options like social help and social volunteering.  I chose a program
designed to combat illiteracy in the country so young teenagers that are about to go out and graduate and go to poor schools in poor neighborhoods  and we teach them different subjects so that was my first experience in teaching I was about 15 years old and I liked the attention I liked the fact that the kids were so eager to learn and that they were just really listening and really willing to pay attention to what I was saying. It made me feel important and that’s basically what got me hooked on it.

How did you find your first job?

Well, my first job upon finishing my studies was working for Berlitz back in my home country. I worked for Berlitz for about a year or something like that.

The first international position I worked was in San Diego and San Rafael primary school in Oceanside with Mexican kids that needed to learn English so that was my first international position as a Colombian right and my other international position out of the US and out of Colombia was China.

I found it through the people from Cambridge University who had listings on different jobs and unfortunately that led me to an agent who basically convinced me to come to China right away. As soon as I landed in Shanghai I realized that I wasn’t going to be working at a university for the next two or three months and that I was going to be teaching kindergarten and that was not the deal. I was already here so there wasn’t as much to do about and I had to roll with the punches.
 I have to say this is not the problem from the people who suggested this particular contact it’s just that that’s the way things are here. You could be a hundred percent legit but people will still try to cheat you and well abuse the fact that you’ve come so far and you don’t want to go back empty-handed.

 What do you like most about Teaching?

I guess what I like most about teaching is that, because I’ve been in the country for so long, I’ve been able to actually see kids become bilingual and that is extremely rewarding it’s there’s there’s a very deep sense of satisfaction when I see kids that started learning with me when they were five six and seven years old going up to University in America or going off to university in Australia I feel part of their achievements I feel like I am part of that their success in life is also a little bit of my effort so that’s extremely rewarding.
In fact, my motto in teaching is that when you’re teaching you’re actually touching a life forever you’re changing a life forever that’s that’s what I enjoy the most about teaching it’s it’s knowing that you can change people’s lives that you are changing people’s lives opening opportunities and horizons that otherwise would not exist.

Tell us about your best teaching experience

Well my best teaching experience it’s interesting because I think from the bottom of my heart that if you love teaching every day it’s it’s part of that best experience you work on your craft day in and day out and only when you look back you see what you have accomplished what you’ve been able to achieve with your kids and with the people that you’re teaching so that’s the best feeling about teaching there’s not an experience as such but it’s a way of living and that’s what I enjoy the most. The fact that I can’t think of one best experience but if you ask me about one of my worst experiences I could tell you two or three but I can’t really pinpoint one that would be my best experience and it’s a telltale of the fact that this is a day-to-day thing for me it’s it’s a life choice that I’ve made of being a teacher and everything is part of the great experience of teaching in China. All of it.

 What do you like most about the country you are living in?

Well, I’ll have to say the opportunities.  The opportunities here in China were great, are still great, and will continue to be great given the fact that for me a teacher who teaches children this change of policy in the family planning is just great news there’s gonna be more children in the country that will need English so this is very very good news for the future of an English training center for kids.
If I were to talk about like all the things that I really appreciate in comparison to other places that I’ve lived in, on top of the list would have to be safety I feel very safe in China. Not that I do it anymore but when I first came here you would stumble out of a play that two o’clock in the morning and walk the streets and not have to worry about anything really nothing in my 17 years here. All that’s happened to me is somebody took a bicycle that I had on the rack of my car that I forgot to look that’s the extent of it so but I would have to say also well the different cities have different situations where I live is very very safe for me at least I haven’t had any incidents here so so when you compare that to my home country that is one of the biggest differences and that’s one of the things that I appreciate the most about living here in China.

What was the biggest shock in moving abroad?

I think some other people have said this before in these kinds of interviews but the language is the biggest thing that I can give you funny examples and funny stories like the first days that I was here I I wanted to make instant coffee so I wanted to buy milk and I didn’t know that I bought the wrong thing several times I bought like yogurt and then chocolate yogurt and then some Greek thing is like a soy milk just to make coffee so I ruined a few cups of coffee in my first days because I couldn’t read I couldn’t see what I didn’t know what milk looked like in the supermarket and I didn’t speak any Chinese at all so yeah that was that was funny thing.
Language is the biggest thing but I think that along the lines of not being able to communicate is how little creativity Chinese people
have in terms of trying to understand what you’re trying to say you know like I remember in those days I needed to buy toothpaste and I walked up to I woke up to a lady that was working late and say hi and Ni Hao and you’re like (noise of brushing teeth) this is what I want right not a clue she couldn’t understand what I was looking for she couldn’t even lead me to the toothbrushes when the toothpaste would

be next to it right but no just you have to draw things so you have to try at least say in Chinese or something that’s that’s the biggest hurdle and it was a big shock that people would not be able to understand what I say or what I what I what I’m trying to show what I’m trying to say which worked very well in any other country that I lived before even though I was teaching people who spoke Spanish and I speak Spanish but when you’re teaching and you’re not using the native language yeah then you act a lot of things and people will get it not here in China that was that was weird.

Do you have any extra private work? How did you find out about it?

well this question doesn’t really apply to me I have my own training center, but I could mention when I used to work for somebody else which is the first five years of my time here they basically gave me as much work as I wanted I was paid extra for that so I didn’t really need to to find work anywhere else. At that time I was working about 60 hours a week – for example a full day would be okay I would do three hours of kindergarten in the morning then three hours or two and a half hours of middle school in the afternoon and then I would do three hours of adult in the evening and that would be Monday to Sunday I wouldn’t take a day off so it was it was hard work but yeah that was it. I didn’t really need or have the time to work anywhere else and I was making pretty good money so I didn’t have the need and well now that I work for myself I decide how much I want to work  based on needs or desires that I have for example as I mentioned I was training for triathlons and Ironman races, that takes a lot of time I would train between 3 and 5 hours a day so that’s a lot of time so I was working a little bit less and plus you’re tired physically tired so I was working a lot less but now that I stopped training and going back to my crazy crazy weeks of you know 60 hours a week 70 hours a week.

How much money do you save per month?

Well um how much money do I save is not realistic for me, because I’m an owner so of course I bring in more money than if I were just a teacher but let me give you an example: t take one of my teachers I’m gonna show here picture, for example, a payment slip I’ve obviously edited her name but that’s for two-week period right so she’s earning about twenty-five thousand, remember a month that’s roughly $4,000 a month and well her expenses are really low so she could easily, easily save $3,000 a month. eating out. Her apartment costs about two

thousand remember a month her transportation another thousand a month, food and entertainment let’s say four thousand a month so if she spends let’s say she spends six thousand or eight thousand, yeah living here in China. Out of twenty-five thousand then you could save seventeen eighteen (thousand RMB).

In fact, she just recently joined a center so this is the first time she’s gonna go through Chinese New Year hiatus in which we stopped working for one month because our contracts are hourly you can see here and is on this conversation that I’m letting her know, hey look just be financially savvy. Look after your money don’t spend it all on the holidays because we’re gonna come back in March and we only get paid on the fifteenth I mean that’s when you will get paid so some managing money carefully it’s another sign of how I treat my teachers I meanI want them to have a good experience here in China so working for me somebody could save and I know let’s say a low figure of twelve thousand RMB which is about two thousand dollars a month the issue with working with me is that you need to prove your worth basicallyyou come work for me with a minimum salary and I start selling your time and depending on your performance it will be easier or harder to sell more hours so once you reach a certain number of hours the income becomes really really good and it’s stable income so it’s recurrentlike term after term you always have the same groups unless you mess up and and and you lose some of your groups but nobody is going out there to take your groups they are yours and you keep them for as long as they stay with the center. as long as you keep them satisfied or as long as you as you want to be with the center so yeah it’s pretty good to work for us you can get to save a lot of money.


Do you have any regrets about moving abroad and starting a new career as a teacher?

No regrets whatsoever. No regrets. I mean I’ve had ups and downs but it’s a very welcoming country there are many opportunities here  there are many chances to to do many things as you’ve probably seen on other videos in my mind in my channel I’ve don’t work as consultant I’ve done voiceover work I’vedone TV appearances of them movie appearances all kinds of things so it’s not exactly related everything to teaching but to language so yeah it’s been very very a variety of projects and things that I’d done because I moved to China to teach so no no regrets.

What is dating like in your new country?

Well I’ve been out of the dating scene for quite some time now I I’m married in 2006 I got separated in 2007 I’m finally divorced in 2009 so that was that was not a good time for me to be dating I wasn’t really dating anybody during that time because it was not working out for me and I had a lot of financial entanglements so I didn’t want to that was not in my mind and then I met my wife in 2010. We went out for a little bit and then we broke up and we got back together again in 2013 and we married in 2015 so dating in the country what I have to say is
that it is easy. You just need to know where people hang out you know what I mean. For example, people or girls who are attracted to foreigners who don’t mind having a relationship with foreigners would probably visit bars and pubs and places where foreigners hang
out if they’re not comfortable in that scenario they’ll probably just go to Chinese bars and this kind of thing so that’s that’s the way
to do it you go there and you meet people and you talk you go out it’s famous anywhere else.
The only difficulty as I mentioned in one of my videos is the language barrier and if you want to get serious well there’s just a lot of cultural issues like a lot of families have a certain resistance to their girls marrying a foreigner. They have a feeling that she’s gonna take he’s gonna take the girl away or something like that so just dating for having fun is not difficult at all but if you want something meaningful, something deep it’s a little bit harder you need to look a little bit more thoroughly and well yeah you have to meet people but in that part is not difficult but then you gotta have your own process to filter who you really want to spend the rest of your life with right.
I personally I am kinda like a shy person I have a lot of trouble talking to girls if I go to a bar I’m the guy standing on the corner just having a beer just watching I do people watching so for me online dating apps work really well because I was able to establish some communication and create some rapport online we have the physical contact first we have a physical interaction first and once you are comfortable and
then you agreed to me then you have something in common you have something  to go on so yeah, when I was dating I was using dating appsinterestingly enough that’s how I met my first wife but that’s not how I met my wife now. She was actually one of my students and she was working at a company and what the contract ended then we decided to start going out that’s that’s how I made my wife.

What are you planning to do after teaching?

Well, teaching is my life.  Teaching is what I do, this is what I studied for and my whole career has been about teaching so I don’t I don’t see myself doing anything else there’ll be retirement I guess 65 of all the retirement in China theoretically around sixty / sixty-five you start

having trouble getting jobs but since my own training center perhaps my status will change in terms of visas or whatnot but I don’t think I’ll be will be not teaching even after sixty-five because I enjoy doing it if I were to if things were to go south I would probably go back to the diving industry and reignite my diving career you know taking it easy a few students here and their classroom activities swimming pool activity those kinds of things in the diving industry that could be an exit plan.

Is there anything else you think people should know about teaching?

I believe that there are two kinds of people in life people who are givers and people who are takers we’re all a mix of both in certain degrees we take a certain amount and we give a certain amount if you want to be a teacher you should be more of a giver than a taker you should be not counting pennies you should be ready  to contribute a little bit more to make to go that extra mile to help your students to
get them where they want to be to get them where they should be to get them where you know they can be even if they don’t know themselves
so yeah find out whether you are a person who likes to give their time give their knowledge give a part of yourself and pass it on to
somebody else that’s the most important thing about teaching it’s it’s it’s passion for teaching it’s it’s filling it in in yourself that that’s what you like to do that that’s how you change the future that’s how you shape generations that’s how you shape the future because you are that’s what you are doing so you understand your role you do a much better job.

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