Are you getting ready for your first-ever ESL (English as a Second Language) interview in China? Whether you’ve never stood in front of a classroom before or have a decade of teaching experience behind you, you’d best get prepared for how interviews work in a Chinese school. While the regular interview phase is usually a mere 10-15 minutes, you can be pretty sure you’ll be asked to do a demo lesson too. Here’s how to make sure it kicks ass.
A demo class is, in its most basic form, a demonstration of how you look and behave in front of a blackboard/whiteboard/smartboard. Not a single Chinese school or training centre will hire you unless you perform at least one demo class, as it’s the most effective and direct way of telling if you’re the type of teacher they’re looking for. Your credentials and educational background mean nothing if you’re not.
A demo class will typically involve staff at the training centre (anything from one to five of them) acting as your learners. They will promptly sit down in a classroom and expect you to conduct a lesson for 15-25 minutes while they pretend to be whatever age group you would potentially be teaching. It will be awkward, and there’s no way around that. But ignore that feeling to the best of your ability and just do your thing.
Be sure to research the school, their preferred teaching style (if they have one) and the age group you would potentially be teaching before designing your demo lesson. Either way, it’s best to choose a simple subject that you know inside-out rather that something that could serve up problems if the “kids” don’t get it straight away.
Think beyond just writing on the blackboard or reading out of a textbook. Look for ways you can incorporate movement, conversation and even games into your lesson. If you’re stuck for ideas, there are countless online resources for ESL teachers looking to spice up their classes.
Finally, practice your demo lesson with some friends, or at least in the mirror. Time yourself and be sure to have an extra 10 minutes or so of material in case it goes quicker than expected or the school asks to see a little more from you.
1. Accept the fact that you will look ridiculous when pretending to teach grown people pretending to be four-year-olds how to pronounce “apple”. Your “students” will feel just as ridiculous.
2. Say what you want about president Trump, but he’s right about high and low energy. You want to keep your energy levels high throughout the entire demo. It doesn’t matter which training centre you’re doing the demo class for, they all expect you to be full of energy and more cheerful than a monkey let loose in a fruit store.
3. Gesticulate like an Italian, and don’t make excuses not to. Cultural stereotypes aside, your body language is immensely important during a demo class. Over-the-top gestures, mimicking and plenty of high-fives are strongly encouraged.
4. Make sure you get the “kids” to talk as much as possible. If you’re unable to make the students talk, you can be certain that you’ll be docked some points. Any negative feedback from your interviewers can result in a slightly lower monthly salary or, worse, the absence of a job offer altogether.
5. Keep it simple. If you know any difficult English words, make sure to forget them prior to starting the demo class. They want your foreign-ness in the classroom, not your master’s degree in political science. Yes, it might feel like you’re throwing your intellectual and academic prowess out of the window and, the truth is, you probably are. But if you’re unable to deal with the fact that after years of studying, the pinnacle of your professional career is singing The Wheels on the Bus, you probably lack the mental fortitude to survive in the ESL business.
6. Do something unexpected. As a personal anecdote, I once brought a LEGO-set with me (set number 75873, if anyone was wondering) and modeled the demo class based on the reactions of the “kids” to it. This ‘outside of the box thinking’ landed me a job at one of the top-five training centres in China.
1) Don’t feel offended that you have to do a demo class at all, even if you have a decade of teaching experience. It’s easy to feel you’re above this kind of thing if you truly are an accomplished teacher, but there’s no way around it really. Being a “real” teacher is not the same as being an ESL teacher in China.
2) Don’t break character. Although this is a minor offense, all things considered, it’s better that you stick to your demo the entire time. Asking real questions will undoubtedly disrupt the flow of the class and force the staff to break their characters as well — unless they’re really good at it, in which case you might just get a cheeky reply like, “Teacher, I don’t know how to turn on the computer, I’m only four.”
3) Don’t forget to sing a song – the “kids” will definitely protest towards the end of the class if you don’t throw in a song or two. Don’t know any good songs? Just search for “nursery rhymes” on the Internet. If you’re not a native English speaker, it might be tempting to just sing the first song you remember in your native language. But even if you really, really like it, singing Gottes Liebe ist so Wunderbar is not recommended.
After you’ve finished the demo class, you can expect to receive feedback immediately from the staff. You should expect it to be quite blunt and harsh, too. This is all completely normal as they want to lower your self-esteem to coerce you into accepting a lower monthly salary, AKA “negging”. Try not to feel offended or become overly defensive. Also, don’t immediately accept whatever the salary they offer you.
Your demo class is actually mainly used to determine if you’re energetic enough for the position as opposed to what salary you should receive. Most training centres have a fixed salary bracket for new teachers, and going above that would require something extraordinary on your part.
In short, don’t stress it, but do give it some time, thought and energy.
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