Ask a room full of expats in Beijing who among them is a teacher and a good 90% of the room will raise their hands. Whether it is in an international school, Chinese school, training centre, or other, teaching is a very popular choice for those who want to try living abroad. However, the experiences vary based on what kind of school they are employed at. Today we are going to hear from Shannon, on what it is like working at a training centre.

So Shannon, how long have you been in Beijing? And what company do you work for?

I have been in Beijing for just over seven months and I have worked for Disney English the entire time I have been here. I chose DE because I’d heard good things about it, I love Disney, and it afforded me the opportunity to live on the other side of the world.

And of all the countries to choose from, what made you choose China?

I was just looking for a change. I felt very frustrated and stagnant at home for several reasons. I also felt constantly reminded that I wasn’t doing what I’d been created to do which was teaching. I could have worked at a school at home, but it didn’t feel quite right. I have a traveling and wandering spirit and the chance to go to another country was appealing.

I think we all sometimes feel unsure of the decisions we make – is it God? Is it us? He opened the door for me to gather all the documents I needed to travel. Through Him, I was granted grace by the people I needed to engage with to get things done. When I got here and began to work, I saw how His hand was in everything. I have no doubt that He was intentional about my coming here.

Amen! Tell us about Disney English! Is working for Disney as amazing as we might think?

Disney English services children from ages 2-12. Our purpose is to teach them English in a conversational style that will help them to navigate English speaking countries as they grow older. We’re very learner-centered and we work to help them confidently produce the English language with us, each other, their family members, and others that they meet.

If you expect that working for Disney means that you sing and dance, you are absolutely correct! Haha! It’s one of my favorite parts of the job. I get to be super silly with my kids and they love it. It’s great watching their personalities shine as they gain a greater command of English.

That sounds so fun! What other kinds of jobs have you had?

I’ve always wanted to be a teacher and for the most part, that’s what I’ve always been. I’m both a trained teacher and trained counselor. I have always wanted to work in a different country as well. One of my dreams would be to “country-hop” and experience different cultures. I’ve taught at home in The Bahamas, and I’ve been a counselor in Virginia, USA.

Sounds like you have quite the range of experience. How does a training centre compare? What do you like and dislike?

I like that we’re not confined to school hours because I’m not a morning person at all. Since I don’t have to go to work until the afternoon, I’m free to lay in bed or run errands in the late mornings. On the other hand, Saturday and Sunday are my earliest and longest days and I have to pretend to be a morning person for my kids because they aren’t morning people either, haha! The weekends do come and go fairly quickly though.

That is very different from teaching in a traditional school. What does a typical workday look like?

On the weekdays, we have a few hours to prepare lessons and materials and have meetings that need to be had before our learners come. They see us in the evenings and on the weekends. Currently I have seven classes which isn’t a full schedule, but it’s getting close. I’ve always disliked lesson planning BUT I love putting materials together for a lesson and I suppose the two actions go together. Additionally, because I get out pretty late just about everyday, I am really tired most days and only want to go to bed as soon as I get home. I usually can’t though, because I still have to eat and prepare for the next day.

I’m sure it’s hard to find a church service that your schedule accommodates, and that fellowship is therefore a difficult thing to come by. Has this been the case for you?

It was a bit difficult when I first arrived in China. I’d been set on finding a church, but once I started working, it took a while for me to figure out my balance. I was exhausted allllll of the time in the first few weeks. My mother asked me just about every week if I had found a church and I felt bad for telling her “no” each time. What’s worse is the fact that I work an 11-hour shift on Sundays which makes it impossible (in my mind) to get to a service.

I had heard of BICF through a friend who invited me to make it out on Thursdays for The Embassy. I have yet to make it BUT I followed them on WeChat and when The Embassy Daytime began, I was there! It was a blessing (and still is) and it’s something I look forward to every Tuesday morning. There are other members who have the same kind of schedule I do because they do the same kind of work. It’s become sort of a support system for me.

That’s exactly what the church should be! I would also assume it’s difficult to have a social life with this schedule. How do you schedule social time around your work schedule?

Honestly, my social life consists of my work friends and very little else. I have two roommates and they both work for DE. One of them works at the same centre that I do. I have connected with other Bahamians here as well. I’ve made a few friends (and I use this term loosely) here and there as I’ve gone out to different gatherings, but I tend to spend my weekends (Wednesdays and Thursdays) alone unless our centre has a group activity, or my coworkers want to do some exploring.

I’m okay with that though. I’m an introvert and a homebody. I am always happy to just be alone in my room watching a movie or reading a book. If I do go out, though, I love to eat, go to the movies, go bowling, and explore the touristy sights of Beijing.

We are called to be light of the world wherever we go—and that includes at our workplaces. How can teachers working for a secular company or school be a light while at work?

I think my attitude is definitely one of the ways that I can share God’s love. I’m a very sarcastic person and a lot of times I can also be passive-aggressive. I know that I can come across as rude or mean sometimes. If I make the conscious effort to have a positive attitude and speak from a place of love and compassion (especially towards my learners), that’s a way for others to feel the love of God through me. I’m a work in progress .

Absolutely! A heart check is a great start to being a light at work. As we adjust to a new country and its culture, we go through something called culture shock and often we experience this in the workplace. Would you say that you have encountered culture shock at work?

I don’t know that I’ve undergone complete culture shock in my transition here. Having previously worked with children and interacted with parents, I have seen similarities between those interactions and the ones that I have now. I think that parents worldwide want their children to succeed and they’re just trying to figure out what their role is in that preparation for success.

Well said! I’ll admit I’m pretty quick to look for cultural differences when instead I should just appreciate the good intentions that we all have. So what is next for you? Where do you imagine God will take you next in life?

I have no idea what’s next for me or how long I’ll be here. I do want to teach at the University level at some point in my life. I’m studying to receive my PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision and I’d love to make use of the degree whether here in China or elsewhere. Beyond that, I don’t know. I’m still fairly free-spirited. I love the idea (and am also terrified by it) of not knowing exactly what will come next.

I think that’s the best approach to take though—excited and open for change! Well Shannon, I learned a lot about the life of a Beijing training centre teacher and I’m sure our readers did too.

If you share a schedule like Shannon’s where it is difficult to make it to a church service, there are small groups that meet throughout the week at various times. To get involved click here.

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