Imagine teaching English in Asia for 15 years.
Well, that’s exactly what Canadian Ken Mossman did.
He taught in the Philippines, Korea as well as China where he spent eight of these years.
Armed with loads of knowledge and experience, Ken decided to write a comprehensive book about his time teaching in China.
The book is a no-holds-barred look at what China is really like, what you can expect, how to find work and what it’s like living there. It also offers loads of tips for would-be teachers.
I recently interviewed Ken to find out a bit more about his incredible journey teaching English in Asia.
Ken, why did you decide on teaching in Asia? And why China?
I wanted a different lifestyle.
After the collapse of the IT industry, about 2000-2001, I discovered teaching jobs in Korea.
Korea was never on the radar of any of the Asian focused multi-national companies I had worked for, so I decided to see what was there.
But five years in, Korea drove me to near insanity!
China was offering an exciting economic revolution and good pay, so I went.
How did teaching in Korea compare with teaching in China?
Korean bosses usually treat foreign teachers like something you stepped on in a dark, dingy alley.
On the other hand, Chinese bosses will usually listen – probably not take heed but they do listen.
Students are much the same but Chinese students are often slower to learn and adapt to Western teaching.
What Chinese cities did you teach in, and which was your favorite?
I taught English in Shanghai, Suzhou, Shenzhen and Nanjing.
Shenzhen is the best – no question. It’s fresh, vibrant, close to Hong Kong, open, high-tech and not too big.
People playing chess in Shenzhen, China.
What aspect of living and teaching in China did you enjoy the most?
For living it would be the freedom, the shopping and the women.
I fell in love with a Keira Knightley lookalike – a Chinese professor in Nanjing. But that is another story!
For teaching, it can be immensely rewarding to break the shackles of the Chinese education system and see a student turn into a rational, analytical being.
And the least?
I never got used to some of the behaviors of the Chinese like the spitting, pissing, shouting and queue-jumping.
Can you share a funny story about your time in China?
There are many.
Recently, a Chinese teacher came to the teachers’ room with her teenage daughter. The daughter was wearing a coat which had ‘Teenage C**t’ blazed across the back.
It was an extreme case of Chinglish gone wrong!
How has China changed you?
I probably changed in Korea.
By the time I arrived in China I was already more open-minded and willing to try new things and experience a new culture.
Teaching in Asia made Canadian teacher Ken Mossman more open-minded.
Your book is full of great tips. What would be your most valuable tip?
Keep your eyes, ears, and mind open but your mouth shut (save the negatives for fellow whiners).
What advice do you have for Canadians thinking about teaching in Asia and China?
If you are a bigot then stay home and watch the Fox channel.
However, if you want to experience Asia then get off your butt and get going!
It isn’t hard and there is absolutely nothing to worry about.
Yes, you might be homesick for a little while but that is part of learning and life. So why are you still reading this? Go!
And read my e-book on the flight.