Canadian Dan Meikle has been teaching English in China for the past three years. He’s currently teaching English in Jining, Shandong province.
I interviewed him to find out about his experience teaching in this relatively small city in eastern China.
What is it like teaching English in Jining, Shandong province?
Jining is perfect for me. It’s big enough to have a few Western restaurants and other things but it is very relaxed and fairly quiet.
I really enjoy the fact that the city is very clean.
Jining is located in Shandong province, east China.
Why did you decide to teach English in China?
A former staff member of mine was a Chinese national and when I decided to leave my position in Canada she said I should just go on a holiday.
I looked into China and one thing led to another, and now here I am.
English teacher Dan Meikle in China.
What is the best thing about being a foreign teacher in China?
To me the best thing about teaching in China is the opportunity to travel.
I get on the high-speed train on Friday night and visit a different city a few times a month.
What is your accommodation like in Jining?
I have a nice three-bedroom apartment in a community across from my school, Jining Confucius International School.
What does a typical ‘day in the life’ of Teacher Dan look like?
I’m up at 5:30 am and get out for a walk or some light exercise before arriving at school by 7:00 am for breakfast.
I have 3-5 classes a day. I’m home by 4:30 pm, usually followed by a bike ride and then dinner.
What do you get up to on a typical weekend in Jining?
Generally, if I stay in Jining, it’s Starbucks for a coffee on Saturday morning and I read online.
Then I go shopping for sundries and food, followed by cooking and cleaning.
A stream in Jining, Shandong.
Are there any challenges you face in China, and if so how do you deal with them?
The only real challenge is language.
I have traveled extensively and have never faced such a language barrier. But you just have to keep trying and things always work out!
Where do you source your lesson plans from?
I am free to use whatever resources I want to in Jining. I use everything from Google to ICGSE text books.
I review the subject matter and write a lesson plan from that. I start with vocabulary as a foundation and work from there.
As far as literature classes go, I use short stories. They are simple and easy to keep students’ attention.
Teacher Dan in front of 200 students and parents for a marketing class.
Do you enjoy the Shandong cuisine?
It’s not particularly different from elsewhere, maybe a little less spicy. It’s quite okay actually.
Have you had any crazy experiences in China?
Oh, too many! Everything from drunk taxi drivers to people tasting my food to see if I eat spicy or non-spicy.
I’ve also had my picture taken while in the lavatory, or anywhere for that matter!
I would say that I have had the full spectrum of crazy experiences.
Tell me about some of the cool places you have visited in China, or abroad, between semesters.
I have been to Zhangjiajie, Xi’an, Chengdu, and about 20 other cities in China. I was just in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia last weekend.
I've visited the Great Wall of China, the bell tower in Xi'an, and many other historic sites.
Teacher Dan (middle back) on the Great Wall of China.
I have traveled to every south-east Asian country with the exception of Myanmar (Burma). That is on my bucket list!
If there is one thing you could change about China, what would it be?
This is a great question. The one thing I would change is the way that communication works in China.
Last-minute scheduling seems to be the norm, and that really drives me crazy.
What advice do you have for someone thinking about teaching in China?
Be careful, be cautious and don’t be in a rush. Choose what fits your lifestyle and not always about the money.
Be calm and remember that there are so many things to do, things that will help you forget all your troubles.
Public park in Jining, Shandong.
China is just like everywhere else, a little different from the last place and a little different from the next place. Take it for what it is, not for what you want it to be.
What are your plans for the future, both personally and professionally?
I will work here for a few more years and then, who knows.
I might open a language school or retire with a coffee shop in Thailand. I am just enjoying today.