Australian teacher Scott Mitchell has been teaching English in Sichuan province on and off for six years. I took the opportunity to interview him in his final semester.
Scott, can you tell us about your experience teaching English in Sichuan?
I have taught in Sichuan twice now (2005-2010 and 2016-2017), adding up to just over six years of teaching.
I may be biased, but I think Sichuan is the best place to teach English. My experiences have been amazing as I keep coming back.
There are those days where the students are just not wanting to be taught (mostly in junior middle schools), but those days are few and far between.
I have taught students from age 2 to 70. This have given me a wonderful experience and I’ve gained skills in learning how to teach the various levels.
However, at the end of the day there is not much difference if they are willing to learn.
I have also been involved in teaching the Chinese teachers how to teach and creating an English Department that’s solely an English-only environment. This helped me be awarded Best Foreign Teacher at my school in 2006 and 2007.
I am heading back to my home country, Australia, in January 2018.
How does teaching in Sichuan compare to working back home?
I worked in employment services in Australia for six years.
In that time, I was a consultant, employer liaison, team leader and in my final year a talent developer (facilitator).
I find that I love to help people and that both of my career roles have given me this opportunity.
However, I find that teaching gives me more satisfaction as I can see the growth in the students and the journey they go on. I especially enjoy that moment when everything clicks for them and you see it wash over their faces.
It’s nice to see that they are willing and wanting to grow, whereas in the employment services industry there are many people who are just wanting to sit at home and are comfortable doing that. It is harder to get those people motivated.
Why are you returning to Australia?
China is constantly updating its foreign visa laws and now to legally teach there you need to have a university degree to get the work permit. I am now having to return to Australia and get my degree so I can return and teach again in China.
I have tried other avenues and even though I have over six years of teaching experience in Sichuan, a degree is now mandatory.
What’s your favourite thing about China?
Without a doubt it’s the people and how humble and inquisitive they are. They are wanting to know so many things about the West and wanting to improve.
I do have a soft spot for the rural people and areas as the humility those people have is something we can all learn from. Many have nothing or very little but still walk around with a big smile on their faces.
I am a person that likes the simple things in life and don’t like the big, flashy cities and modern amenities. I like being with the people and not to be with the other expats all the time.
I believe that if you go to another country to live or travel you go to experience it, not to do the things you would do back in your own country. China has many beautiful places and people to immerse yourself in.
And your favourite place in China?
I have travelled to many places in China but my heart always comes back to the Western Sichuan area and the Tibetan people.
It is an area full of snow-covered mountains, crystal-clear lakes and rivers, grasslands, wonderful minority culture, clean air and blue skies. You could travel and not see anyone if you wanted.
I like places off the beaten path and away from the tourists. Here you can find all of that.
What has working and living in Sichuan taught you?
To be humbler, don’t take anything for granted and to enjoy life. Also, that you don’t need worldly things to make your life comfortable.
China, especially Sichuan, will always be my second home no matter where I am.
Do you have any words of wisdom for someone considering teaching in Sichuan?
Go there with an open mind.
Don’t try and compare it with your own country or try and tell the locals how to do things as they have their own culture and ways.
Don’t hang out in the expat areas; instead immerse yourself in the local way of life and get to know the people, make local friends and learn from them. It will make your time there more comfortable.
Have fun in your classes and learn to make fun of yourself. And don’t take yourself too seriously!
Would you like to teach English in Sichuan? Apply for a position with us today.