Black in Asia

Black in China Part 3…Mr. Cooper edition

Black in China Part 3

The English Teacher Edition


Chinese people in China have a knack for thinking every foreigner they meet is an English teacher. In fact, English teaching is the most common easy to come by job for any English speaker to find in China. The pay isn’t bad for the cost of living as well. Not a bad deal overall, and that is if you have no qualifications.

But for me, I absolutely refuse to teach English, ever again. I taught English, only once in my life, one lesson and I learned that, I’m not English teacher material.


So I decided to scrap that and make my own path.

The story for how I started getting into English teaching was simple, it pays well, maybe 7,000-12,000 RMB a month and the main requirement is that you come from an English speaking country.


So I took it on, I figured I can use some of that 7,000 RMB.


One day I met a lady on the train, who was a recruiter for an English company, and she said if I could speak Chinese at my level, I would make a good teacher. So I took her offer, and decided to go for the interview.

The Interview

On the spot, I was told, I would be giving a trial “Engrish” lesson class to 6 of their Chinese-English teachers, including the director of the department.

“Um, what?…”

“I’m not a teacher, I never taught, I have no lesson plans, and no data for my phone to rip one off of Google-Hong Kong. I told you this on the train..”

And her reply?

“Don’t worry, you’ll do fine. You’re American, here is a lesson book. You have 5 minutes to prepare..”


5 minutes later, they assemble, I then proceed to pass out some materials, and the whole time, I was thinking back to my kindergarten days when the teacher would give a piece of paper, and a crayon.

I really don’t know why my brain re-routed to my kindergarten days, but the whole interview was just messed up.

I pulled out the chalkboard, picked up my blue chalk (first time ever even picking up chalk in this situation) and began “winging it”



I got the job (really?)

And my first client, who agreed to pay me per lesson, was a mom and pop noodle shop owner. “Okay, when do I go?” Which was my obvious question, and the response?


They laughed.

“Why was that funny?”

Because her shop, is in Zhabei district, the other side of the city.. and I have to get there within 3 hours.

Arrival and torture

Once I arrived, I had to wait for the owner and kids in the scorching heat. In my country, when we go on interviews, we wear a full blown suit; at least I do, because finding a job is hard back home, you need to leave a good impression. But it gets hot in that suit.  (Not everyone is a director who can wear a t-shirt and shorts to an office building.)


Maybe 20 minutes before the owner and kids arrived, the supervisor of the English Department sent me a message saying good luck and sent maybe 4 smiley faces.

 (Why do I think about corporate America when I’m in China?)

 I took the smiley faces with caution and even sent one back. (I can’t believe I can send my bosses smiley faces on Wechat and still be hired)

Once the owner arrived, I see one kid, who kind of looks like a know-it-all 10 year old,


and a 6 year old, trouble maker who the owner is pulling by the collar.


Once we get seated, the owner thanks me for coming on short notice, how grateful they are, and how she hopes I can teach her boys well.

“Boys? Both of they are yours? I wasn’t told about 2 kids. (I should have my fee doubled then).

Well, that means you got money, because in China, if you have more than one kid, you pay a big fine. (I wonder what the price of a kid is these days)

The know-it-all 10 year old, pulls out 3 or 4 English text books! And says my homework is in these two, the lesson is in the other two! O_o!

The books looked like law books!


And the other kid, really just made my day hard (who told you to touch and drop my iPad? Brat) (Almost lost my composure in front of a new client)

Long Night and Lesson learned

My boss said that each lesson was 90 minutes, and I get 250 RMB per lesson. Not bad, that is about a few days’ worth of food. (Money always turns into food)


But not my lesson, my lesson turned into 3 and ½ hours. The owner told me to stay for dinner. Which was nothing more than codename “Stay here and teach my kids more English for 2 hours, while I prepare 2 plates of vegetables.”

The worst part of the night wasn’t the know-it-all, he was smart, and well behaved, I like that kind of student, but the younger one, what a terror. He would throw his books around the shop because he couldn’t understand a sentence.

Poor book.


He even went so far as to throw temper tantrums because I wasn’t giving him enough attention. When I was bad, my mom, told my teachers to beat me. Or she would beat me, and forget it if she needed to come to school to beat me. But this rebellious kid? Kept messing with me all night, it left ridiculous and just became hilarious, I couldn’t tell him anything, and the shop owner was concerned with dinner, and disappeared. Plus, I wanted my money, so I couldn’t just leave.

Oh, let’s not forget, Zhabei district has so few expats, that, there was a mini crowd near the door just watching my lesson. And the other cook (dad) was making business from people who came inside to eat 3 RMB rice and watch me. (And let his kid go on a rampage).

The crowd was always watching each time the little demon threw a tantrum and threw something, waiting for my response. But, of course I can only ignore, If I attempted to discipline one of their own, I risk getting beat by the crowd (unlikely but likely). The only normal person in the circus was the know-it-all, he knew, how to behave. When I have my own business, I would so employ him.


Lesson learned, I’m not an English teacher, nor should I have been teaching in the first place. I not only didn’t get my money, but my 2 dish meal was the 250 payment. And my bosses answer was, everything is handled by the client. If the client refuses to pay cash, what can they do?

Plus there was no contract…I could have gotten arrested too!

So yeah, I got scammed that night, what I thought was a waste of 70 RMB in food, and travel, ended up teaching me some life-valuable lessons.


Contracts are your friends!


Chinese people are the best hustlers in the world, you could learn much after getting ripped off!

**I thought I was a China veteran, since this event was my 2nd time in China, but what I realized is you can’t avoid getting ripped off, you can merely lessen how often you get ripped off.**


Final lesson, don’t be a sucker for that money!


Thanks for reading, Black in China Part 4, The Internship


coming soon.


3 replies »

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