An Interview with Edward TW Pay

Ed TW Pay teaches at the Aidi International High School in Beijing, China. He is a 2015 graduate of Southern Oregon University.

Ed Battistella: Tell us about the program you teach in? How did you find it? What was the application and training process like?

Ed Pay: I teach year 7 and year 8 ESL-F for a large international school. The application process was very straightforward. I had two interviews, and needed to bring reference letters from my previous school.

EB: How did you get interested in teaching abroad?

EP: I had been working as a bartender, which was interesting but unfulfilling. I missed academic life, and I had taught karate for years. I wanted to teach in some way again. I saw an ad for EF (Education First). They run training schools across the world and they fly in foreigners to teach for years.

EB: Did you experience any sort of culture shock?

EP: I did. It was an enormous shift, from the size of the city, social norms, hygiene, pollution. Everything was jarring.

EB: Did you have much experience communicating with English language learners prior to going abroad?

EP: Next to none.

EB: Is there anything you wish you had known or known more about before you started?

EP: Bring more western cold medicine and money!

EB: How has the experience of teaching abroad influenced your career plans?

EP: I plan on doing this for life now. I’ve applied to some masters programs to get a 2 year degree in TEFL and I’m looking at starting my Delta as well. It’s a great life.

EB: What are your students like?

EP: My students are all from low English proficiency educational backgrounds. Our middle school (part of the pre k-12 school) is streamed into high vs low levels. I teach the low level. Their ages range for year 7 from 11-14, and my student base universally comes from incredibly privileged backgrounds. The school charges tens of thousands of US dollars each school year, so the behavioral, educational, interpersonal skills the students can have are often rooted in this “golden child” mind set. About 70% of our student base are boarding students from other provinces. They can struggle immensely with the pressures to conform and being away from their families, especially if they were sent away for seemingly abhorrent behavior (fears of sexuality were prevalent among parents last year though that seems to be changing now).

EB: Have you been able to learn much Chinese? Had you studied Chinese before?

EP: I have learned some Chinese. I am unfortunately, a bad foreigner who primarily associates with foreigners or Chinese people with strong English levels. My Chinese is best described as “survival level.” I had not studied any Chinese before coming.

EB: Any suggestions for others considering teaching abroad?

EP: Do your research. Find out as much as you can about the companies, and see what people say, or aren’t saying. I was forced to sign at my last job a non-defamation disclaimer, meaning I can’t comment on the more negative parts of that training center.

New arrivals should always bring more cash than they need, and they should think critically about how tight visa regulations can be, and the penalties of switching to a new job.

Above all, practice cultural tolerance and relativism. Be gracious and flexible and remain both upbeat and adaptable.

EB: Thanks for talking with us.

EP: Take care professor.

About Ed Battistella

Edwin Battistella’s latest book Sorry About That: The Language of Public Apology was released by Oxford University Press in June of 2014.
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