Owain Lloyd-Williams - “A day in the life of an English teacher in China”

Owain Lloyd-Williams

Owain Lloyd-Williams is doing what many dream of: living a new life in a new continent. Here he talks us through his life teaching English in Beijing.

I’ve been doing this teaching job for a little over three years now, and it’s the type of job that if you want it to be, can be both refreshing and challenging each time you step into the classroom.

I currently work for a private training centre where the bulk of the work is on the weekends, so I work 2 pretty intense days and then have most of the week off, save for a few evening classes scattered around the week. Despite the schedule being quite spread out and at odds with the standard Monday to Friday job, I get a fair amount of free time throughout the week which I spend doing other bits and bobs. On average, I can be expected to teach around 20 hours a week, though this depends on the school’s weekly teaching schedule.

Luckily, the school I work for provides a fixed salary so if I work under hours I’ll get the same pay, and any overtime is paid extra. Obviously the teaching salaries here aren’t quite up to what you’d expect in the West, though seeing as China is pretty cheap, a comfortable living and decent savings can be made. Though not if you’re the type of person who hangs out at cocktail bars every night and drives home in a limo (and there are a fair few of those in Beijing…).

As my teaching schedule has the frequent habit of changing due to class cancellations, sick teachers  and various other reasons, it’s difficult to pin down and describe a typical working week for me, though weekends never fail to be busy. As I’ve chosen to live in what I like to call the “trendy” part of the city, I pay the price with the long commute which means I have to get up at 6.30 on the weekends and embrace the Beijing transport system in all its wonder. Not fun, though I only have to do this twice a week usually. After a quick coffee, I hop on a typically packed Chinese bus which even at 7am on Sunday morning is packed full of people all off to somewhere or other, though I’m pretty sure it isn’t church. After getting off I then squeeze on the Beijing subway, where I strategically try and figure who might get off where so I can grab a seat. Once I arrive at school I’m met by colleagues as we wake ourselves up via McDonald’s breakfast and more coffee and start to gather our things to get ready for class.

Everything kicks off at 8.30 as the students start to arrive and on a normal full day we’d teach from then until 12.30, with 10 minute breaks after each hour. Although most of the classes are quite long at 2 hours, time does fly when you’re teaching and lunch comes around pretty fast, where we’re given a chance to take a breather and gather ourselves for the second part of the day. The day comes to an end at 6pm, and once the mess of flashcards, pens, folders and lesson plans thrown over the office table throughout the day is cleared up, we head down to the bar for a well deserved beer, which in the current Beijing heat couldn’t be more needed!