New Teacher Tales – Rheanne
In our New Teacher Tales series, we interview people teaching English abroad, about how, why and where they started out, about their experiences teaching abroad, and what advice they have for new teachers.
In this blog, Canadian Rheanne talks us through her extensive English teaching career, including jobs in Japan, Vietnam, UAE and Kazakhstan, and teaching English to fetuses (yes, you read that right).
Where do you work now?
Nazarbayev University, Astana, Kazakhstan. I’m an English Teaching Fellow.
What’s the best thing about living in Kazakhstan?
The sense of hope for the future
How did you become an English teacher?
I had just finished my BA in Psychology. I started teaching English with the GEOS corporation in Toyota, Aichi prefecture, Japan and their in-house 1 week training course. (GEOS was a huge English conversation chain of schools which went bankrupt in 2009, but has since started teaching again on a smaller scale)
No course, no official training.
The heavily scripted, structured nature of the workplace meant that I learned a great deal through trial & error. It was tough but the best way to do that job at that workplace.
The job was stressful, with long hours, and a huge culture change, but it’s where I fell in love with teaching.
To get more knowledge and skills before starting teaching, we’d recommend taking a TEFL course. Read more about courses that we recommend.
Where have you taught?
GEOS, Toyota, Japan
Kids Herald School, Bucheon, S Korea
International House, Koszalin, Poland
Xi’an Suyian University, Xi’an, China
Montessori International School, Yokkaichi, Japan
Madaras Al Ghad (Schools of the Future) programme, Ras Al Khaimah, UAE
RMIT University, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Akatsuki Elementary School, Yokkaichi, Japan
Soka University Jaoan, Hachioji, Japan
Nazarbayev University, Astana, Kazakhstan
What was your favourite place to work? Why?
In terms of work only (the teaching), it was RMIT. I found the programme to be the most rigourous of all my jobs, and although it had frustrations, the western style management was the easiest for me to understand. It was also the most supportive of research and the best funding package.
Find out more about teaching English in Vietnam in our bumper guide.
In terms of lifestyle, I would have to say it was a tie between S Korea and the UAE. In S Korea, the low cost of living allowed a great lifestyle even on a low salary. It’s a party. I was paid a huge salary in the UAE and also had scads of vacation. That made for a great situation.
What is the best thing that has happened to you since you became an English teacher?
The opportunity to learn. Learn about different cultures, learn from the new people I have met, learn about me and my beliefs, learn to have confidence I what I do and who I am, learn more about my profession.
What is the worst thing that has happened to you since you became an English teacher?
The frustrations of outdated systems, of individual egos that stop progress, and coming up against racism and misogyny at a level I had not experienced in Canada
Tell us a bizarre story about something that has happened to you since you became a teacher?
I once had to teach a ‘Fetus’ class, where pregnant women would sit on chairs in a circle and I would sit in the middle on the ground and read fairy tales in English while they chatted and played on their phones.
Is there anything you would change about your time as an English teacher?
I had made many mistakes, displayed a lack of cultural sensitivity at times and not looked after my own interests in contracts. But I never would have learned to be better if I hadn’t made those mistakes.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to become an English teacher?
Be open to the experience. Be confident, but not arrogant. Learn from your colleagues and your students. But always watch out for your own interests. People the world over will try to use you. Be careful but be optimistic.
Read more of our New Teacher Tales stories.
If you are an English teacher and would like to be interviewed about how you started out, please send us a message through this blog or via our Facebook page. We’d love to have more people involved!