We are excited to bring you the seventh installment of the TEFLplus Spotlight. Here, we catch up with Veronica, who completed our January 2016 advancedTEFL course. She had to overcome some difficult challenges in the beginning, but now the future looks bright.
Hello, so could you let everyone know a little bit about yourself?
My name is Veronica Earley. I am from Canton, Ohio, a small town in the Midwest of the U.S. I am a divorced, African-American mother of two adult sons and a grandmother of five, ages ranging from 17 years old to 1 year old. My oldest son has lived in Singapore for over 20 years with his wife and two children. Coming to visit them is one of the reasons that has brought me to Asia every year for the past 19 years. My other son lives in the States with his family.
…it has truly been an adventure…
Have you done much traveling in other parts of the world?
I love to travel and have done so all of my life, going to some of the most beautiful countries in the world. I’ve been to several parts of Mexico, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, St. Martin, St. Lucia, Thailand, St. Thomas, Barbados, Aruba, Indonesia, Malaysia, Hawaii, and Punta Cana, just to name a few places. I live in China now, and it has truly been an adventure.
What is your background? What did you do before you decided to move overseas?
My educational background is a B.A. Criminal Justice from Kent State University. I worked in the Juvenile Court system for 28 years, working my way up to assistant supervisor of staff at the Residential Treatment Center. I then applied to the Juvenile Courts where I created the Juvenile Intensive Monitoring Program. Then, I completed my Master in Education, specializing in Clinical Counseling from Malone University to be a mental health therapist for the mentally ill. After graduation, I was offered a teaching position at Kent State College, where I caught the teaching bug. I found myself still wanting to travel, but I really enjoyed teaching. That’s when my son told me about teaching abroad. After doing my due diligence to find out more about the different programs, schools, requirements, and finding the best school with the best ratings, I decided to enroll in the TEFLplus course in Thailand at Patong Language School. I really liked what this school offered and the price was great.
We really enjoyed having you in the course! What did you do after you completed your TEFL training? Was getting a job a priority, or did you have other plans?
After graduating from the course, I wanted to find a job very quickly, because I gave up everything in the states to move in with my son and his family in Singapore. I thought that it would be more practical and feasible to stay in the country that I thought that I would be working in. What’s the saying? We make plans and God laughs? Well, I must have had him in stitches laughing so hard, because little did I know Singapore was not going to hire me no matter what amount of experience or credentials I had. I would send out my resume and not one school would call me. So, I started sending out my resume as a volunteer instead of actually looking for paid work. I kid you not, by the next day I had at least 10 schools wanting me to volunteer at their schools! I taught for a few months, but I was still not offered a job or any compensation.
So, this is when you decided to start looking in China? You faced some difficulties in the beginning. Could you tell us about it?
I was contacted by an agent and hired at a school in China. I packed all my belongings and bought my ticket to Gu’an, which is a tiny province two hours outside of Beijing. The package they offered me was 7,000RMB with free housing and free medical. If I stayed for my full contract, they would give me 3,000RMB travel expense. Even though it was not the best deal, it was my foot in the door. My apartment was very nice in a secure building, and I really liked it for the moment that I was there because the very first day of class and the headmistress saw me, she literally clutched her pearls and started speaking Chinese to her assistant. I was escorted back to the office and my agent was called. They packed my belongings up and took me to Beijing ASAP. I found a school within two days and was hired. I made sure that we Skyped to be sure that they knew that I was African American. I packed up again and was on my way to Dalian, China with no help from my agent. And remember, I’m in China and no one speaks English, but God makes a way, because just by chance, I ran into a group of girls, and one of them spoke just enough English to help me arrange for a cab for the next day letting the driver know that I needed to go to the airport. She helped with my check-out and everything else I needed. Thank God for her. I went to Dalian, but it didn’t work out and thank God it didn’t.
I quickly learned how being a native English speaker from the states with an actual Master’s degree in Education and a TEFLplus certificate made me a high commodity and very much in demand. China has English speaking schools all over. There’s literally one on every corner so I just went out walking one day and started just going into random schools. Now, I knew what to look for and the questions to ask. I walked into Aston English International School. It is a private school open seven days a week and has schools all over China as well as in other countries, like Vietnam and Korea just to name a couple. The school that I am currently at is in Zibo in Shan Dong province. I worked part time while still working at another school just to see if I would like it. Well, I did, and they loved me.
I quickly learned how being a native English speaker from the states with an actual Master’s degree in Education and a TEFLplus certificate made me a high commodity and very much in demand
What is your overall compensation package? Are you able to save any money?
The contract package is 10,000RMB per month plus 1,000RMB towards my apartment. I pay all utilities and expenses. However, they pay my medical and 2,000RMB once a year for travel. I get overtime pay at 100RMB per hour, and they provide our meals on the weekends. It is very easy to save money here, I save at least $1,000 American dollars per month. It’s very easy and my expenses are more because I pay an additional 1,300RMB per month for my apartment, because I wanted more luxury and my dog sent to me. The hardest thing is to get my money back to the states. I have to have a co-worker wire it to the states for me.
How would you describe your students?
The children at our school range from 4 to 18 years of age. Aston English International School is a private school, therefore, the children that attend must pay. The children learn through games, music, play and art, so teachers must have a creative mind and think outside of the box. The students at Aston are very bright and better mannered than at my previous school.
What are your primary responsibilities?
My duties at the AEIS are to teach the local and foreign teachers how to be more professional. I sit in their classrooms and monitor their performance, take notes, and grade their skills and teaching ability and give feedback in ways to be more proficient, efficient, and interesting for the students. I suggest ways to keep students engaged and interested in what they are trying to relay as well as understand the message the teacher is trying to get across to the students. What I find interesting is that they have locals teaching English, but they cannot speak English properly themselves. English tenses are very confusing to some of the teachers, so I have to correct them when needed. I also make sure that they dress in a more professional manner. I help to write contracts and travel to Aston’s sister schools making sure all the schools are on the same page.
Can you tell me what your school and co-workers are like?
I have really enjoyed this school and have developed a good working relationship with my co-workers, so I think that I will stay here a few years to gain some more experience and build my resume. Maybe then move to Europe or South America. As of now, I am really happy at Aston English school and feel that it is where I belong. It was the first school that was very honest with me and taught me a lot.
What are the good (and bad) things about living there?
What are some of the good and bad things about living in China? That’s easy. I am only speaking for African Americans. The smaller provinces are very sheltered. Many people have never, ever seen a black person in their lives and they show it. They have no boundaries or personal space, or even the concept of what is polite and appropriate etiquette. Whenever I leave my house I must brace myself for the on pour of people, and I mean a lot of people, following me, touching me, pulling my hair, and taking my picture. When I go into a restaurant to eat, I can guarantee you no one else will have any service for at least the first 20 minutes, because all the staff come out to take photos with me. It’s so crazy. I now understand how Oprah Winfrey feels. I promise you no exaggeration! It’s amazing, you have to see it to believe it. Though, I am still, at times, followed by an entourage, but not nearly as much and as big as it used to be. I do understand that they do not do this in malice, just curiosity of someone new and so very different from themselves.
What are some of the good things about Zibo? It’s a very pretty place and even though the people treat me like a cross between Oprah Winfrey and a Martian, most are some of the kindest people you will ever meet. I love the cost of living here, and there’s a restaurant or three on every corner. Everything is so chill and laid back. Yep, I’m going to like it here.
We really appreciate the time Veronica took to talk to us. After a rough start, everything worked out in the end, and we could not be happier for her. We know that she will continue to use her experience to enrich and support her fellow co-workers.
Are you ready for a change? Teaching English overseas could be the answer you are looking for. Ask us how we can help!