The following is a guest post by Melody Mukute, a Zimbabwean mother of three and an active member of my China Teach Abroad Community Facebook group.
Melody is a certified teacher in Zimbabwe with six years of teaching experience. This qualified her to work in China on a legal Z work visa! For any questions about how to teach in China as a non-native speaker, be sure to read the post Am I Legal to Teach in China?
A few weeks ago Melody reached out to me and asked if she could share her experience teaching in China as an African non-native speaker. Of course, I was happy to share her experience!
So without further ado, here is Melody’s experience as a black woman in China!
Teaching Abroad in China: A Dream Come True
Teaching in China is a big adventure for anyone who loves exploring new cultures. I am one such person who enjoys cultural diversity, so when this opportunity knocked on my door I gladly took it. Teaching in China was a dream come true for me. I had friends who were already there who linked me with recruiting agents since it was difficult to get a job online because of two factors. I was a black non-native English speaker.
When I read Richelle’s post on Racism and teaching Abroad in China, I felt I should share my experiences too. I worked in China in 2019 in Fuzhou, which is a very beautiful city in Fujian Province. The city is just so wonderful with amazing people. One thing that shocked me was a big number of its citizens had never seen a black person. Whenever I walked past, they would touch me to feel my skin. At first, I felt a little scared, but I later realised its normal I should just let them see how unique I was.
The Unusual Gestures: Life as a Black Woman in China
Soon I got used to the fact that whenever I walked children would shyly come close to feel my skin hahaha. I soon made friends with a lot of them. I, however, had challenges with some parents who would not allow their children to come close to me; they would hurry off to move them away from me. Probably because they were just protecting their children from strangers. I do that too. What made it worse is I could not speak Mandarin just to communicate with them, so I could assure them I am no monster.
In the school set up, everyone was supportive. The training school was owned by a Chinese couple who had worked with black teachers in one of their training centres in Chengdu. So they understood me very well. Our problem came from the parents and this is the reason my contract was short-lived. Some parents believed an English speaker was supposed to be a white person. I hate using these words black and white but I just have to in order to make this story clear.
Challenges at the School
Within the area I was working, I did not meet or see any other black person. I think it is because Fuzhou is far from major cities like Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Beijing which are easily accessible to foreigners.
One day the training centre owners called me for a meeting and told me they were having challenges with some parents who are not comfortable with me teaching their children. They emphasized that the issue was not about racism, but the preconceived idea that English is spoken by whites only. I don’t know the real -story here, but that’s what my employer told me.
Soon it was time to say my goodbyes to the kids. They literally cried because we already had a bond. But because the parents paid the money, I had to listen and look elsewhere for another job. Let me make this clear during my short-lived stay in China I felt so much love from the locals. Apart from people touching my skin to feel me, I enjoyed the attention and made lots of friends.
Job Hunting in China as a Black Woman
My conclusion to this entire thing is that Teaching in China in common cities with lots of foreigners is easy and possible. The locals have met different people before.
It becomes difficult to introduce a black person in a culture that hasn’t seen one before. The worst is to entrust you with their kids. I also have encountered the same issue with teaching online companies that believe more in white teachers.
I guess it’s also to do with the parents. Two companies interviewed me and the interviews lasted 3 minutes only. I guess they only wanted to see my skin colour before making a conclusion. The results, as rightly guessed, were negative. They did not give me the job despite passing the interviews.
I took this time to spoil myself visiting prominent places in China and made many new friends. I met black teachers in other places like Chengdu and Beijing. when I talked to them their experiences were amazing. They had never met such challenges. My agent wanted to get me another contract. But I refused and wanted to be back home and start again in 2020 but then COVID 19 came.
After my China expedition, I realised I missed my girls so much and came back home and settled for teaching online; I had been doing freelance jobs before, so I continued where I left off. Despite my short-lived contract in China, I am helping those that want to teach there with leads and contacts for agents. I know they will be safe and will enjoy it the same way I did. Because teaching online is flexible, I would like to teach again in China in the future.
My name is Melody Mukute and I’m a married mum of three girls. I am from Zimbabwe. I am an online teacher, a freelance writer, and blogger. I am an extrovert; I enjoy meeting and interacting with different people. I am a seasoned teacher who has been in the teaching industry for over 6 years. I have used all my experience and lessons learnt to develop a better learning experience for students.
I teach my native language Online. I transformed myself from being an ESL teacher to teach my native language. I capitalized on the skills I gained when I was an ESL teacher. I developed everything that I needed to use on my own. This includes the curriculum, lesson plans and delivery, customization of language sessions, payment handling, and marketing strategies. My hope is to help stay at home mums freelance and find work online so they can make that extra income.
Read more from Melody on her blog Melsinsights!
Author’s Note: How to Make Sure This Doesn’t Happen to You
For those of you who are wondering about the legalities of teaching abroad as a non-native speaker and Melody’s unique situation, you are allowed to legally teach in China if you have a teaching certification and 2+ years of teaching experience. This means that because Melody was certified to teach in Zimbabwe with 6 years of experience, she’s qualified to teach in China.
For more information, check out this post: Am I Legal to Teach in China?
That said if you’re a certified non-native speaker, you need to be teaching a subject in English rather than ESL. Melody got her job working in a training center teaching English through an agency, however, technically Melody shouldn’t be teaching English, she should be teaching a subject in English (math, science, history, social studies, etc).
If I were to work with Melody, I would suggest she get a job at a high-level training center or international school. These schools tend to have way fewer issues with racism and are much higher quality. Not to mention, she would most likely have double the salary (if not more!) and way more benefits.
Did You Have a Similar Experience?
Have you encountered racism while teaching in China? Did you have a completely different experience? I’d love to hear your story in a comment below!!
Would You Like to Share Your Experience?
If you’d like to do more than just leave a comment, I’d love for you to share the whole story in a gues post. If you’d like to share your teach abroad or expat experience on Adventures Around Asia, I’m always looking for new stories and opinions!
If you’d like to contribute your own story, have a look at our Guest Post Requirements and submit your idea!