Teaching Games!

Teaching Games!

Ah, sweet, sweet summer break.

Holy hells, I am exhausted, but my brain refuses to sleep, so I figured I’d check in with all you fine people.

Anyway, I said way back at the beginning of the semester that I’d make a list of the games I used in class to help out any other new teachers in over their heads.

*Waves to new teachers*

Warmers—Games used at the beginning of class to wake the kids up

  1. Blindfold: Super simple. Have one child come up and blindfold them. Then choose another student to come up and say “Hello, who am I?” They have three guesses and then you reveal.
  2. Dancing: You don’t even have to make up a dance. I taught my kids the Time Warp from Rocky Horror Picture Show and they thought it was stupid/hilarious. I also taught them the Soulja Boy Dance and that took two classes. *Dancing also makes a great low key disciplinary measure. For my older kids, I gave them each three warning for speaking Chinese, after that, they had to stand up and do one of the dances.
  3. Poker Face: Pull a chair up to the front of the room and have one student sit. Their goal is to not laugh for one minute. Meanwhile, the other kids can make faces, sounds, tell jokes (in English) or whatever else. I didn’t let my kids touch the person sitting, but that’s totally up to you.
  4. Hot Seat: Again, bring a chair up to the front. This time make certain the student sitting can’t see the board. Then you write a word on the board like ‘Lion’ and the rest of the class must describe the word without saying it. The student has three guesses and then it’s someone else’s turn.
  5. Number/Shape Clusters: Any class you’ve done numbers in you can do this game. Have all the students stand up and then you call out a number between 1-10 (let’s say 3). The first students to make a group of three gets a point. If you’ve done shapes (circle, square, triangle) it’s a great review for that too.
  6. Alphabet Bodies: This can be done with partners or as individuals. Have the students stand up and then either call out a letter or write it on the board. The first person/pair to make the letter with their body(s) wins.
  7. Telephone/Whispers: This is an old standby, but the little kids love it, especially if you race girls vs. boys. If you don’t know, have the students make two lines. Bring the first person up and whisper a word to them and then they run back and whisper the word to the next person. The word travels down the line to the end and then the end person runs up to you and tells you the word. If it’s right, they get a point, if not, they have to redo it.
  8. Clap/Elimination: Really simple, X=Clap. Have the students count one at a time 1, 2, 3, X, 2, 3, X, X, 3, X, X, X. It’s like the B-I-N-G-O song. If the person messes up have them stand up and do a dance or another funny penalty and play again.

Vocabulary/Sentence Games—Games you can use in class for basic vocabulary identification or having students do controlled practice with new sentence structures. *All of these games are played with teams, I used two teams, but if you have big classes, they all work with multiple teams.

  1. Basketball/P.I.G.: Basketball is pretty straightforward. Have a ball and either a hoop or a small bucket for them to shoot into. I made three lines they could shoot from and based on the line they chose that was the difficulty level of the question. So a three point question I would ask them to make a sentence, a one point question they would have to identify a vocabulary card.
    1. P.I.G: This is a really popular game, sometimes called H.O.R.S.E. Split class into two teams and you can use the same line system as above, but this time if the student misses the shot, their team gets a letter. For the older kids I equivocated the number of letters with the line they shot from—three points=three letters. I also used vocabulary words instead of Pig or Horse.
  2. Ball Hop: This is by far the most versatile game I used. Get two balls and draw a line at the back of the classroom. The students hold the balls between their knees and then hop to you. First student to give you a high five wins, the second student must identify a vocabulary card.
    1. Variation: Same game as above, but they hop directly to the vocabulary card you or a student calls out. First one to tag it wins, the other must identify another word and becomes the next student to call out a word.
    2. Cowboy: Draw a line closer to the front of the room. Place flashcards at the back of the room. Students face the front and when you call out a word must race forward and touch the board/wall with their ball and then run to the back of the class and tag the proper vocabulary word.
    3. Hot Potato: No running in this one, but have the students make a circle. Place the flashcards in the center and introduce one or two balls. Have the students start passing the balls clockwise while you countdown from 10, 5, or 3, whatever you want. When you get to zero, say a vocabulary word and the two students with the balls have to jump forward and tag the proper card.
    4. Vertical: Instead of placing the flashcards horizontally in the back of the room, place them vertically and assign them point value—10, 20, 30, 40, 50—and bring up only one student at a time. Like ‘Cowboy’, draw a line close to the front of the room. As soon as you say go, begin counting down from five. The student has to run forward and touch the board before running back and tagging as many cards as they can while saying the words. Person with the most points at the end wins.
    5. Blocks: No ball in this one, but small foam blocks. Have students either balance the blocks on their heads or hands and either high five or tag the vocabulary card directly.
  3. Chopsticks: *If you’re not in a country with chopsticks, I don’t think this will be an effective game, but you might be able to use spoons.* Get two sets of chopsticks and a couple foam blocks. Set the chopsticks on top of the blocks and draw little circles around them so students put them back in the same place. This game is awesome for practicing prepositions—on, in, under, between, in front of, next to—but if you just want them to find the correct word it’s great for that two. So you give them a word and they run up and touch the card with their block while repeating the word and then they have to run back and reset their block and chopsticks. First one to reset wins.
  4. Castles: Get some building blocks and give each team a place at the front of the room to build their castle. I tell my students the castles must be at least three stories, otherwise they’ll try to cheat and make them one level. Once castles are done, have students either sit or line up at the back of the room depending on class size, and ask them questions. If they answer correctly, they get a ball and try to knock over the other team’s castle. You get the best castles and reactions if you don’t tell them at first you’ll be knocking them over.
  5. Musical Chairs: There is actually no music involved here, but I couldn’t think of a better name. Have students make a big circle with their chairs and put one in the middle. The rest of the class asks them a question and the middle student answers. Once they give a preset answer (i.e. “I’m wearing a red hat.) All the students have to get up and change chairs. Whoever doesn’t get a seat is new student in the middle.
  6. Connect 4/Tic Tac Toe: These games are excellent fillers. Connect 4 is just like Tic Tac Toe/Knots and Crosses but they have to match four instead of three. On the board draw sixteen squares and write in their vocabulary along with four or five penalties—again, my favorite one is dancing because the mortification never ends—and have them make sentences with whichever word they want.
  7. Ostrich: Draw a big circle on the floor and select two student. Each one holds a flashcard behind their back. Their goal is to see and say the other person’s card without being seen themselves. Make sure students understand before the game starts that telling their teammate the other person’s card gets them a point penalty. That includes saying it in their native language as well.
  8. Red Light/Green Light: Have one student stand up at the front of the class with two flashcards. One means Go, the other means Stop. Have the other students line up at the back of the class and either walk, hop, or dance when they are allowed to Go. When the card changes to Stop, they have to freeze and say the word. The first person to reach the cardholder becomes the new cardholder.
  9. Maze: This game is for older kids who are working with directional words. On the board draw a small maze with four or five vocabulary words scattered about. Blindfold one student and give them a pen to draw with. The rest of the team must give them directions to the specified vocabulary word.
  10. Pictionary: Another great game for “What is it?” or “What does s/he/it look like?” Have the students come up and draw animals or people on the board. The rest of the class asks them questions about it and the artist answers.
  11. Board Games: Ahhh, these are amazing. This is a catchall for any game you can draw on the floor or on the board. Get a dice and some little blocks as markers for the teams and let the kids play. They have to answer a question before they roll but they really enjoy these. I had one game I called Mountain Climb where I drew a rough mountain on the floor and made several penalties like Rock Fall, Lose Turn or detours that sent them back to start or bonus trails that got them extra points. I did a shipwreck one where they started on a boat and had to swim to shore. If they landed on a shark they lost a life. Then they had the option of being saved by a mermaid and gaining extra points or getting sucked up in a typhoon land losing their points based on what they rolled. On land they could be eaten by cannibals and lose their points and another life or they could climb a mountain and have an eagle steal their points or get lost in the jungle and lose life and points to tigers and monkeys.
  12. Bag Toss/Cornhole: Get a small bean bag and draw a line at the front of the room. Place the flashcards in a large triangle formation with the closest ones being the lowest points and the farthest one the highest. Students have to identify the flashcard before tossing or make a sentence with their intended word.
  13. King and Queen: Get about a dozen previous flashcards to add to their current lesson’s cards. This game only works with two team, any more than that and it will be a mess. Choose one person from each team and have them secretly choose one flashcard at random. These are your Kings/Queens and they sit on their ‘Thrones’ at the front of the room. They’re not allowed to show or tell anyone what card they choose. Once they put the card back shuffle them and spread them out in the back of the room. Choose another person from each team to be the card selector. Their job is to just pick up cards. Once they do, they need to ask the target question: “Is it his_____?” and then the game proceeds like Whispers with each person on the team asking someone the question until you get to the monarch at the front. They say Yes or No. If Yes, that team wins. If No, the card runner selects a new card and the game begins again. Again, make certain you tell them not to cheat in their native language before the game starts and they know everyone has to ask and answer the question. They can’t just say “Lamp” and pass the card down, they have to talk.


Phonics Games—Phonics is fucking boring for everyone. But, the kids remember more if you make a game out of it.

  1. Stomp/Clap: Let’s say our two sounds are /b/ and /d/. /b/=Stomp, /d/=Clap. Write a rhythm on the board like B B D B D B B. Have the students practice a couple times and then call on individuals to show off. Don’t forget to have them make the sounds.
  2. Kung Fu: All right, if you have a rowdy class, skip this one. Make it very clear from the beginning if they intentionally hit anyone they don’t get to play. Have them line up facing each other. Let’s keep up with our /b/ and /d/ example: /b/=Right high punch, /d/=Left high punch. Again, make up a quick little pattern: B D B D B D B B and have them say the sounds.
  3. Tongue Twister: My kids loved tongue twisters. “Betty Botter bought a bit of butter” was their favorite. They liked to race each other and race me. If you do this, remember, words aren’t really important, make sure they’re making the right sound. Ones my kids had problems with were /s/ and /sh/ and /r/ and differentiating the vowels.
  4. Chair Race: Place two chairs at the front of the room and mark one /b/ and one /d/. Have two students at the back of the room and then call out a word. Instead of running, have them skip or hop because they will not hesitate to tackle each other to get to the write chair.
    1. Ball Drop: At the front of the room write /b/ and /d/ in separate circles. Just like the vocabulary Ball Hop, have students but a ball between their knees. When you call out a word they have to hop to the right circle and drop the ball.
  5. Which Wall: Assign one side of the room /b/ and the other /d/. Have students stand in a line in the center and when you say a word, they hop to the appropriate side of the room.
  6. Basketball: Have two hoops or baskets, one /d/ and one /b/, choose two students to come up to the free throw line. You say a word and they choose the basket. This game is by far the most popular because you can up the difficulty level by having several point lines or by having them say a word before they shoot.


Those are the greatest hits from this semester. After next semester I’ll add whatever else I come up with. Hope this helps, happy teaching!


Adventures Abroad: Cambodia, Tutoring

Adventures Abroad: Cambodia, Tutoring

So I got super lucky on the one-to-one tutoring in that the guy who has lived here for six months did in fact manage to find not just one, but five other people at a hostel who want a free lesson. So Saturday morning myself and four others hopped in a Tuk Tuk and went absolutely nowhere fast.

Holy hells, Chinese New Year.

Year of the Monkey, FYI

Also, year of the goddamn traffic.

Jay said it would take about twenty to twenty-five minutes to get to the hostel. We were scheduled to meet at 10am. We left our hotel a little after 930. At 1045 we finally made it to the hostel.


But we got there and we split off with our pupils to do the assessment so we could come up with a lesson.

Now on the surface, this seems like a great idea. I get to practice tutoring and they get a lesson in English. And if that’s as far as you think about it, yeah, everyone wins. But as I and the other three ladies discussed if you actually think about this it is horribly exploitive and a terrible assignment. We’re supposed to go out into this city and find someone who wants or needs English bad enough they are willing to take a free lesson from someone on the street.

This is a poor city in a poor country and any sort of English skill can be the one thing that will allow someone to get a good job that will provide not only for their family but also secure an education for their children that will give them a better life.

So we do this joke of an assessment, for real, it’s a list of questions that takes about twenty minutes to fill out, and we’re supposed to come up with a useful lesson plan from that. The guy I tutored works in the kitchen at the hostel, which was a hella stroke of luck. I’ve worked in restaurant kitchens pretty much since I started working. And, thankfully, my student wanted better kitchen English so that he could move up the ranks.

After we finished our assessments, we walked down the road to a small coffee shop to begin our lesson planning. The strawberry smoothie I got was utterly divine and if it wasn’t so far I’d be there every day getting one.

But I digress.

My student finished his shift at 2, so at 230 we walked back down to the hostel and I did my lesson. I’d like to think I helped him at least a little. But while he had a pretty good understanding of English already, one lesson is not enough to bolster knowledge. It’s just not. The only useful thing I think I taught him was “I don’t understand, let me get someone who can help.”

That’s it.

So I hated this assignment. If I was staying in Cambodia, I’d be at that hostel once a week doing lessons for everyone. The owner even promised us one free meal per lesson if we’d stay and help.

This could be a really great thing. If every batch of teachers coming through went to this hostel and gave everyone one free hour then yes, I can see something coming from that. And we all who went to the hostel passed around the names of our students and the address for the hostel so anyone who didn’t have someone to tutor could go there. As it stands now though, this lesson was just a waste of everyone’s time.

Adventures Abroad: Cambodia Classes

Adventures Abroad: Cambodia Classes

Thursday’s class wasn’t great. My observer yesterday told me I needed to do more dialogue exercises in class. My kids are like four years old so any dialogue exercise I do with them has to be really, really simple. But I shrugged and did what he asked because this is the shit we get evaluated on.

I walked in today and thought, for our first exercise, the “Warmer” we’d do the Telephone game, or Whispers, whichever you prefer. You know the one, you line up single file and someone whispers “Apple” or whatever in the first person’s ear and it goes down the line and you see what comes out at the end.

I don’t know if I’m not explaining these things the right way or if I’m making it too complicated but it just didn’t work. The first boy refused to continue the whisper because he said it would break the telephone.

Fine, let’s do something else.

So we did a vocab review with spelling and then I tried to introduce some dialogue. “I fell and hurt my elbow.” So I drew some stick figures on the board and walked them through a scenario of running around the playground and tripping.

But, I got them to say the whole thing, I don’t think they knew what they were saying, but they said it. It was a really long grueling lesson. I was bored and I know they were bored. The only saving grace is that the lady that was supposed to be observing me today didn’t show up. The downside is, I have to do dialogue tomorrow so that it says in my teaching practice workbook that I used the technique.

We also found out today that before Thursday, we have to find a local and give them a one hour free tutoring lesson in English. So you know, little introverted me is super excited about that bullshit. But it’s only one hour and one of the guys who’s lived here for six months is already tutoring a girl and he said she probably knew a couple other people that would like a free lesson.

And if that doesn’t work two other girls and I have decided we’ll just go to the mall and put a sign up that says “Free English Lesson” and see what happens.

But after some looong lessons on grammar, I went out to eat with three other people to a little Korean BBQ place just down the street. It was great. We spent about two hours talking about classes and kids and the assignment and ribbing each other about our countries (one of the girls is from England). It was great food and great conversation. The meal itself came with some cabbage, onions, mango, some kind of melon, mixed greens, and carrots. Then we ordered seasoned beef, BBQ pork, bacon, rice, salted mango, mushrooms, and spring onions. And there was a little grill in the middle of the table so everything was made right there fresh.

Final bill: $7.50.

So, lousy day in class and an assignment I’m not looking forward to, but a great meal to end the day. I suppose, we’ll just try again tomorrow.

Adventures Abroad: Cambodia, Teaching Practice

Adventures Abroad: Cambodia, Teaching Practice

Monday morning.

So Friday, we were told that those of us teaching at the school True Vision would have our room assignment by the end of the day. I was okay with that. That meant we’d have the weekend to brainstorm ideas for our very first class.

Friday night still no room assignment.

Saturday night, no room assignment.

Sunday one of my classmates sent an email asking if our room assignment had come in.



Monday morning, seven of us loaded up two Tuk Tuks and started the trek to True Vision without any idea of what age group we were teaching. True Vision has students that range from preschool to sixth grade.

We get to the office and we all started to relax a little. The kids playing in the courtyard are older, about seven and eight, and that was what we had planned for. Excellent.

Then the True Vision staff split us up.

On the other side of the office is another campus and that’s where myself and two others were led.

There in the courtyard, small children. Tiny children. Children significantly younger than the seven and eight year olds we had just left.

I have a class of four year olds. Preschool.

Tiny, tiny children.


Nothing, absolutely nothing, I had on my lesson plan and none of the stuff we had discussed in our teaching course was meant for children this young. I asked them to write their names on a sheet of paper and draw a picture from their favorite story. The TA had to help three of the six spell their names. I had thought it wouldn’t be that bad, six students, I can wing this. I’ll think of something.

8:20, eight more students come through the door. I have fourteen four year olds and nothing on my lesson plan will work.

I tried to modify one of the games I had. “Jungle Survival” What items do you take into the jungle? It didn’t work. Okay. What animals live in the jungle? Elephants, fish, dogs, and cats. Okay, maybe not.

They demanded we sing a song. I don’t know any. I don’t like to sing and I sure as fuck can’t make up some bullshit diddly at the drop of a hat. So I asked them what songs they knew while staring at the clock waiting for it to hit 8:50 when I could release them to the courtyard.

So Monday was a clusterfuck of a different color. The only saving grace being that I was not observed and critiqued when everything fell apart and anarchy ruled no one but the TA had to see it.


Sickness has taken hold of my classmates. Two of them were too sick to teach, three of them probably should have stayed at the hotel, and four more were also green around the gills. I’m still feeling fine. And this time I have a goddamn plan.


This time we’re going to have rules and the students will tell me their names when they walk in.

This time we’re going to write the alphabet on the board in a board race.

This time we’re going to learn new words like “Elbow,” “Ankle,” “Wrist,” “Thigh,” and “Neck.”

This time we’re going to play a game at the end with our new vocabulary.

This time, four students came in at 8am when class starts and when I asked them to write their names on the board they couldn’t make the letters or spell them.

This time, the alphabet board race fell apart before it began. The concept of “teams” and “racing” still too complex in a non-native language so they just wrote letters on the board.

This time, we learned the word “Elbow”. Sort of.

This time, there was an observer watching me watch the clock waiting for it to hit 8:50.

But it wasn’t all bad. The observer said I need to be louder and use the students’ names. She said I need more examples of the words I’m using and I need to do more repetition. I need to put the words in a sentence, something they can use context clues to really figure out the word.


This time I am ready to rock and fucking roll. I have nametags, I have stickers, I have a goddamn plan.

This time I track down an attendance sheet and ask the kids to spell and point to their names while I write down their nametags.

This time we’re reviewing “Elbow” and learning “Ankle”, with pictures. I have examples and I have questions to drill them on understanding.

This time I have a game where they have to point to their elbows and ankles to get the point.

This time they’re going to spell the words.

This time my observer told me I did an excellent job on drilling and class flow and class management. This time the plan fucking worked.


Adventures Abroad: Cambodia, Cities & Sickness

Adventures Abroad: Cambodia, Cities & Sickness

Saturday I went to the mall for the first time with a couple other people. The girl who took us had only been there once before but she got us there no problem. The traffic here is crazy. There may be lines on the road, but they can’t even be called guidelines, they’re just decorations. One way street? Only if you don’t have to go that way. I swear there are only about six road signs in this whole town. I don’t even know if there’s a speed limit.

And there are no sidewalks.

So, you just kind of step into traffic and hope the scooters, motorcycles, cars, and trucks are nimble enough to miss you. It’s kind of exhilarating. Although, I am concerned about how this will affect my judgement once I return to the states. It’s been three days and already I just give a cursory glance to see if someone’s coming before stepping out.

Anyway, the mall is four stories, well, three and a half. The top floor has two restaurants and a play area for kids so it doesn’t really count. But the other three floors are packed with things. Really cheap things. Super cheap things. You guys, I can get a full knife set for about ten bucks. I could take five dollars to the store and get enough food to last five days.

But my fridge doesn’t work and a couple people have reported finding ants so since I am bug free I’ve decided I’ll just eat out while I’m in Cambodia and start actually cooking when I get to China.

We didn’t do much while we were at the mall, mostly because we were still fighting jetlag. We just walked around, got ice cream—$1.40—and by then we were tired enough to head back to the hotel. We did get lost two or three times on the way back. But we made it in time to meet all the people that chose Saturday as their arrival date.

Pretty much all of us went to the hotel pool that evening to chill and wait for the $1 tequila shots and, for me, free popcorn. I met a couple of Brits, one of the girls and I really hit it off. We swam around for a couple hours talking about London and bats and cats.



Sunday morning sucked. I woke up with a headache, cough, congested chest, and off and on nausea. So I stayed in bed until about noon trying to sleep and drinking water before dragging myself downstairs to meet the rest of the group for the city tour.

I thought it was a walking tour but to my surprise and relief we got to do it via Tuk Tuk. A Tuk Tuk is a motorcycle with a small carriage attached to it and is the Yellow Cab service of Phnom Penh. It’s also like being in a real life version of Mario Cart except someone else is driving and you have no control.

So glad I made myself get up. We got to see an old Buddhist temple, absolutely beautiful architecture, with murals and monks. And we got to wander around the grounds for an hour. It’s right next to a busy street but it was so quiet and peaceful, surrounded by massive trees and flowers in full bloom. I loved it.

Then we went to the Royal Palace. I’ve seen castles, but this palace trumps them all in sprawl grandeur. It was huge, the inner gardens alone were probably two or three acres. And it was painted in bright gold and white and silver with ornamentation everywhere. A lot of places they prohibited photos, which I don’t understand, but whatever, it’s their palace. The murals on the temple ceiling depicting the Generous Prince, Garuda, and Buddha were beautiful. Eavesdropping on a guided tour, I found out the original palace was built in 1806 but was destroyed by flooding. So in 1917 the Royal Palace that’s there now was built.

Within the grounds of the royal palace, in an adjoining courtyard, were stupas. A stupa is…it’s an intricately carved stone mound with a turret on top. It was built for the king and princes. They’re really neat, I stared at each one for at least five minutes trying to figure out how anyone had the patience to carve the details in them.

The Silver Pagoda is the center of this courtyard. And I wish, I wish, I could have taken pictures. I even thought about sneaking one, but the place had security at every corner. The emerald Buddha was just gorgeous. It sits atop this pyramid of gold and smaller Buddha depictions in wood and stone. It glowed. He’s about a foot two feet tall sitting lotus style. It was the most beautiful thing. It’s polished to a pretty spring green with darker veins of forest and emerald green throughout.

Standing in front of the emerald Buddha’s pyramid in a glass case is the gold Buddha. Six feet of solid gold and adorned in literally thousands of jewels and precious stones. And they weren’t big gaudy chunks either, they were tiny little pieces meticulously placed in his skin to catch the light and around his neck and wrists like jewelry and in his robes as adornment. He was magnificent.

And about that time, after wandering in the heat and sun for four hours, I started to feel terrible again. Luckily, that was the end of the tour and we headed back to the hotel. I slept until about six-thirty and got up again to go to the formal introduction dinner. It was pretty nice, I would have liked to try the soup but my stomach was still threatening hostilities.

Anyway, we got just a little rundown on Dos and Don’ts that for everyone who had been there for a couple days was old news. That finally ended about eight and I dragged myself to my room and drank some nighttime cold medicine and passed right the fuck out.

A Series of Weird Events: I’m Going to China

A Series of Weird Events: I’m Going to China

Okay, so I posted my fundraiser on Facebook (this one: https://life.indiegogo.com/fundraisers/teaching-english-in-china–5/x/9369737) and I know a couple people are going to want a lot more detail on WTF I’m doing going all the way to Cambodia and China. Here’s the absolutely crazy story on how decided to go to China.

Last year, for the first time in probably five years, I went to the local pumpkin patch because I wanted to roam the fields and find the Pumpkin King. I was wearing a hat, as has become my signature, and this particular hat is one I picked up while I was studying abroad in Europe. It has buttons and pins all over it that I got while I was overseas and it’s always a point of conversation.

So I’m standing out the checkout with my pumpkins and gourds and one of the ladies comments on my hat, asking where I got it. And since I was the only one there we chatted for a few minutes. She told me her granddaughter had done some traveling as well and went to China for six months to teach. And I was reminded of an Anthropology 101 class I took where a woman came in and told us about how she went to Vietnam for a year and taught English. The woman at the pumpkin patch told me all about the different tours her granddaughter had gone on while she was there. She saw the Great Wall, she saw the preparation for the Olympics, she hiked mountains, and picked up some Mandarin.

The conversation stuck with me all the way home. This woman’s granddaughter went to China for six months, six months!, with room and board paid for by the school and a salary a helluva more than I was making at the time. And she got to go to China. For six months.

So I got home and started racking my memory for what program the woman who had visited our class some four or five years ago had been in and started looking around on today’s Delphi, Google. I found all kinds of great programs for working abroad. I was seriously looking into a summer work program in New Zealand.

The fees though for those programs were always really high, the New Zealand trip would have cost me about $5000 and it was only for three months and I would have to start looking for a job as soon as my feet touched the ground and if I didn’t find one…well…

Then I looked into National Park jobs at coolworks.org, awesome site and I still have my eye on a couple positions by the Grand Canyon. I submitted applications but never heard anything back, so I went back to my search for working abroad. On a catch-all site for working abroad I found several companies that did TEFL—Teaching English as a Foreign Language—certifications. There’s no second degree required for it, if you’re a native English speaker, you can get your TEFL, or TESOL, same thing, different acronym.

I e-mailed several local TEFL programs, but really, outside of getting you certified they didn’t look like they’d be much help on the job front. And if I’m going to spend $1500+ on a certification, I’d like to know I’m going to get more than just access to a database of jobs. I have that with Google.

I found LanguageCorps and was smitten by their program. I looked into all of them, especially the Italy one, but their yearlong China program jumped at me. Ongoing Mandarin lessons, and guaranteed job placement before I even left US soil. And that was just with China, before that I would get my TEFL in Cambodia where a weekend excursion was planned to Angkor Wat, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.


This was in February or March this year and I fiddled with the idea for another month or so. You know how everything seems like a great idea until you seriously start thinking about the details? It was like that. Since that brief conversation at the pumpkin patch in October I had been gungho on working abroad, traveling, seeing more of the world and doing something.

But I’m not good with kids. I’ve never made an effort to be good with kids because I don’t really like kids. So what the everloving fuck am I doing thinking about going to a different country and teaching kids. So I emailed the company anyway and got back a questionnaire and lo and behold, one of the questions: Which age group do you prefer working with?

And I realized from the questionnaire how flexible this program was. Yes, I’m certain I’ll have guidelines I need to follow and goals to meet, but this is my class. I can teach however I want. I have a degree in English, with a focus in creative writing. I can run my own creative writing class. The whole semester dedicated to character development, plot structure and setting. The final can be a finished project. I can teach a creative writing class. In China. For a year.

And it’s not just China. Once I have my TEFL and a full year of classroom experience I can teach anywhere in the world. I can go to Japan or Finland or Germany or Peru or any other country that has a school where they want English taught. I can go anywhere and everywhere and never teach the same class. Because you can give a hundred people the same opening line and get a hundred different stories every time.

So after some emails and verifications on both our ends that everyone was indeed the real deal, I signed up for a January departure.

I’m teaching a short fiction class.

In China.