BEING A LICENSED HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER, WORKING AT A PRESTIGIOUS SCHOOL IN SOUTH AFRICA, YOU WERE OFFERED JOBS FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD. WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO COME AND APPLY YOUR TRADE HERE IN CHINA?
Martin: Well, to be honest, China never crossed my mind. For me China was an unknown, a no go country for various reasons. I found out about you guys though and had a chat about China. Your passion and love for the country sparked the interested in me. I started doing a bit of research and realized that China is not that far separated from what we call “the western world”. The combination of not going to a country where so many teachers go (middle east) and being able to travel to so many awesome surrounding countries was the main selling point for me.
YOU WERE THE FIRST TEACHER GTA PLACED IN CHENGDU. HOW DID YOU FIND THE TRANSITION FROM THE JOB AND LIFE YOU HAD BACK HOME TO SETTLING INTO EVERYDAY LIFE IN CHINA?
Martin: Life in Chengdu is easy. Not having to worry about paying an arm and a leg for accommodation, food, etc. made the transition easy. The school I was placed at was incredibly helpful and supportive. Than in itself made life easier. Yeah, there were tough times too but that is life, nothing worth doing/having comes easy! But in this case, it certainly was easier!!
MAKING A DECISION TO FURTHER YOUR TEACHING CAREER IN CHINA WAS SURELY NOT AN EASY STEP TO TAKE. TELL US ABOUT SOME OF THE CHALLENGES YOU FACED, SOME OF THE DIFFICULT THINGS AND HOW YOU ADAPTED TO THEM.
Martin: Martin: Back home I was already a teacher and boarding housemaster. My career was on a good path or so I thought. Working 12-15 hours a day was starting to take its toll on me. After moving to China one of the biggest things I had to get used to was the fact that I had so much time on hand here in China. Only working 6-8 hours a day, having between 8-12 kids in a class, and not having to grade papers all the time was really something I did not use to. I finally had time to do stuff I wanted to do and take up new hobbies.
CHILDREN ARE CHILDREN, STUDENTS ARE STUDENTS OR SO GOES THE SAYING. WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME OF THE SWEET SIMILARITIES AND STARK DIFFERENCES YOU HAVE EXPERIENCED BETWEEN THE KIDS YOU TAUGHT BACK HOME AND THE ONES OVER HERE?
Martin: One thing that everyone has to remember when coming to teach here no matter which subjects you gonna teach, these are second language students. You will always first be an English teacher and then a subject teacher. The only difference between you and an ESL teacher is, the vocabulary you teach will just be subject-specific. I am having so much fun finding new ways of explaining the meaning of words in my subjects (math and accounting).
As for similarities, the saying is indeed true. No matter how different their world and system may seem, kids have a need to have fun, to play around, to have a teacher that cares for them and to discipline them. When it comes to differences my biggest challenge has been with getting students to participate and answer questions in class, especially the older ones. They come from an educational system where the teacher does all the talk work and they just receive input but never give output. Only during exams do they give output. Once you pass that barrier though they are great fun to have in class. Another big difference for me was the extreme dedication and eagerness they have to learn. These students aren’t afraid to walk the extra mile.
IN YOUR FIRST INTERVIEW WITH US YOU SAID, "I AM GOOD AT HAVING FUN." FROM THE FOOT OF EVEREST TO RUGBY FIELDS IN BEIJING YOU SURELY HAVE BEEN HAVING A LOT OF IT. WHAT IS SOME OF THE GREAT THINGS YOU'VE BEEN ABLE TO DO.
Martin: Number one would surely be the road trip I did to the Tibetan autonomous region. I managed to pass the Chinese driver’s license test (which was actually an easy process) and rented a car for 15 days. I drove all the way to the Tibetan border and explored every part of the border and surroundings. Till this day words can’t describe the amazing experience that was.
No. 2 Taking back up my love for the sport rugby. Due to various reasons, I hung up my boots back in 2012. Since I had the time on hand to do it again I just went all out. Travelling throughout of China, playing at various tournaments and meeting new people from all over the world is definitely one of my greatest joys of living in China.
No. 3 Thailand Thailand Thailand!!!! Need I say more. Cheap, easy to get to, great food and awesome beaches! And all of that within a 3-hour flight! But really the list is just never-ending! Fishing Blue Marlin and Sailfish in the Philippines, wandering the streets and countryside of Vietnam, nightlife in Malaysia, hiking to Everest base camp, etc.
Coming to teach in China has by far one of the best decisions I have made in my life to date. And that is all thanks to Go Teach in Asia for making it possible for me.