A Day in the Life of a Disney English Foreign Teacher
For those of you following along on our Asian adventures, you have asked the (fair) question—“Do you work at all!?” I admit that in-between adventures on the Great Wall, exploring Shanghai, and eating fantastic food every night of the week, we do actually go to work. So this is for all of you who wonder what we actually do to earn an income during our 9-5 (or should I say 1:30-8:30?). Well, if you were curious about what it’s like in the day of a Foreign Teacher, read on!
Ok, I have to start out by talking about my awesome commute. Cars are pretty expensive in China (not to mention the license plates), so most people commute by bicycles or motorbikes (or some weird home-made combination of the two). I remember when I worked at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, I used to be SO PUMPED that I could ride a bike around property---and now guess what? I get to ride a bike to work EVERY DAY (or, at least when my cell signal is working, but that’s another story). I enjoy a glorious twenty minute bike ride to work, and along the way I stop at the same fruit stand to buy fresh fruit for my lunch. There’s also a cool dog that always sits right outside the shop to greet all the patrons. He recently got a haircut, in case you were wondering.
Disney English is an extra-curricular activity, so the kids don't arrive until 4:30 on the weekdays. This gives me a few hours to prep with my Learning Partner. Every classroom has a Foreign Teacher (in this case, me) and a local Chinese Learning Partner (LP) duo. Together, you manage your classes and become good friends in the process! Plus, the LPs are super helpful with all things China---they even have a magical Chinese app to order lunch at a WAY CHEAPER PRICE than the English version of the same app. They are also there for you when you do silly things like use a Chinese ATM and do something weird with your money... Anyway, during this time, I sit down with my LP, Abbey. She is super sweet and very helpful. On Mondays, we don’t have any classes at all, just prep time, so we usually work on our EOTPs (End of Term Performance), where the kids get to show off their language skills for their parents---too cute!
Depending on the day of the week, my classes are either 1 or 2 hours long. Tuesdays I have three classes for an hour each, and then I see the same kids again for the second hour of their class on Friday. Weekends are our “long days”, where we have three 2-hour classes back to back. It’s exhausting, but the time flies by! Our training was excellent, so even though this is my first time teaching children, I feel well-equipped. Honestly, the most difficult thing for me is remember all the names---not only am I terrible with names to begin with, but my students are named Yo Yo, Duo Duo, Du Du, Lu Lu, Chen Chen, and occasionally Robert. A bit of a tongue-twister, but they are so darn cute!
In class, we practice phonics, vocabulary, target sentence structures, and perform communicative practice so the kids can use the language in the real world. The flow of the class is the same each time, but as teachers, we have the creative freedom to pick which language-based games we want to play (the “Zombie Game” is my personal favorite, in case you were wondering). I like to make the kids laugh (because laughter is no enemy of learning!) and I usually do a goofy skit to set up the lesson for the day. AND if the kids are good, they might be rewarded with a fun Mickey Short (which also provides a welcome three minute break for teacher).
Look, y’all, I even have my own classroom! The theme is "Pixie Hollow".
Disney English Family
Since I started working for Disney almost seven years ago (wowza! I’ve never been ANYWHERE for that long!), I have always loved the feeling of community amongst fellow Cast Members. Well, my friends, let me tell you that on the other side of the world, it’s no different! When my training group arrived, we were each assigned to one of a dozen centers in Shanghai, and I am so grateful I was placed at ZSP, short for Zhongshan Park (thank goodness for acronyms, because I’m still not sure I know how to pronounce that correctly). If I had to describe them in one word, it would be awesome! As soon as I arrived, everyone seemed genuinely excited to have me join the team. The center leaders are understanding and helpful (and not just about work stuff, but about moving-to-another-country-on-the-other-side-of-the-planet stuff). Every new FT is paired with a veteran FT "Mushu" to help with the transition to China and Sarah is the best! She helps me with all of my questions about life in China and work. It truly feels like I have been immediately welcomed in to a supportive family.
Sarah (my "Mushu") is awesome for a number of reasons---most recently it was because she helped me figure out how to transfer money from China back to the United States and where to travel for cheap within Asia. But she is also an all around fun person and one of the super knowledgeable
Senior Foreign Teachers at the center.
Our center has its own WeChat (an app everyone uses in China) group for important information and fun "ZSP Family" outings. In addition to our center outings, the Shanghai DE social committee plans events for the entire Shanghai DE family (including an outing to a nearby beach coming up next month!), so we can get to know Cast Members from centers all across Shanghai.
So in addition to enjoying the sights, history, and culture of China, I am also having a blast at work. I have always been a proponent for trying something new and getting out of your comfort zone---so while I have experience training and facilitating with adults, teaching children is a new venture for me. But with the excellent training and support of my DE family, it is something I have been able to approach with confidence. The opportunities with Disney are so vast, and I am exceedingly grateful that my latest Disney chapter has brought me to such an interesting place! Every day should be an adventure, and there are ample opportunities if you are willing to grab them! So here’s to this new, adventurous chapter in China!
Follow along for more tales from our lives as expats, visits to Disney Parks throughout Asia, travel guides, and videos! Subscribe to receive regular updates. Happy travels!