What to expect for the first few weeks in Shanghai working at Kid Castle teaching English.
I made it!
If you read my previous post on what I had to do to get this organised you’ll know it was a pretty drawn out process getting here. So when I finally stepped across that immigration border into Shanghai I was pretty excited and relieved!
Although I will say, there was still a lot more waiting to be done when I crossed to the other side. So let’s begin…
First off, Arrival:
I’m going to be honest and say that I didn’t receive any arrival details…the last thing I read was an e-mail from the HR department telling me that the ‘Arrival Team’ would be in touch with details – this was hours before my flight. So I didn’t know what to expect at all. Nevertheless I boarded my Aeroflot flight via Moscow and made my 15 hour journey to Shanghai.
I arrived at the airport and everything was fairly similar to every other airport I have been to. Immigration was nice and quick, I even managed to get in my first ‘Ni hao’ and ‘shi shi’ (No idea if I’m spelling those correctly but Hello & Thank you!)
I exited the airport, desperately looking for something that had the company logo, name, my name or a smile…I noticed a paper sign written in black marker with my first and middle name on it…? Firstly, only my first and middle name? and secondly a piece of paper and marker pen!
I went over to him and tried to ask if he was from Kid Castle but all I got was ‘No English’ – which I of course replied with ‘No Chinese’. Huh. What to do, I stayed calm and followed the guy to a taxi – sounds pretty dodgy so far right – the annoying thing was my trusty phrasebook was buried down into my hand luggage and I had no free hand to fish it out.
Ok, so I got into the taxi, still searching for anything with that colourful Kid Castle logo on it. Nothing. We drove for about an hour and a half. So the drive was pretty long, especially when you’re in silence…
Now I know this all sounds pretty sketchy so far but what I will say is, I was expecting a driver when I landed and to the drivers credit he was pretty helpful.
But Kid Castle arrival team – you gotta work on you’re airport pick up – just a business card or something more ‘official’ would put anyone at ease as soon as they walk out of the airport into a foreign country they’re about to spend at least a year in or at least their full name in a printed word format? Something so simple could have saved the worry and once I had met some of the other foreign teachers they seemed to share the same experience.
The Kid Castle Dormitory:
We finally arrived to the shared accommodation I would be spending my first few weeks in. Kid Castle provide accommodation in a shared apartment with other foreign teachers also arriving at the same time. The accommodation is free for 30 days from the first day you arrive. It is located in South Qilianshan Road which is near metro line 13. The apartment is surrounded by other apartment blocks and is secured with security gates at the front. You’ll get a key to the dorm and a card to enter the gate.
- Free for 30 days (They deduct 200RMB for utility bills out of your first wage)
- South Qilianshan
- Metro Line 13
The dorm was a lot better than I was expecting. Of course everyone has different levels of comfort but for a temporary fix the place was ok. There are 3 bedrooms with bunk beds in them, so you’ll be sharing with another teacher. The beds do have mattresses and there are some pillows but don’t expect luxury – I always carry with me a sleeping bag (I’d recommend bringing one with you.)
There is a separate bedroom for the female teachers with separate bathroom (Although when I was there the females used the other bathroom because of issues with hot water – but this may have been fixed since writing this). The bathroom is an ok size with a western toilet and there is shared living space with sofas, TV, dining table and kitchen. The kitchen has a microwave, oven (although not sure anyone uses this), washing machine, sink and fridge. There is a balcony off of the living room where there is enough space to sit or hang washing out to dry. The apartment is located on the 18th floor, so the view isn’t bad.
You will get wi-fi and an air con unit for hot/cold air in the living room.
Kid Castle Training:
Within 30 minutes of arriving in the dorm and speaking to a foreign teacher who was already there – which was a nice relief to hear that it was Kid Castle, the same thing happened to him and not to worry – I was met by one of the arrival team members (finally). He took me straight out to go set up my Chinese sim card and register at the police station. I threw my stuff in to a room and did a quick turn around.
We went to the metro which was like 10 minutes away from the dorm – very handy for training! I got a metro card which works the same as an oyster card if you’ve been to London. It’s a cash card that you can re-load money on to. I put 100RMB on it at first which was plenty as most metro journeys cost between 3-6RMB depending on the distance. We went to the office which is at the end of line 13 on Jinyun Road.
The machines don’t take cash so the arrival team member used his bank card to purchase the card and I gave him the cash.
The metro card is 20RMB – one time payment
Loading the card I paid 80RMB
Total cost was 100RMB
We went to China Telecom to get a sim card set up. Make sure you take an unlocked phone, as it will make your life so much easier when you go abroad – that’s for any country, not just China!
For China Telecom the package options were (Correct as of March 2017):
76 RMB = 200 mins/800MB
106 RMB = 300 mins/1GB
136 RMB = 500mins/1GB
166 RMB = 500mins/2GB
196 RMB = 500mins/3GB
296 RMB = 1000mins/4GB
396 RMB = 2000mins/6GB
596 RMB = 3000mins/11GB
*They also make you pay a kind of deposit when you purchase a plan; so for example I went for the 166 RMB plan and had to pay an extra 20 RMB up front but they deduct this off your monthly payment. So you get it back eventually. Just bear that cost in mind when you come.*
The police station is a 2 minute walk from the office and they will take you to get this done. It is very straightforward and only takes a few minutes. Just have your passport, visa, work permit and Kid Castle dorm address at hand. Done!
I was lucky enough to receive my 5000RMB flight, medical, visa expenses bonus the day I arrived. They give it to you in cash, however some of the other teachers mentioned they had to wait a couple of days before getting it, but I’m sure if you asked they would get it sorted for you! Everyone seems very friendly and happy to help.
The office is very big and official looking – which is definitely what I needed to see to put me at ease about the company. I met the HR team I had been in contact with, received my dorm key, card and signed the contracts.
Now, usually you would have 2 days of orientation and then go to your school or training school but in my case I arrived a couple of days later so I have to wait until next month for the first 2 days in the office. From what I’ve heard it seems like it is just an introduction to Kid Castle and lesson planning techniques but I’ll give a more detailed overview next post.
They offered me to start the training at the school the following week but I wanted to get stuck in and decided to start the next day! It’s up to you, you can arrive a little earlier in Shanghai as well to get settled in before orientation. They say a week earlier is usually nicer to get your head around the city, culture and metro! But remember the accommodation starts as soon as you arrive – the free 30 days.
I won’t talk too much on this because I didn’t get one, but it seems that it is quite common among the foreign teachers to take a loan out at Kid Castle. They offer an interest free loan! Up to 10,000RMB which could be a big help for anyone looking at apartments or living costs in the first few months. I mean interest free is pretty good! They do take your passport until it is paid back though – so don’t get any ideas haha. Something to consider if it saves some financial stress for you in the first month or so of arriving.
The day I arrived I joined the end of the orientation with the group which saw the HR department take us all out for some traditional Chinese dishes. Food is always great for bonding with new people and getting settled into a new country I find! Kid Castle pay for the meal and we got to try loads of different dishes on a cool spinning table. Noodles, lamb legs, spicy fungi and lots of beers! Gambey! (Cheers!) It’s a great evening that usually spills over into a bar or club where other foreign teachers ho are already in Shanghai show up, so you get a whole new network of friends and colleagues right from the off. You get to ask them loads of questions too!
Training at a Kid Castle school
I’ll start by saying that I’m sure it differs from school to school and trainer to trainer. My experience is based in Chuansha school – the school I’ll be working in eventually. The training lasts a week and mostly consists of observation and a little co-teaching. It’s not particularly thorough but I’m not sure what I was expecting, so for me it was sufficient enough. The main thing is you get to observe the class behaviors to look out for, how to deal with them and get a rough idea of class sizes.
With the kid castle schedule you’ll only ever have a maximum of 14 classes. The rest are office hours; which if you plan effectively you’ll have a lot of free time – however you still have to be in the office. It seems to be common that learning some Mandarin in that spare time is a productive use of it.
Sometimes, if your schedule isn’t fully packed – one teacher I know has 3 classes a week with the rest being office hours! – you maybe asked to sub at other schools. Not common but be aware of it.
That’s it for the first part of working at Kid Castle. My training week is over and I have started teaching my own classes now. Rest assured that everyone is in the same boat to begin with. Even if you have teaching experience, you’re still teaching to kids who don’t understand you most of the time. I’m ready for a major learning curve and ‘learning on the job’ experience. I’m looking forward to getting into it though, getting to know my classes and developing my own style.
Kid Castle seem like a great company to work for, if you don’t have teaching experience, want a pretty relaxed schedule and a decent salary for the work you actually do.
Make sure you stay up to date by following my social channels – I upload regularly to Instagram and right now there are some pretty cool shots from my first few days in Shanghai. Check them out and connect, I love looking at other travel photos too!
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