Oliver Gorman - Placement Consultant
Oliver is from Manchester, England, but he has lived in Shanghai for around two and a half years. Twelve months of this came as part of his university degree in international business and Chinese at Liverpool John Moores University, which included a year abroad at Shanghai University. After a short spell in Paris, Ollie returned to China, joining the Teaching Nomad team and he hasn’t looked back since!
How did you originally get connected to Teaching Nomad?
After spending time in Paris, France I was looking for opportunities to return back to Shanghai. I studied here for a year in university and still had many friends in the city. I found out about Teaching Nomad online and was initially very impressed with what I could see through my own research of the website and online reviews. Once I had the chance to talk to the founder, Brett, and find out more about what Teaching Nomad does for teachers, it confirmed everything I had thought and more so. I knew straight away this was the type of project I wanted to be involved with.
What are the benefits of a teacher going through a teaching placement agency as opposed to finding a teaching job in China on their own?
Where do I start?! First of all, teaching placement agencies, like Teaching Nomad, are completely free for the teachers to use; so there is nothing much to lose, even if you use a placement agency just as a supplement to your own research. Instead of spending endless hours searching the internet and different school/company websites, a placement agency is a one stop platform, where we can use all of our industry knowledge and contacts to do the legwork for you. We often find candidates’ positions they would have most likely been unable to find on their own.
I can remember in the past when I had applied for TEFL positions in Shanghai back when I was in England, and I would have loved to have worked with a placement consultant. Furthermore, all of us in the office are foreigners who are living and have taught here ourselves, so we can give teachers an inside-track about life here and really help them prepare for the move.
What is an average day like as the placement consultant for Teaching Nomad? How do you determine if a teacher is a good fit for a specific placement?
This varies from day to day, from business development, sourcing clients, and speaking to the principals of partner schools to writing informative blog articles for teachers. However, my typical day is predominantly filled with interviews and responding to the needs and questions of the teachers I work with, as I like to keep a close relationship throughout the process. During our initial interview I like to keep things light and get a good understanding of exactly the kind of opportunity the teacher is looking for. From speaking to teachers and through my own experience, receiving positions which you are simply not interested in can be frustrating, so this tailored approach works very well. It is time efficient and keeps everyone involved very happy.
What is the most challenging part of placing teachers in the right school?
For me the most challenging aspect of placing teachers is managing their expectations. For many teachers, this is their first time teaching abroad and there is a lot of information available on the internet, and it is not always correct! Some people do their own research and through various sources have the expectation that schools will pay them very low wages and that they will encounter lots of problems if they did teach in China. On the other end of the scale, some teachers read articles and have expectations that are too high.
All of us at Teaching Nomad have lived and taught abroad. We use this experience alongside the information we gather from all the schools we work with to make sure teachers know as much as they can before coming over here. For example, some schools have low teaching hours, which is great for those who want to travel and explore the country or do an online degree, but for someone who is looking to make teaching a long-term career this would not necessarily be the best fit. It is all about getting to know the teachers so we can find them exactly what they are looking for, whilst getting them the best package possible.
How does your degree in international business and Chinese help you in connecting with the schools or organizations you place teachers with?
When I have meetings with schools, their principal and HR teams usually speak English, and therefore my Mandarin skills are not required too often. But through my course, I also learned about conducting business in China and the international arena, and this definitely helped me establish relationships and understand the culture and customs here.
What is your most popular type of placement and location?
In China our most popular location is undoubtedly Shanghai. From a professional standpoint, there are lots of opportunities here for career development and the positions generally offer a higher salary than other smaller cities. Shanghai is a 24/7 metropolitan city, where something is always going on, and therefore from a personal perspective teachers enjoy the fast-paced lifestyle here. You can still have a very ‘Chinese’ experience in Shanghai, but there is also a massive expat community and teachers end up with friends from all over the world.
What support do you offer participants if their placement ends up not being a great fit?
We only work with schools where we feel our teachers will have a positive and happy experience. We do this through our own research, interviewing the management team, and speaking to current teachers at the schools. This has helped to achieve high retention rates and ultimately lots of happy teachers who happily complete their contracts! Because of the close relationship I build with the teachers I work with, they will usually come to myself if they do have any questions or problems. We work together with the teacher and the school to reach the best possible solution, and one that ultimately meets the wishes of the teacher.
You speak Chinese, so do you encourage teachers to learn Chinese while teaching abroad? What language learning opportunities are available to international teachers in China?
Although it is not necessary to know any Chinese as a foreign teacher here, I highly recommend doing so. It highly enriches your experience here and makes getting around town and daily life a little easier. Having a language capacity in Mandarin, looking to the future with globalization and China’s increasing influence in the world economy, can only be a good thing.
Many of the schools provide Chinese lessons, and also many teachers invest in private lessons, which are relatively inexpensive. Aside from this, a good (and free) way to practice is by striking up a conversation with the security guard and taxi drivers when you can! Unlike in many Western countries, like England or the U.S., where foreigners are expected to speak English, in China the locals don’t expect you to know any Mandarin. As such, if you can speak even just a few basic words it goes a long way and is highly appreciated.
What information do you share with teachers before they head off to their placement that you learned while teaching English in China?
I had no real prior experience teaching, but I found the whole process extremely rewarding. When I finished the semester and could see the progress my students had made, and in particular a student that had initially struggled in my class, it was a very satisfying moment.
What has been your greatest achievement in your role so far?
There has been several highlights, but for me I get the greatest satisfaction from talking and meeting teachers I have placed here and getting to physically see for myself the positive effect living and teaching abroad has had on their lives. I do this frequently in my own time, meeting teachers for drinks and meals, etc. We also recently held the annual Teaching Nomad party for our teachers and there was a great turnout, with many stories shared and prizes won on the night!
What is the best part about working for Teaching Nomad?
We have a very close knit team here and we all get on very well in the office. It is a great feeling knowing that every day you can come to work with your friends and help people get started on their own journey living abroad!