As one of many international educators unable to return to China during COVID-19, I spent much of 2019 – 2023 tutoring and teaching students online from jungles, beaches, and cities worldwide. While I cherished this lifestyle’s freedom, it can get old quickly for teachers who enjoy and miss the buzz of a busy classroom. By January 2022, I was ready for a new challenge. It presented itself in a LinkedIn message:
“Are you interested in a role teaching AP History?”
I initially interviewed for an AP European History position at BASIS International School Guangzhou (BIGZ). While I was happy to teach AP Euro, I specialize academically in the history of the United States and have mainly taught AP U.S. History (APUSH) since 2019. While some may find the notion of a Brit specializing in U.S. History baffling, BASIS seemed far more interested in my academic profile, teaching experience, and educational philosophy than national origin. BIGZ offered me a role teaching APUSH instead (phew), which I accepted starting August 2023.
A new adventure in China awaited!
Getting to China
As all international educators know, visas are one of the biggest speed bumps in our careers, often proving a major source of frustration. In our case, this was more complicated than usual, as my wife and I married in Thailand over the summer. Undeterred, the BASIS International School Guangzhou HR team swiftly processed my wife’s spouse visa documents at record speed, giving us some more time and space for a short honeymoon in Vietnam. We survived exploring Hanoi on our mopeds (just about), then jumped on a short flight to Guangzhou.
Arriving in Guangzhou
Having previously lived in two historic cities on China’s Eastern seaboard, Nanjing and Jinan, I was pumped to see another side of this giant nation (Guangzhou is located in south-central China). After I fussed about for a bit looking for coffee, a BIGZ HR representative picked us up at the airport and dropped us off at our new residency. The apartment was about an hour away, situated in a leafy lantern-light complex complete with a pond and little moon bridges scattered about. The school even took the time to greet us with a wonderful welcome basket as we entered our new home.
Summer Institute Training in Chengdu
We spent the next few days at the school getting to know the staff, meeting the other new hires, and settling into our new life in Guangzhou. This short breather didn’t last long, as BASIS then jetted us off to BASIS International & Bilingual Schools Chengdu (western China) for the Summer Institute induction.
The next three days gave us some insights into the working culture, mission, and general expectations for educators at BASIS. Over a hundred new teachers from the eight BASIS International & Bilingual Schools dotted around this country attended. It was a training and networking event of epic proportions, complete with four options to choose from for a cultural day-trip experience:
1: Panda Breeding Institute
2: Panda Valley
3: Dujiangyan Irrigation System
4: Sanxingdui Museum
As a history teacher, I felt it was my duty to attend the Sanxingdui Museum tour.
I was not disappointed.
The ancient Shu culture prospered in Sichuan province around 3000 years ago, producing some mesmerizing cultural artifacts such as the comical ‘pottery pig’, warrior busts (some quite menacing), and pristine golden masks. An hour at this exhibit was not enough for this history nerd. Next time, I’ll be dragging my unfortunate wife through a 4 or 5-hour tour.
Starting at BASIS International School Guangzhou
Back in Guangzhou, we started with the 2023-2024 academic year immediately. I greeted my first class, opened up my laptop, linked it to the projector screen, and fumbled about with the PPT clicker before starting:
“Ok students, here’s a map of the United States. Take a guess… which state am I from?”
James John Bryer
AP U.S. History Subject Expert Teacher
BASIS International School Guangzhou
For more information about teaching abroad with BASIS International Schools, visit our careers website.
Hear more from our teachers about the support they received in moving to China on our YouTube channel.